THK part 3

Many times I am more surprised by the ration of the public to a story or event than I am by the story or event itself. The recent incident where Teresa Kerry told a reporter to “shove it” is one of these cases.

The main line of defense for Mrs. Kerry’s supporters seems to be the use of the word “activities” by the reporter when he questioned her after her speech. She said “traits” and the reporter said “activities”.

(Cue “Imperial March” from the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK soundtrack and roll montage of Joe McCarthy images)

Maybe the reporter was simply wrong. Maybe he was intentionally misquoting her. Maybe he’s working on a story that compares Mrs. Kerry to Joseph McCarthy.

It doesn’t matter. The correct reaction to the situation wasn’t flat denials followed by “Shove it!”. What if this woman becomes the First Lady of the United States? You think she might face reporters who are trying to trap her from time to time? Will Hillary Clinton say “You go, girl!” if Mrs. Kerry works a Q&A session at a White House funtion like she handled this reporter?


But what gets me even more is the effort that Kerry supporters are putting into defending Mrs. Kerry. I received two comments on my original post:

It is alot of hot air because the reporter asked her what she meant by un-American “Activities” which she she didn’t say. They were trying to twist her words in a McCarthy way.


So did the reporter accuse her of saying “un-American” or “un-American activities”? I the latter, or if you don’t know, then you should stop referring to her “flat denials in the face of obvious truth” as you did in your follow-up post.

Despite Mrs. Kerry’s flat denials, she was missing the obvious truth. According to CNN (that bastion of GOP sympathy):

In the interview with CNN, Hemmer said “the quote I have is that you said un-American.”

Heinz Kerry then said, “No, un-Pennsylvanian.”

Hemmer then read her the quote from her address to Pennsylvania delegates and she acknowledged saying it.

“That’s absolutely correct. I would say that again.”

Nope. I didn’t say that. No. Nope. No way. Yes I did. And I’d say it again.


She said it. After several denials, she admits that she said un-American. So the entire defense of her behavior rests upon the use of the term “activities” by the reporter.

Flimsy, no?

Sure, the reporter got the word wrong, and it certainly could have been on purpose. But if you watch the video (available for now here) you can see that he’s stumbling and gesturing as if trying to find the right word when he says “activities”.

Pretty damning evidence, isn’t it. And no wonder Mrs. Kerry denied everything he said and told him off once she found out what paper he worked for. I mean, he used the word “activities”.

The problem is that she flatly denied saying “un-American” at all, she refused to discuss it at all, she refused to acknowledge the line of questioning at all, and she then told him to “shove it” based upon the organization that employed him.

Do not forget the context of the encounter. It was minutes after she claimed to want more civility in politics.

If she had simply engaged the discussion for thirty seconds, she could have easily cleared up any misunderstanding that the reporter may have had. If the reporter or newspaper misrepresented her when it published the story, she would have a leg to stand on when denying it. Instead she makes herself look bad in the eyes of many.

Some folks don’t think she did anything wrong. Hillary Clinton is one of them, apparently. Fair enough. I just don’t have much personal respect for Mrs. Kerry’s actions, and I question the reasoning of those who are defending them.

Hillary Clinton thinks it’s great. Kerry’s senior adviser thinks that Americans want to hear more of this. The only two readers to comment on my post think it’s the reporter who was out of line.

Watch the video. Read a transcript. Flat denial. Obvious truth. Bad form.


  1. Whether or not the reporter was ‘wrong’ (i.e. a jerk) for hounding her on this, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t relevant to the story. He quoted her as saying ‘un-American’ and she specifically responded saying that she didn’t say ‘un-American’. (‘traits’ v. ‘activities’ doesn’t enter into it, because she claimed to also specifically not have said ‘un-American’.) She’s guilty of one of two things. 1. She forgot what she had said moments ago, and when she heard a word quoted back to her that she didn’t like, she *assumed* she must not have said it, to the point of actually calling him a liar. She’s guilty of putting her own assumptions ahead of a civil tone with someone she had no desire to be civil to. 2. She lied. She didn’t like what she said, realized that it wasn’t something she wanted to defend, and decided to call him a liar because it would play better than her trying to defend her own words. Either way, she’s lost any bonus points she’s had. It’s not like anyone else in politics doesn’t do the same thing, but it’s sad she had to confirm so early that she’s capable of all the same old same old as everyone else in Washington. (I still have hope that the Edwards’es are different than your average politicians.)

  2. The part I found most interesting was just before she told off the reporter. She had moved elsewhere after the first encounter, and then, very obviously, hunted him down to engage him again, ending with the now infamous ‘Shove it’. Sort of a pre-meditated cussing out. I say, let’s move-on (to coin a phrase!). There will be more of these fun tidbits that can be kicked around when they happen. Unless they lock her in the bus. If only we could have had Howard Dean. Sigh,……. I guess I’ll have to settle for Teresa.

  3. Well, I can’t watch the video, so you’re one up on me, feel free to point out something that I might have overlooked in that regard. In any event, it seems that at that point she was sick of the whole line of questions from somebody who may or may not have been trying to twist her words for their own political ends, and said dismissively ‘I did not say ‘activity’ or ‘un-amaerican’ ‘ which to me if said dismissively enough could mean: ‘that’s not what I said ‘activity’ or ‘un-american’ in the same sentence like that’. And clearly intended on ending the discussion before this guy took another approach at twisting her words around. Hugely nitpicky, I can’t believe we’re analyzing it this closely, but that’s what this whole thread is, hugely nitpicky. I’m amazed that you find this such an important topic. Even what you keep stating as the hypocrisy of her just having concluded a speech on political civility to me does not mean she’s not allowed to tell someone to shove it if they are intent on attempting to twist your words around. Civility could mean exactly ‘hey will that fucker from Fox News stop trying to take our quotes out of context and twist our words around to suite their whims?’. She doesn’t have time to argue with every Republican slanted media outlet so telling him to shove it can seem perfectly justified, even in light of her given speech (not that I’ve actually heard any of that speech or its contents, I’m taking your word for it). In any event, you’re making a huge deal out of something that is perfectly explainable. And at the same time I didn’t see you devote nearly this much attention when Cheney told Sen. Leahy to go ‘fuck himself’. And that’s even in violation of senate rules. How can you be so hung up on this?

  4. Atticus: Thanks for taking the time to respond. The reason I originally posted on this wasn’t so much to point out Mrs. Kerry’s words but to point out the reaction that Hilary Clinton had. My original post was a quickie with a quote from a story summarizing the incident and a quick quote and comment on what Clinton said. I then updated soon after when I saw that the NY Times was reporting the use of the word ‘un-American’ more or less as heresay. I had seen the quote from Mrs. Kerry earlier but didn’t think it worth my time. It was Clinton’s reaction and the mood of Kerry apologists that made me post. And even when I did it certainly wasn’t an in-depth effort. My second post was a response to another writers comments on my original post, in which I agreed that Clinton was right in the sense that many Americans are sick of pushy reporters, and I also noted that a senior Kerry campaign figure also publicly approved Mrs. Kerry’s treatment of that reporter. Again, it’s not Mrs. Kerry’s words (though pretty dumb, they’re just another example of bad form by politicians) but the near-praise she’s receiving from some folks that’s bothering me. I felt compelled to post a third time, since commenters on my site had entered the fray and I wanted to make clear why I thought defense of Mrs. Kerry’s actions was actually worse than the actions themselves. Again, though I’m happy to take a slap at Mrs. Kerry, my main thrust is to point out what I see as overtime effort by Kerry supporters to not only keep Mrs. Kerry’s name clear of wrongdoing, but to turn her treatment of the reporter into something admirable. Good grief. Mrs. Kerry, IMHO, showed very bad judgment by saying what she said to that reporter, and it was underscored by the presence of video cameras which caught the whole thing. But instead of apologizing and trying to clear up the misunderstanding (if there was one), or at the very least ignoring the incident and hoping it just goes away, many Kerry supporters are holding up her ‘activity’ as something worthy of praise. The defense is pretty thin. And the hypocrisy of her saying this right after her speech is an important part of the story, such as it is. I agree that she doesn’t have time to debate every wacko from here to Timbuktu, but she stopped to listen to his question and she responded to him. At that point she’s more or less obligated to do more than tell a member of the press to take a flying leap. If she didn’t have time, she shouldn’t have taken the time. She did, so she was on the hook. (And the reporter wasn’t from FoxNews.) As for Cheney and Leahy (or Kerry on MTV earlier in the year) there was a bunch of hype from the opposition but I’m not aware of any defenders standing up and saying ‘Well, done, Dick! That’s what Americans want to hear!’ or Cheney denying denying denying that he said it, then when he heard the tapes saying ‘Yes, and I’d say it again.’ That’s the difference. Well, that and the fact that I’m biased. Thanks for reading.

  5. I guess what originally prompted me to respond was the statement ‘Please explain to me how this is just a bunch of hot air stirred up by Republicans’. After following this thread for several days, this seems more like partisan hot air than ever. There is almost no story here at all. Between you and KTLA you’d think we were talking about Saddam Hussein here with the virtiol regarding her ‘lies and hypocrisy’. It’s just disheartening to see your blog get irrationally whipped up by Republican slander, when at the same time something similar happens to a candidate on the other side of the fence and it goes by without even a mention. You have such excellent commentary on certain issues, it continues to be a let down to see your objectivity completely fail you when it comes to left-wing vs. right-wing politics.

  6. Atticus: Again, I thank you for reading and for taking the time to write a thoughtful comment. We obviously don’t agree on this issue, but that’s mostly what the comments section is for, anyway. As I wrote, the reason I’ve pursued this issue well beyond it’s inherent meaningfulness is not because of what Mrs. Kerry said but because of the partisan reaction of her defenders. What ‘Republican slander’ has got this blog ‘whipped up’? I’m pointing out (what I see as) irrational active defense of what appears to be a pretty indefensible, if minor, incident. Mrs. Kerry did say ‘un-American’, despite her constant denials to the reporter and to others afterwords, which is what set this whole thing off. Mrs. Kerry did tell a reporter to ‘shove it’ based upon the paper he worked for, which is ironic given her words a few minutes earlier. Mrs. Clinton did say ‘You go, girl!’ when asked about the incident. Kerry adviser Tad Devine stated publicly that he thinks Americans want to see more of this. I’ll agree that this isn’t all that much of a story. The fact that she said it after a speech about civility in politics is definitely relevant, though. I didn’t write about Kerry saying f*ck on MTV. I didn’t write about what Cheney said to Leahy. So it’s Even Steven, as far as covering or not covering this sort of thing this year as far as I can tell. The reason I didn’t write about either of those incidents was that neither of them had just finished speaking about wanting more civility in politics before their missteps, and neither of them (to my recollection, anyway) had major figures leaping to their defense and claiming that it was actually a good thing to say what they said, not a bad thing as seemed obvious to me in both cases at the time. The irony of her timing made this at least as much of a story as the other two, if not more. Still not much, but certainly on the radar. It’s the no-holds-barred defense of her, and the attempt to make her some sort of hero for what she did, that’s the real story, though. That’s why I’m writing about it after not writing about the other incidents.

  7. Atticus, you said: ‘Between you and KTLA you’d think we were talking about Saddam Hussein here with the virtiol [sic] regarding her ‘lies and hypocrisy’.’ Did you even read my post? Here, I’ll repost the last paragraph for you. ‘Either way, she’s lost any bonus points she’s had. It’s not like anyone else in politics doesn’t do the same thing, but it’s sad she had to confirm so early that she’s capable of all the same old same old as everyone else in Washington. (I still have hope that the Edwards’es are different than your average politicians.)’ You’re telling me that saying she’s confirmed that she’s capable of all the crap she’s supposedly against is that bad? Are you so far to the left that my being equally disgusted with her and the crap from the right is just way to Republican for you? I’ve heard 10 times worse from the right, but that’s not the topic of the day. A potential first lady was terribly rude while telling a bald-face lie to a reporter. That sort of thing happens from both sides all the time. Right-wing (if you want to use the term ‘wing’) liars are just as common as left-wing liars. Don’t get all defensive when one side does it really badly and gets called on it. I was very clear that she had simply lowered herself to the same level of incivility as everyone else in politics these days, and should certainly be no poster child for civil discourse.