Appearing as a guest on Monday's Tavis Smiley show on PBS, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof lamented that the media "truly wronged" Jimmy Carter and were "profoundly unfair" to him while he was President, due to "snobbishness" by the media. He also seemed happy to report that Hillary Clinton's personality has improved since her electoral loss, as the liberal columnist also recalled that she implicated "misogyny" in her loss when he met recently with the former Democratic candidate.
Early in the interview, after host Smiley asked about a recent interview with former President Carter in which the topic of religion was discussed, Kristof brought up his concerns that Carter was treated unfairly: "There's just so much respect for Jimmy Carter, and, I mean, at least I think that we in the media truly wronged him when he was President."
Smiley soon brought up the claim by some that Carter has been the "best ex-President" as he posed:
I asked Jimmy Carter in this very chair one time, as a guest on this program, whether or not he thought, as some do, that he was the best ex-President that we ever had -- and he's my friend. He took some exception to the question, but he gave an honest answer. He said, "Tavis, maybe I am the best ex-President, but I also think I did a pretty decent job as President." Since you raised it, in retrospect, why do you think we wronged Jimmy Carter?
The PBS host added:
And I ask that in part because the one thing that he mentioned that night in terms of what he had done that he thought was pretty great, was that he did not get us engaged in any wars around the world, didn't fire a single bullet during his four years of presidency. So what do you make of why we were so tough on Jimmy Carter?
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Kristof began by accusing the media of "snobbishness" toward the President:
You know, I think there was a certain amount of snobbishness on the part of the media and on the part of the Washington establishment. There is this peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia, showing up, and so I think part of it was just that kind of snobbishness. I also think that in the media we have a weakness for narratives, and that once the narrative was started that he was kind of a weakling, that we in the media looked for bits of evidence to support that. And there were -- I don't know -- do you remember the famous rabbit episode?
The Times columnist recalled the infamous story of a rabbit chasing President Carter before praising him for not going to war with Iran, and for giving the Panama Canal to Panama:
That was us at our worst, you know. He's in a pond, and then word spreads that a rabbit tried to jump on his boat. And, all of a sudden, we're reporting that, you know, a rabbit has attacked him. And he very unfairly became something of a joke when, in fact, looking back, he was really the first President to raise human rights internationally in a big way and in a lasting way.
He solved the Panama Canal problem which would have haunted the United States for decades to come, and, you know, in other hands, we might have ended up in a war with Iran. You know, the economy was bad for reasons that didn't have anything to do with him, but the rise in oil prices. And I think we were profoundly unfair to him.
Later Kristof sympathetically recalled his recent discussion with Clinton:
I think Hillary Clinton had been attacked so much for so many reasons that she developed this protective shell that weakened her charm as a candidate. And it was really good to see that I think she's shed that shell and she's back to herself. And I asked her if she was planning to run again, and she pretty definitively said no. And she was pretty blunt about some things -- about the role of misogyny in -- in her defeat, which I don't think she would have said if she was planning to run for office again.