Saturday, August 30, 2008

GOP Asks 'Chicago Tribune' Not to Publish Errant 'Rush Limbaugh' Email -- Doesn't Stop Paper

NEW YORK - What to do when you are mistakenly sent a highly provocative, even distasteful, email from a political party staffer and are then asked not to publish its contents? The issue came up again today when the Chicago Tribune received an email from a GOP staffer regarding a suggestion that the party post something on YouTube regarding a radio comment by Rush Limbaugh related to Sarah Palin's new baby and Barack Obama's view of abortion.

Here is an excerpt from a posting today on the Tribune's popular blog, The Swamp, by Andrew Zajac.

Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh boosted Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's pro-life position and mocked Barack Obama on his radio show yesterday with a make-believe riff in which Obama asked Palin "When you found out your baby would be born with Down syndrome, did you consider killing it before or after the due date?"

Limbaugh's "humor" caught the fancy of the Republican National Committee, which, in an internal e-mail, proposed using the bit in a YouTube clip.

The e-mail, which was sent to RNC Communications Director Danny Diaz, and mistakenly to a Tribune reporter, was titled "wow...good YouTube potential..."

In a statement, an RNC spokesman said, "A staffer with separate responsibilities made a poor recommendation that was not heeded. The individual has been spoken to and this will not occur again."

The staffer who wrote the message said the obvious -- that it was sent to the wrong person -- but otherwise declined to discuss it.

Diaz asked The Swamp not to post the message and said the RNC had not and would not act on the suggestion, but otherwise declined to talk about it on the record.

There's a time to honor requests to disregard misdirected email, but this isn't one of them.

The note is a good illustration of how campaigns really work and helps to explain why many people think the national political discourse is noxious.

The official McCain campaign, and the official Obama campaign for that matter, generally take the high road, rarely getting down and dirty.

Limbaugh and his ilk in talk radio and the blogosphere, on the right and left, are, officially, independent actors. So when they veer into coarse or offensive commentary, campaigns shrug, 'What can we do? We don't control them.'

They could repudiate ugly comment. But that rarely happens.

What does happen, as yesterday's errant RNC notes illustrates, is campaigns look for a benefit, furtively.

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