The New York Times reported Monday afternoon that NBC has suspended Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich indefinitely for tweeting ... well, what?
Reporter Dave Itzkoff failed to tell readers what Rich tweeted just minutes after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the nation's 45th President on Friday. Instead, he vaguely described it as "a widely criticized post she made Friday on her personal Twitter account in which she mocked Barron Trump, the 10-year-old son of President Donald J. Trump." That description required over 100 more characters than Rich's offensive tweet contained. Itzkoff's failure to quote is part of a trend.
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An earlier Monday story at the Times primarily about Chelsea Clinton's reaction by Jonah Engel Bromwich also failed to quote Rich's tweet. Additionally, in giving readers an inkling of what it said, Bromwich gave Rich an undeserved benefit of the doubt:
Shortly after President Trump took the oath of office on Friday, a comedy writer for “S.N.L.”, Katie Rich, tweeted what was intended to be a joke about Barron Trump and school shootings, prompting a barrage of criticism. Within a few hours, Ms. Rich deleted the tweet and locked down her Twitter account, but it remained a topic on social media all weekend.
If there's even a trace element of humor in Rich's tweet, it escapes me, and I suspect it will escape other readers here, regardless of their political persuasion (or at least I would hope that's the case):
At the Associated Press's seven-paragraph coverage time-stamped at 5:21 p.m. Monday afternoon, entertainment writer Mark Kennedy quoted several words from Rich's apology tweet, but completely failed to quote the original.
Kennedy also wrote that it was an attempted joke:
A "Saturday Night Live" writer has been suspended indefinitely after tweeting a poorly received joke about Donald Trump's 10-year-old youngest son, Barron.
A person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press that Katie Rich was suspended immediately after writing an offensive tweet about the child. An outcry on social media followed, with many calling for a boycott of the TV show.
Rich later deleted the tweet, deactivated her account but then reactivated it Monday, saying she wanted to "sincerely apologize" for the "insensitive" tweet and "deeply regret" her actions.
... The current controversy over Barron Trump comes as President Trump has lashed out at the way "Saturday Night Live" has lampooned him, with the president saying Alec Baldwin's semi-regular portrayal of him "stinks" and calling one of the skits a "hit job."
Rich has not claimed in her apology tweet that she was attempting a "joke," and she has, as far as I'm aware, otherwise not commented. So how can anyone claim to know what her intent was?
Kennedy's final paragraph makes it appear that there is some kind of specific controversy concerning Barron Trump himself. No, there's not. The controversy is entirely about Katie Rich's treatment of him as an object of humor (if we're to believe the Times and AP, which I don't) or disdain (which in the circumstances, minutes after the left-despised Trump's inauguration, seems far more likely). Additionally, bringing up Trump's current feud with SNL over its pathetic Trump-disparaging content seems to have been included to give Rich's deliberately unquoted tweet a thin and completely improper veneer of justification.
Monday evening, Nicholas Fondacaro at NewsBusters noted that ABC and NBC covered Chelsea Clinton tweeting that "Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does to be a kid," but that neither network "mentioned the offense originated from an SNL writer (let alone naming Katie Rich — Ed.), a show they love to quote."
The consistent failure at the Times and AP to quote Rich's 55-character tweet, and the networks' failure to even name Katie Rich, starkly contrast with how congressional aide Elizabeth Lauten was treated by these same outlets when she wrote a longer Facebook post criticizing presidential daughters Sasha and Malia Obama in 2014. Though what she wrote was out of bounds, Lauten was at least trying to make a point, given the pair's attire and demeanor at a pre-Thanksgiving event at the White House in 2014. I should also note that at least one reporter at another press outlet, namely USA Today, commented on the daughters' clearly visible "disdain" at the event without suffering any apparent consequences.
When Lauten resigned, the AP quoted her extensively in an unbylined December 2, 2014 dispatch:
Hill staffer Elizabeth Lauten resigns after remarks about Obama daughters
An aide to a Republican congressman resigned Monday after her Facebook post criticizing President Barack Obama's daughters touched off a backlash. Elizabeth Lauten, communications director to Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, said 16-year-old Malia Obama and her sister Sasha, 13, should have shown more "class" at a turkey-pardoning ceremony last week at the White House.
Addressing her comments directly to the Obama girls, Lauten wrote that they should "respect the part you play," and added: "Then again your mother and father don't respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I'm guessing you're coming up a little short in the 'good role model' department."
Lauten also urged the Obama girls to "dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar."
Nick Coransaniti at the First Draft blog at the New York Times also extensively quoted Lauten's post.
The quotes in those two December 2014 Lauten stories took up far more verbiage than the 55 characters seen in Katie Rich's far more offensive, and unquoted, tweet.
So why is Katie Rich — who, like Lauten, writes and communicates for a living (or at least Lauten did, until she resigned), but who is a far more public figure than Lauten ever was — getting such an extraordinary degree of media protection for tagging Barron Trump as "this country's first homeschool shooter"?
(Beyond everything else, Barron Trump is not currently being homeschooled, as he "currently attends the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on the Upper West Side" of Manhattan.)
The answer should be clear. As usual, it has everything to do with the political party affiliations or loyalties of those involved.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.