On any given day, you’re bound to see something on cable news that boggles the mind. (And we’re not talking about “Mom Charged After Kids Take Turns in the Trunk.”)

This afternoon, the following exchange transpired between CNN anchor Kyra Phillips and her colleague Bob Franken, following Franken’s update on all things Karl Rove. (Franken’s segment ended with a clip of Sen. John Kerry saying that Rove ought to be fired, with Sen. Hillary Clinton nodding her approval.)

Franken: “And, just a nod from the president but no answer, Kyra, when he was asked about Karl Rove today at a photo-op. Kyra?”

Philips: “Bob, definitely a major smear campaign going on. I mean, what [are] the chances of hearing from Karl Rove? Could he speak? Could he come forward? A lot of people said that could clear the air if he just came forward and gave the facts?”

Did Philips say what we think she said? That there is “definitely a major smear campaign” being waged presumably — based on what came before Philips’ cryptic rejoinder — against Karl Rove and by Senators Kerry and Clinton and their ilk? Does she not know what a “smear campaign” is? (Hint: Think John McCain and election 2000). We suppose it’s possible that Philips was trying to say that Rove was involved in “a major smear campaign” against, perhaps, Joe Wilson — though this, too, would be a troublesome use of the phrase.

Seems Franken read Philips’ comment the way we did, causing him to jump in to supply the missing “he said” and “she said”: “Well, the White House would respond that the Democrats are involved in something akin to a smear campaign. The Democrats would only say they’re interested in good government …”

And CJR Daily would say that it’s time for reporters to stop putting words in the mouths of officials, Democrat or Republican.

L.C.B.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.