There’s a bunch of critics harping on NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell for her remarks about Paul Ryan. And they’re all taking her quotes “out of context,” according to a company spokeswoman.
The controversial comments came following Paul Ryan’s introductory appearance Saturday with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The irking words:
“They’ve decided that this is a base election. This is not a pick for suburban moms. This is not a pick for women.”
In a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News analyst Bernard Goldberg denounced: “I think what she’s really saying is this is not a pick for liberal women who I, Andrea Mitchell, hang out with. I think that’s the real point she’s making.” NewsBusters satirized a “sour Andrea Mitchell” and said that her words amounted to dismissing the Ryan pick. And Fox News’s “The Five” went all aircraft-carrier on the NBC talent on yesterday’s show, with the allegation that Mitchell’s remarks reflect anti-Romney-Ryan media bias.
If they didn’t prove such bias, Mitchell’s comments surely demonstrate the dangers of live-coverage instanalysis. Distilled just a touch, Mitchell was saying that Ryan choice was not about women; it’s about the conservative base of the Republican Party.
Which is a self-contradiction, because the “base” includes a woman or two. According to Washington Post-ABC News polling over the past two years, 49 percent of self-identified conservative Republicans are female. That’s a data point that nullifies the distinction that Mitchell was seeking to draw.
Whether Ryan will exacerbate Romney’s weakness among women voters nationwide — that’s another matter. In polling completed just before the vice president announcement, Ryan showed an underwater rating of 19 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable among women, according to fresh data from Washington Post-ABC News. Mitchell’s sneering notwithstanding, Ryan turned those numbers around in polling conducted Saturday and Sunday, improving to a 37-30 favorable-unfavorable tally among women. Other top candidates for the vice presidential pick had their own defects in this category. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was 16-24 favorable-unfavorable among women, and Tim Pawlenty was 17-29.
Whatever the particulars and pitfalls of Mitchell’s analysis, her presentation — if not her voice — was clear and logical, voiding any claim that she’s been somehow robbed of mitigating context. A longer clip of Mitchell’s remarks is available here and transcripted below:
First of all, what you had with Paul Ryan was youth and vigor and energy. You saw him running into the.... I’m losing my voice here. And also talking about what the base wants to hear. He talked about how rights come from God and they don’t come from government. He said we don’t blame others; we take responsibility. So those are the themes you’re going to hear from this candidate in this campaign. He’s going to go out on a fundraising tour.... He’ll be doing some fundraisers and quite a lot of fundraising in August. But I think you’re going to see that they’ve decided that this is a base election. This is not a pick for suburban moms. This is not a pick for women.
I’ve asked NBC News for more detail on just how context was disembodied from Mitchell’s remarks but haven’t heard back yet. In a discussion this morning about NBC’s Ryan scoop, Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd had this to say about the Mitchell flap: “There’s always somebody trying to come after you,” he said. “Our news organization is a big target, and 99.99 percent of the time it’s unfair.... The bigger your platform, the more likely someone is going to claim you’re biased.”