Even the non-cable news programs found delight in the shoe-throwing situation. Here’s CBS’s Early Show:

HARRY SMITH: So the tabloids in New York are having a field day with the shoe attack on President Bush in Iraq. The Daily News calls it a ‘Shoe-icide Attack.’ And then the Post calls it ‘Lame Duck,’ as in duck—

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Duck! Oh, good one.

JULIE CHEN: Well, his duck was pretty good.

SMITH: Yeah.

CHEN: I mean, it was, you know, thinking fast.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah….

SMITH: Listen, I’ve been in the Green Zone in Baghdad and this is—it may be the most secure place on the planet, so nobody is going to be in there with any kind of a weapon. I mean, look at the president’s face, look at the look on his face.

CHEN: He didn’t look nervous at all.

SMITH: He’s amused almost by this.

CHEN: He looked more embarrassed. I mean, he turned a little bit beet red afterwards.

SMITH: Look at this, look at him.

CHEN: And he did kind of shoo off the Secret Service agent who came up—

RODRIGUEZ: No pun intended!

CHEN: —like, ‘I’m okay’ — [Laughter] I didn’t mean that! Hey, I’m wittier than I think this morning! So, there you go.

Now, sure, the conversational format of much of TV news makes the kind of in-depth analysis we see (and expect) from print coverage difficult. But “conversational” need not mean “inane.” There’s no reason that the tones of the papers’ coverage and their on-air counterparts need be so wildly divergent. Put in less kind terms, there’s no reason that the TV coverage’s treatment needs to be so ridiculously lacking in context or intelligent analysis—or, for that matter, that on-air treatments of the incident need to be little more than audio-visual versions of tabloid schlock. There’s no reason for it—and yet, as someone who’d surely be disappointed in today’s punny treatments used to say, that’s the way it is.

To that end, I leave the final word to our friends at Fox & Friends, who conducted the following unfortunate exchange this morning, as a chyron blaring “SIZE TEN ATTACK: PRES BUSH DODGES FLYING SHOE IN IRAQ”—and another one declaring “DUCK & COVER”—flashed beneath them:

GRETCHEN CARLSON: The president had a great line saying that this is the sign of a free society. I think we are missing that in the whole discussion. If Iraq was not a free society you wouldn’t be able to throw your shoes at anyone. Which I think is a great point.

STEVE DOOCY: Reagan just pretended he couldn’t hear the shoe coming at him. Bush also said, “It’s like having a political rally and have people yell at you. It’s like driving down the street and having people not gesture can all five fingers. I didn’t feel the least bit threatened by it.”

CARLSON: Fingers don’t usually kill when they are from afar.

BRIAN KILMEADE: I often hearken back to Austin Powers and you think about the first time the shoe was used as a weapon.

DOOCY: Are you suggesting the guy may have stolen the idea from Austin Powers?

KILMEADE: You make the call.

[VIDEO CLIP from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, in which agent Random Task flings a shoe at Austin Powers.

POWERS: Oh, that really hurt. I’m going to have a lump there, you idiot. Who throws a shoe? Honestly.]

KILMEADE: It’s true. Who throws a shoe?

DOOCY: Who does? That guy.

“By the way, you are welcome,” Doocy added.

“I know what you’re saying,” Kilmeade replied. “Have an invasion and free these people from the worst dictator since Hitler. That’s what you get. Sit down and go wear sneakers next time.”

 

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.