Hillary herself, facing the one-man-firing-squad that was Tim Russert, tried to explain the comment on Sunday’s Meet the Press:

Dr. King didn’t just give speeches. He marched, he organized, he protested, he was gassed, he was beaten, he was jailed. He understood that he had to move the political process and bring in those who were in political power, and he campaigned for political leaders including Lyndon Johnson, because he wanted somebody in the White House who would act on what he had devoted his life to achieving.”

It’s a tricky thing to argue about your maltreatment by the press when, up to a couple weeks ago, you’d been christened by that same press corps as the foregone conclusion for the Democratic nomination. But it’s a trickier thing to have your admiration for a civil rights movement hero go from taken-for-granted to needing-articulation. Or, as Salon’s Walter Shapiro put it, “It is never a good sign when a Democratic candidate feels compelled to stress, ‘Dr. King …is one of the people I admire most in the world.’”

The whole affair, more than anything else, is incredibly sad. The two leading candidates of the party that, right now, seems to have the momentum going into the national election will, whoever wins the nomination, make history. We should be thrilled. We should be proud. But the past week’s “racial overtones” coverage reminds us that, however much our political universe has progressed, our media universe is still often one of ‘(sound) bite first, ask questions later.’

Perhaps lessons are being learned, though, if after the fact. The other story in all this—Bill Clinton’s “fairy tale” line in reference to Obama—was similarly taken out of context. (In short, Clinton was referring to Obama’s Iraq-war voting record, not his candidacy overall; for a longer, and great, summary, see the HuffPo’s Rachel Sklar’s analysis, here.) In what seems to be a tacit nostra culpa, MSNBC’s coverage yesterday did an entire segment on Obama’s war-voting record, carefully highlighting the Bill Clinton quote in context. NPR ran a similar piece this morning.

Today is Dr. King’s birthday; he would have been 79. And in today’s articles about the truce between two candidates whose candidacy would likely have made Dr. King proud of the progress he helped to invoke, the relief on the part of those describing that truce is nearly palpable. After a week of bickering, of he-said-she-said-they-said and back-and-forth, even the drama-loving press corps seems sick of it.


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