It’s A Shame About Trotta

Oh, the Characters of Cable. They sure know how to fill air. They don’t just pontificate about a candidate’s apology for (or expression of regret for any offense taken from) a She-Said-What? sort of remark. They — in the process of doing the aforementioned — make their own She-said-What? remark for which they must then later apologize (or express… regret?) on air.

Here was Liz Trotta, a Fox News contributer, saying sorry yesterday for what she said while discussing what Senator Clinton said about RFK and campaiging in June (or, in Trotta’s context-free translation of Clinton’s remark, “What some are reading as the suggestion that somebody knock off Osama. Osama. Er, Obama. Well, both, if we could…”):

I am so sorry about what happened yesterday. In that lame attempt at humor I really just fell all over myself in making it appear that I wished Barack Obama harm or any other candidate for that matter. I sincerely regret it and apologize to anybody I’ve offended. And, uh, it’s a very colorful political season and many of us are making mistakes and saying things we wish we hadn’t said.

For everything, there is a season. For everything, perhaps, but assassination jokes.

And as for Trotta’s apology: the first bit sounds pretty standard. But why add the excuse-making stuff of the last sentence? “It’s a very colorful political season” (It’s not me, it’s the season. Like allergies or something). “Many of us are making mistakes. ” (Well, it’s not just me doing this apology thing! Remember Chris Matthews?)

In CJR’s archives I found a 1991 review of Trotta’s autobiography. I wasn’t familiar with her long and impressive-sounding career (“first female to cover a war [Vietnam] for television”) but thought that the lede of CJR’s review finds new relevance today:

Liz Trotta is an orphaned child of broadcast journalism — accomplished, abused, betrayed, and finally abandoned. In her autobiography she bears powerful and eloquent witness to the tortured state of modern-day TV news, with a voice nobody in television really wants to listen to but everyone should hear.

Is it so surprising that an “orphaned child of broadcast journalism” found a home among the cable news punditry? I guess not. But it seems a pity (or…something) that a woman who reported from Vietnam and Tehran and who then bore “powerful and eloquent witness to the tortured state of modern-day TV news” such as it was in the 1970’s, ’80s and ’90s is now contributing (and here I’m talking about cable punditry in general as much as this cable pundit’s recent remark) to “the tortured state of modern-day TV news” circa 2008.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.