While being ignorant of the facts is not as bad for a journalist as deliberately suppressing them, not knowing what you’re talking about can be far more embarrassing—and amusing.
Soledad O’Brien, the soon-to-be-former host of CNN’s “Starting Point,” proved that point definitively yesterday when she revealed that she had basically no knowledge of the new favorite story among left-of-center journalists, the supposed racism of Fox News president Roger Ailes.
As NewsBusters readers are aware by now, the remarks in question are comments that Ailes made to biographer Zev Chafets in a 2012 interview in which he said he believed that President Barack Obama is “lazy” in several ways.
As NB readers also know, Ailes was referencing an earlier statement by Obama in which he said he had “laziness” in himself and that he thought it was his worst characteristic.
Furthermore, Ailes had made that comment in direct response to an earlier quip by liberal pundit Hilary Rosen that Mitt Romney’s wife Ann had “never worked a day in her life” because she had always stayed at home to care for her children.
In other words, Roger Ailes had idleness on his mind, not racism. Here is the relevant passage from Roger Ailes Off Camera for those keeping score:
[Brian Lewis, his spokesman] then read Ailes a summary of the flap over Democratic operative Hilary Rosen’s comment that Ann Romney, mother of five, had never worked a day in her life. Ailes spun it without hesitation. “Obama’s the one who never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasn’t public money. How many fund-raisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He’s lazy, but the media won’t report that.” He noticed my arched eyebrows and added, “I didn’t come up with that. Obama said that, to Barbara Walters.” (What Obama said was that he feels a laziness in himself that he attributes to his laid-back upbringing in Hawaii.)
But such context is utterly irrelevant to the Fox haters, a small group of rabid leftists who are enraged daily at the fact that a popular cable news channel exists which does not have a liberal bias. For the Fox haters, stripping away the context of Roger Ailes’s quip in order to accuse him of using a racist “dog whistle” is too good of an opportunity to pass up. And, as we’ve been reporting here at NewsBusters, they’ve been doing it with gusto.
Whether her producers dropped the ball or she simply just went with the Fox haters, Soledad O’Brien was completely unaware of the background on the “lazy” quote. Fortunately, her education was captured on video during yesterday’s show.
She began the segment with confidence, telling viewers that she was about to tell them about Ailes’s “true feelings for President Obama and the vice president, Joe Biden.”
After putting onscreen a partial quotation from the Chafets book, O’Brien proceeded to cluck her tongue against such “not nice” language—because everyone knows television newsrooms are places where only flowers grow and birds sing.
Sadly for the viewers looking for a laugh, the setup to the joke ended there as The Blaze writer Will Cain interrupted her to point out the fact that Ailes was actually quoting Obama’s own words.
“Roger Ailes did go on to say that I’m only quoting from the president directly and he talks about an interview that President Obama gave to Barbara Walters, where he said I grew up in Hawaii it was pretty laid back,” Cain said.
O’Brien was unconvinced. “Okay so the pretty laid back to lazy is a little bit of a leap to me,” she asserted.
John Berman, her fellow CNN anchor, helped set her straight. “Barack Obama used the word lazy,” he said.
“Oh, interesting, I did not realize that,” O’Brien said. She then fumbled around for a few seconds, repeating the word interesting three more times as she struggled to recover.
The amusing video and a full transcript of the exchange is below:
SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Fox News president Roger Ailes reveals some of his true feelings for President Obama and the vice president Joe Biden. Excerpts from his biographer Zev Chafets, Chafets’s new book were revealed in the new issue of Vanity Fair.
Here’s what he said about the president: “Obama’s the one who never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasn’t public money. How many fund-raisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He’s lazy, but the media won’t report that.”
He also had some choice words for Joe Biden: “I have a soft spot for Joe Biden...I like him. But he’s as dumb as an ashtray.”
That’s the leaking of the details so everyone runs out—
RICHARD SOCARIDES (Democrat strategist): That’s not so nice, right?
O’BRIEN: —and buys the biography.
SOCARIDES: That’s not so nice.
O’BRIEN: You think? That’s just the beginning clearly.
WILL CAIN (The Blaze): Everyone’s latching on to the fact he called the president lazy which, you could say at the least as you said, Richard, is not nice. But Roger Ailes did go on to say that I’m only quoting from the president directly and he talks about an interview that President Obama gave to Barbara Walters, where he said I grew up in Hawaii it was pretty laid back.
Roger Ailes wasn’t coming up with that on his own. He made a point of making that.
O’BRIEN: Okay so the pretty laid back to lazy is a little bit of a leap to me.
JOHN BERMAN (CNN anchor): Barack Obama used the word lazy.
O’BRIEN: Oh, interesting. I did not realize that.
CAIN: He did. Barack Obama said that he feels a laziness in himself he attributes to his laid-back upbringing in Hawaii.
O’BRIEN: Interesting. Interesting. It’ll be interesting to see — I mean what I love about it is when they leaking these quotes from biographies because I think Roger Ailes will be fascinating to read about. And follow up —
BERMAN: Well, what’s happening here is there’s two coming out. One is the authorized biography where these quotes are coming up that you’re mentioning, and the unauthorized biography. And Roger Ailes is trying to trump the unauthorized biography with the authorized one.
O’BRIEN: Which will be more interesting do you think?
BERMAN: I think they’re both obviously pretty darn interesting.
O’BRIEN: Oh, interesting.