CNN’s Cheesy Coverage

Thanks to a Campaign Desk reader for flagging this stomach-turning CNN special.

On yesterday’s “Inside Politics,” wedged between a segment on “the Catholic vote” and one on “the candidates’ favorite getaway spots,” senior political correspondent Candy Crowley — standing in for Judy Woodruff— brought us this gem: “Now, you all know that in election years, nothing goes unanswered,” Crowley began, referring to the furious back-and-forth between campaigns. “Nothing. But sometimes responses take a little while.” (In other words, even big ol’ CNN sometimes has to wait a while to receive the “she-said” to the previously reported “he-said.”)

Crowley went on to recall a visit “about a year ago” that John Kerry made to “a famous cheese steak place” in Philadelphia. “There he ordered, of course, a cheese steak,” Crowely continued, “but he ordered it with Swiss cheese. That’s kind of a food faux pas in Philadelphia,” because, as Crowley noted, “you’re supposed to order it with Cheez Whiz, maybe American.”

Crowley asked: “Now who notices these kinds of things?” (Besides, apparently, CNN and assorted other press outlets which, “about a year ago,” reported the incident as the death knell of Kerry’s fledgling campaign, proof that he lacked a common touch). “As it turned out, the Bush campaign did,” Crowley said and then queued footage from a Bush campaign stop yesterday near Philadelphia in which the president appeared to make a jab at Kerry’s August 2003 cheese steak order. “A lot of people wonder why I’m coming [to Pennsylvania] so much,” Bush said. “It ought to be obvious to you; I like my cheese steak Whiz with.”

In other words, Bush obliquely poked fun at Kerry, confident that Crowley and her ilk would revisit for viewers and readers all the details of Kerry’s incredibly consequential, year-old “faux pas.” (The New York Times’ dutiful David M. Halbfinger also complies, ending his piece today with the cheese steak anecdote. And Fox News Channel’s Jim Angle reported last night that Bush “hit a culture issue” yesterday with cheese steak aficionados).

Crowley wrapped her own segment with this insightful comment: “There were also complaints at the time that John Kerry took dainty bites of his Philadelphia cheese steak.” That’s right, Kerry’s bites were “dainty,” from Old French deintie, and Crowley thought viewers should know that “there were complaints” from unnamed persons at that time about Kerry’s biting method. “Unfortunately,” Crowley concluded, “the president didn’t get into this.”

Well, Crowley isn’t the only one left feeling disappointed. Call us old-fashioned, call us sentimental, call us wistful, but don’t call us late for lunch. For, despite it all, we continue to turn to CNN when we yearn for an occasional tidbit of substantial political reporting to digest. (And hold the Whiz.)

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.