Did you ever notice how the media coverage of big attention-riveting events tends to follow a familiar pattern? At first, there's a brief pause (which is getting briefer because of social media) when people try to absorb what actually has happened. This is followed by a competition amongst the commentariat to say something relevant, which inevitably gives way to the need of one or more well known or semi-well known people to say something really stupid. After the most colossally stupid thing imaginable has been said, walked back and apologies issued, the cycle is complete and the next exercise in stupidity may begin.
The Gold Medal
The millenial gold medal for colossal stupidity goes to the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Breaking the stunned and eerie calm that enveloped the country in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Falwell shared with us the following observation: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For The American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"
Recognizing he was close to a career ending moment, he walked it back, stating, "I would never blame anyone except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize." How could they have gotten that impression?
For future reference, if you see the word "if" in an apology, it's not an apology.
The Silver Medal
If there is an opportunity to take a cheap shot, moralize and say something really stupid, you are in what I would call the Rick Santorum sweet spot. This is where he hangs out; it's warm and comfy territory and very familiar.
When the child abuse scandal in the Catholic church was bursting onto the public consciousness ten years ago, its epicenter was Boston. Santorum's contribution to that deeply troubling situation was to state that "…the culture is sick…it's no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."
The late Senator Ted Kennedy confronted Santorum and requested an apology. When one was not forthcoming, Kennedy said that he would bring the matter up on the Senate floor and invited Santorum to be present to defend his position. Santorum, who describes himself as a fighter, was a no-show.
The Bronze Medals
The stupid derby has had an abundance of entries in this election cycle and, tragically, in the aftermath of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. A couple come to mind.
Fox News Orlando demonstrated that it's not necessary to say anything to be stupid. They put the father of accused killer George Zimmerman on TV with his identity obscured because he said he had received threats (poor baby, Mr. Z; try being Al Sharpton…he's had a bull's eye on his chest for decades) and allowed him to spew non-stop heresay about the "facts" of the case. And then, to top off his pathetic, but unquestioned by Fox, performance, he volunteered that he "couldn't believe the hatred that is coming from the President of the United States." Fox was too stupid to ask Mr. Zimmerman what he was talking about.
Was it the fact that the President said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon"? The full-moon right has been trying to sell that comment as divisive since the President made it.
Reasonable people would view it as an effort to comfort.
Hilary Rosen has enjoyed a reputation of being an effective advocate for Democratic causes. Last week, she decided to take a bite out of that reputation and the gender gap that Democrats enjoy by targeting the most popular Republican in the country, Ann Romney, with a gratuitous shot…"Ann Romney never worked a day in her life."
Hilary then decided to compound the stupidity by agreeing to go on Meet The Press to explain (in politics, when you're explaining, you're losing) her comments. In a welcome burst of sanity, she canceled her appearance.
Lessons learned: Leave Ann alone; apologize and go away; come back again another day.
William Donohue of the Catholic League is a man in search of an insult. His default position is temper tantrum in waiting. His strong suit is that he's largely unknown.
When Hilary Rosen shot herself in the foot with her comments about Ann Romney, Mr. Donohue took that as his cue to shoot himself in all of his body parts when he posted the following tweet: "Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen who had to adopt kids, Ann raised five of her own."
Huh? What's up with that, Bill? Is that your Easter message?
Bill, I have two suggestions. First, read up on the great Fr. Mychal Judge, a gay and celibate priest who was chaplain to the New York Fire Department and the gay group Dignity. He died a hero on 9-11. His sisters remembered him as, "Not a man of narrow truths, but of wide open possibilities." Second, get some rest. Take a cruise. Come back in mid-November.
Everything will be all right.
Bill O'Reilly of Fox News had Trayvon Martin's mother on and, after introductory comments of sympathy, asked her twice if Reverend Al Sharpton should apologize for heated rhetoric used at some of the rallies, which, in retrospect, proved to be necessary to get local authorities to act.
Bill, how stupid can you be? Do you expect a mother who has just lost a son to trash one of the people who has helped get her some measure of justice? And, what an insufferable boor you were for raising the question in the first place.
Ann Romney I'm going to be smart and not say anything stupid about Ann Romney. I will, however, note that the outrage that the Romney camp claimed that they felt about Ms. Rosen's devaluation of mothers who work at home was blunted a bit by comments made by Ann at a closed-door fundraiser. One of the reporters at the event quotes Ann as referring to Hilary Rosen's comments as follows: "It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it."
Ann, that's the kind of story you tell after you win. You're spiking the ball and you're not yet in the end zone. It makes you sound like substance doesn't matter and that politics trumps all.
That's not you, is it, Ann? Say it ain't so.