LAT Strikes New Note in Ridiculousness

May 5th, 2007 5:29 AM

Sometimes when you're surfing through the web or watching TV, you come across a story that's so ridiculous it makes you wonder if the reporter who filed it even bothered for a second to think how stupid they sound.

That's definitely the case with this piece from Los Angeles Times reporter Tina Daunt:

Ronald Reagan became president even though he worked with chimps in B movies.

Arnold Schwarzenegger played a murderous robot, and that didn't keep him from becoming governor.

So can "Law & Order" actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) become the first presidential candidate with this credit? Thompson played a white supremacist, spewing anti-Semitic comments and fondling an autographed copy of "Mein Kampf" on a television drama 19 years ago.

Yes, apparently you can fondle a book. Daunt continues:

His colleagues say that he was just an actor putting everything he had into playing the role of a charismatic racist, named Knox Pooley, in three episodes of CBS's hit show "Wiseguy" in 1988. "Do you call Tom Cruise a killer because he played one in a movie?" asked show creator and writer Stephen J. Cannell.

But in the age of YouTube, this performance could raise an intriguing political question: How does a performer eyeing a presidential run deal with a video history that can be downloaded, taken out of context, chopped into embarrassing pieces and then distributed endlessly though cyberspace? Some conservative political blogs are already considering the problem.

"Not only do politicians have to worry about getting comfortable with a crowd and saying something that might be caught on tape," said USC professor Leo Braudy, a pop culture expert, who has written extensively about film. "Now actors who have political aspirations will have to go through every single line of every part they played to make sure there's nothing they need to explain or apologize for." [...]

Some conservative websites are already discussing how a potential Thompson campaign may have to deal with these scenes. People who work out their politics on the Internet understand how potentially troublesome things like this can be. Like pebbles in a pond, you can't know where the ripples are going to stop — or what the gullible or the mean-spirited may make of them.

One website called Patterico's Pontifications asked the question recently: "How will they trash Fred Thompson?" Several respondents immediately mentioned the "Wiseguy" performance.

Except Patterico and his commenters aren't worried about it at all as Patterico says:

They did?

It’s not always true that fact-checking an L.A. Times article is as easy as accessing the search button on my web site. When I did that, I learned that the post in question garnered 38 comments — and Thompson’s “Wiseguy” character was not mentioned until comment #35, which said:

He played neo-nazi con-man “Dr.” Knox Pooley on a five episode arc of the TV show “Wiseguy”. His character gave a couple of speeches denouncing “mud people” and similar slurs which could easily be taken out of context and posted on You Tube.

That comment was quoted in the next comment (#36) which added:

That could work both ways. If he says something bad, he could always claim he was channeling the character

And those two comments were the first and last mention of Thompson’s “Wiseguy” character.

That’s what the L.A. Times calls “[s]everal” commenters “immediately” mentioning Thompson’s “Wiseguy” performance.

I wonder how long Daunt took to find something she could shoehorn into the story. And to do it to Patterico's blog which specializes in debunking Times, that's just classic.