After the firestorm that erupted Saturday over the Associated Press's classless story on the death of former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, I was hoping that the possibly-chastened wire service could get through its coverage of his funeral without getting in any gratuitous digs.
In that horrid Saturday story (blogged at NewsBusters and BizzyBlog), the AP's Douglass K. Daniel, with the assistance of longtime Bush basher Jennifer Loven, felt it necessary, within hours of Snow's passing, to characterize him as "not always (having) a command of the facts," questioning reporters' motives "as if he were starring in a TV show broadcast live from the West Wing," and turning his briefings into "personality-driven media event(s) short on facts and long on confrontation." In a further descent into tastelessness, they felt it necessary to tell us what Snow's salary at the White House was -- something I don't believe I have ever seen written in a story on anyone else's death. (11:00 a.m. update: See this comment below for an exception.)
Covering Snow's funeral Thursday, AP reporter Ben Feller stayed classy almost to the end. But then he apparently couldn't help himself, and followed the execrable example of his Saturday predecessors in his story's third-last paragraph.
Feller apparently felt compelled to note the attendance of the former Bush press secretary who has written an alleged "tell-all" book. Having done that, he left out the names of other Bush press secretaries present, and speculated on something he admitted he knows nothing about.
First, the appropriate coverage:
- President Bush's eulogy (White House link here) -- very nicely done, including some powerful praise of their father directed at Snow's grieving children.
- Comments by Snow's younger brother Steven -- well-done again, with anecdotes about their childhood in Greater Cincinnati.
- A memorable Snow quote ( "Live boldly. Live a whole life"), followed by a segment from Rev. David M. O'Connell's sermon ("Tony Snow did not need a long life for us to measure. It was, rather, we who needed his life to be longer").
But then in Paragraph 21, the journalistic wheels came off, as Feller tumbled into the land of tabloid trash (bold is mine):
Scott McClellan, Snow's predecessor as press secretary and the author of a scathing tell-all about the Bush White House, attended. He did not appear to cross paths with Bush. Other press secretaries from Bush's tenure and the Bill Clinton White House attended too.
So of the three Bush press secretaries who attended (both Ari Fleischer and Dana Perino must have been there, or Feller could not have written "press secretaries"), the AP reporter only deemed McClellan worthy of mention -- apparently, we must conclude, because McClellan is the only one of the lot who has had critical things to say about the President.
By omitting Fleischer's name, Feller also was able to conveniently avoid the need to mention that the President's first press secretary has essentially shredded the key claims McClellan made in his liberal-published, possibly George Soros-funded "tell-all" book.
"He (McClellan) did not appear to cross paths with Bush?" Feller admits that has no idea what, if anything, happened -- and still felt it necessary to tell us that he has no idea what, if anything, happened. This is "news"? Does anyone besides the Bush-deranged give a rip, Ben? I believe that even the National Enquirer would have left "Fighting Celebrity 1 and Fighting Celebrity 2 attend party; not known if they crossed paths" on the cutting room floor.
Feller's inability to stay classy is reflective of an organization that ought to consider renaming itself the Arrogant Punks. It seems as if the self-described "Essential Global News Network" can't get through any story about the current administration -- regardless of the setting -- without committing journalistic vandalism.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.