CBS' Steve Hartman Has an Ugly Baby

June 30th, 2008 3:03 AM

**Video Below the Fold**

Last week, with an "Assignment America" report on the CBS Evening News, Steve Hartman perpetrated a perfect example of why the media simply has no credibility on any subject, even humor. Hatrman’s report was not only dishonest, but missed the main point by a fair margin.

To set his report up, Hartman claims that before his son was born he had wondered why parents universally felt their own children were be so darn cute? He wondered how it could be that every parent thought theirs was the cutest child ever born? So, after Hartman himself recently had a son, George, he thought that he might go out and explore his curiosity on the subject.

The result was Is My Baby Cute? Really? where Hartman went out on the street to ask parents if they thought their own babies were cute. CBS had also previously asked parents to send in to them photos of babies, ugly and cute, in preparation for the story.

Hartman said that...

Nearly 200 people sent in pictures of their supposedly adorable offspring, but not one parent copped to having even an average looking child. It's not right, since logic demands that half of all babies must fall in the bottom 50 percent of cuteness.

Fair enough... if it weren't for that whole human nature thing where babies evoke the visceral desire to love and protect them. Still, it is an amusing bit of human nature that finds few parents ever thinking their progeny was in that "bottom 50 percent."

Hartman next admitted that, despite being a "journalist" he was succumbing to that blasted human nature thingie, too.

That's why, after my son George was born, I tried to maintain my journalistic integrity. Now, the older he gets, the more I fall in love with him, the more I find myself thinking like all the other parents.

I suppose he imagined that the god-like powers of journalists made them better than all they survey and this magical power might have shielded him from becoming just like the rest of us lowly humans. Still, that is a niggling point, to be sure, and I don’t want to beat Hartman up too much for merely being human, despite how it must have disappointed him to discover the singular truth.

Here is where it got dishonest, even for a report that was supposed to be lighthearted.

Hartman then took a photo of young baby George and asked folks on the street if they thought his baby was cute or not. "As I expected," Hartman quipped, "everyone said he was cute."

So, Hartman had the art department do a little photoshopping of his baby photo to make the face appear just a little odd. He "uglied him up" as Hartman termed it.

The picture I originally showed people was an actual picture of my son. Then I started showing an “uglified” version. Believe it or not, everyone still gushed over my little monster, although some more convincingly than others.

And so it went, no matter who I asked, or how ugly I made the picture. I couldn't find anyone who'd give it to me straight. I even showed a priest the picture.

Isn't that funny?

To end, Hartman gave us his best aphorism:

After all that, I've come to the conclusion that cuteness is relative ... if the baby's your relative, it's cute.

OK, so what's the big deal, you might ask? It's just a fluff piece, a Summer time throw away to make the Katie Couric show seem more likable and human, right? Why get so darn picky?

Well, you'd be right with all of those questions should you ask them of me. It really was a meaningless, throw away, faux report to fill space on TV. But, still, despite how flippant the report was, despite how unserious in nature, there is still an underlying dishonesty about it.

See, here is the thing: no one will look a parent straight in the face and tell them that their baby is ugly. It just isn't nice, it isn't neighborly... it isn't even human. Besides the fact that people don't want to be seen dissing the babies, who wants to stand in the middle of the street and get in a fight with a proud parent by telling them that their kid is ugly? Even if the kid is uglier than Helen Thomas, no one is going to say to a parent that his kid is ugly.

It just isn't done.

So, in the end, Steve Hartman did not find out that everyone thinks babies are cute, even ugly ones. What he found out was that people are too nice to look him in the face and tell him his baby was ugly... and that is a whole different issue.

Now, they showed little George (you can see him in the video clip below). I thought he was a fine lad. He was not Gerber cute, but he was no Hunchback of Notre Dame! Still, I can't imagine looking proud papa Steven Hartman in the eye and saying, "Eh, this kid's just average."

Could you?