• Hillary Clinton's RFK Assassination Comment Made Big News For Some Reason

    About thirty seconds after we put down the keyboard and picked up the tequila to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, Hillary Clinton announced to the press that she'd hired Sirhan Sirhan to gun down Barack Obama — or something like that. (We've been drunk all weekend, and we're just catching back up.)

    Over at Politico, John Harris has published a handy little article on how tiny missteps and botched intentions (i.e. RFK assassination remarks, "bitter" comments, $400 haircuts) can suddenly get blown completely out of proportion and end up as lead stories in major newspapers…

    I should say at the outset that I have a pretty good vantage point on this particular case — both as witness of and participant in the echo chamber…

    Martin was furiously typing away, not looking up as he told me the latest: Clinton had given an interview to the editorial board of the Argus Leader newspaper in South Dakota in which she answered inquiries into why she is staying in the race by citing the fact that it's only May, and RFK had been shot and killed in June.

    Here is what I was thinking: Wow. Maybe she has come unhinged? It's not as though such macabre thoughts have never occurred to me, but for Clinton to give public voice to such a scenario is bizarre. This is going to be a big story and is almost certainly going to shadow and quite likely accelerate the final chapter of her presidential campaign.

    Here is what I said: Martin, quick get that item up!…

    Harris wants you to know that if you think that sounds at all sleazy, it's not. Well, it's not for Politico, because they need traffic. And, besides, the New York Post did it first…

    As leaders of a new publication, Politico's senior editors and I are relentlessly focused on audience traffic. The way to build traffic on the Web is to get links from other websites. The way to get links is to be first with news — sometimes big news, sometimes small — that drives that day's conversation…

    I urged Martin to keep his foot on the gas: Be the first to post reaction from the Obama campaign. Obama spokesman Bill Burton quickly obliged, denouncing Clinton’s comments and saying such sentiments have "no place in this campaign." Burton's comments quickly went into Martin's blog post. Soon enough, several websites and cable news outlets were giving the story trumpet-blaring treatment.

    Can you believe that? All these "websites and cable news outlets" were treating the assassination comment as if it were a huge big deal and linking back to Politico, when all Politico was doing was relentlessly pressing the issue in the hopes of scoring all that traffic.

    …Clinton's clumsiness does not excuse news media clumsiness in making a minor story seem like a major one.

    How dare they use Politico like that! It's outrageous!

    Tags: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Politico, Robert Kennedy


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