Quick, Someone Call Alanis!

The media pounce on irony in Clinton's "3 a.m." ad

Oh, the juicy irony of it all: the adorable little blond child who was peacefully sleeping when Hillary Clinton received that 3 a.m. phone call is all grown up…and she’s an Obama supporter!

Casey Knowles, seventeen, a precinct captain for Obama, worked, eight years ago, as a film extra…and the Clinton camp just happened to use stock footage of her in creating their controversial-and-possibly-momentum-shifting “3 a.m.” ad spot. Knowles found out about her unwitting Clinton assist when she saw the spot—mocked by Jon Stewart—on The Daily Show. And NBC’s Seattle affiliate, King 5, broke the news of the irony on Saturday in a segment titled “Local Obama supporter shocked to see herself in Hillary ad.”

What’s the national media to do with such a local-news nugget? Why, turn Knowles’s three seconds of ad time into fifteen minutes of fame, of course—and, in the process, frame the silly coincidence as a Great and Telling Irony! “This does speak volumes about the youth vote in this particular election,” co-host Bill Weir told Knowles during her appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America Weekend Edition yesterday. “It hurts that footage of me would contribute to a candidate that I’m not necessarily supporting,” she acknowledged on CNN’s American Morning today. The Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages wrote about the coincidence, deeming it “hilarious.” TPM picked it up. So did Slate, going out of its way to frame the fluke as a “gafflet” on the part of the Clinton campaign. (Which is ridiculous: the Clinton campaign purchased the footage of Knowles from Getty Images, as any campaign would; if this is anything, it’s simple bad luck.) The Huffington Post rehashed the story, then went on to investigate Knowles’s political past (spoiler alert: she’s on her student council! And she advocates change!). The AP, the ultimate Arbiter of Newsworthiness, dedicated a piece to the high school senior’s political inclinations: Knowles found the “3 a.m.” ad to be “fear-mongering,” it informed us, and the high school senior “cried and trembled,” her mother said, after shaking Obama’s hand at a Seattle rally. But fear not, Howard Dean: Knowles still “plans to vote for whichever Democrat wins the nomination.”

Well. I, for one, feel edified now that I’ve learned the political philosophies of a seventeen-year-old. (Now if the media could just let us know how Scarlett Johansson, Knowles’s fellow in campaign spotting, feels about NAFTA, it’ll really be a full news day.) Knowles may be exceptionally politically active for someone of The Apathy Generation: she’s not just a precinct captain, she’s a Washington State Democratic delegate. The irony here is rich, to be sure. And yes, the political press is to be forgiven for wanting/needing a dose of levity in this endless campaign. But still. Does a mere coincidence deserve this much fanfare? Particularly when all the fanfare implies—unfairly—a mistake from the woman who answers the phone?

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