Wherefore “Sticks” a Candidate’s “Gaffe?”

Do tell, Joe Scarborough

Here is Joe Scarborough on MSNBC this morning, referring to TuzlaGate (Hillary Clinton having more than once exaggerated the danger and drama of a 1996 trip to Tuzla, Bosnia):

…[T]his Bosnia story smacks of gotcha politics. If [Hillary Clinton] had the reputation of being an exaggerator-in-chief, like Al Gore, it would matter. If she had said I invented the Internet, it sticks. One of these gaffes sticks when it compounds an existing problem…

Nope. This doesn’t matter at all. Pay no attention to the fact that we’re dissecting it here on MSNBC on at least an hourly basis, with clips (look, it’s Sinbad!). That’s not how these things “stick.”

And then, when Scarborough et al revisited the Scandal That Doesn’t Matter—like clockwork—an hour later this morning, Scarborough continued:

What I said last hour, if she, like Al Gore, had the propensity to exaggerate, if that was the knock in the press, something like this would be a problem. It’s just not a propensity…

Nah, this thing I’m talking about again—the umpteenth of who knows how many times it will be referenced on MSNBC this week—doesn’t matter at all. See, a candidate saying something that isn’t true is only a “problem” when we in the media can conveniently jam that untruth into an existing narrative that we have established for the candidate and then point, satisfied-like, to the candidate’s “propensity” to stretch the truth.

What about when a candidate hasn’t said something that isn’t true but rather the media has said something that isn’t true about what a candidate said (like, say, about the Internet or something)? Might that sometimes stick?

Ask Al Gore.

Nine years later and it’s still sticking.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.