From the way it looked, the Daily Caller really wanted you to know something about New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush.
The conservative news site published a video showcasing Thrush in full punditry mode in a segment on MSNBC during which he happened to use the word “chutzpah” to advance a point. It’s a Yiddish word derived from Hebrew. In a pointed bit of editing, the Daily Caller video repeated over and over again Thrush’s use of the word — and even select syllables — as the celebratory Jewish folk song “Hava Nagila” played in the background. Maggie Haberman, a colleague of Thrush’s, tweeted out the video and asked whether what she was seeing was real (see the tweet at the top of this post).
In a previous interview, Thrush identified himself as a “secular Jew.” The Daily Caller apparently wanted to append several exclamation points to that fact.
Social media couldn’t believe it.
There’s another wrinkle at work here, as Twitter individual John Aravosis pointed out:
“Watch Glenn Thrush demonstrate his intellectual and linguistic superiority.”
After taking a pounding on Twitter, the Daily Caller pulled down the video. Betsy Rothstein, the site’s media columnist, issued a long, multi-tweet explanation for the video. It originated, she wrote, from watching Thrush’s appearance on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC show. “I heard Thrush utter the most perfect pronunciation of ‘Chutzpah’ that I, as a Jewish woman, have ever heard in my life,” she tweeted.
Apparently Rothstein was going to write up such thoughts and pair them with the video, which went up “too soon” by accident. And so it lacked context. Geoff Ingersoll, editor in chief of the Daily Caller, tells this blog, “God help our video guy, but he thought the intent was to make fun of a reporter for bending over backward to pronounce an ethnic word. He did not know Thrush was Jewish, in fact, thought the joke was that he was not Jewish. I broke the news to him personally after I saw Maggie Haberman tweet the video. Needless to say he was distraught. I had no idea the clip had gone live until she tweeted it, and I’ve discussed internal processes with the folks responsible.”
Late on Thursday night, Rothstein published a post on her “Mirror” blog laying out the entire sequence. “Without proper context, the video on its own doesn’t look good and was misconstrued as intending ethnic harm on Thrush. I do not fault people for thinking this. For that reason, we are not re-posting it,” she wrote, in part.
Though Rothstein’s explanation is plausible, there’s some evidence that the Daily Caller was delighted with the response initially generated by the video:
Asked about that tweet via email, Rothstein replied, “I wasn’t hoping to prompt ‘this sort of’ reaction. The truth: I hadn’t even written my post yet. To me, the tweet simply meant the video was for a post I was going to write. I think they were trying to say wait … there will be context here.”
There is, indeed, context for things that happen at the Daily Caller. Co-founded in 2010 by Tucker Carlson, now a prime-time anchor at Fox News who removed himself from editorial involvement last year, the site has long traded in misogynistic and hateful material. In May, ProPublica busted the organization for publishing a news account authored by a man who is “supportive of white supremacist groups,” and this blog recently reported that it had hired a reporter with a history of pointedly racist writings (the reporter, Chuck Ross, has renounced them). Prior to her 2013 accession to the Daily Caller, Rothstein was part of a team at FishbowlDC that ran a series of posts tarring a local publicist as being promiscuous and sleazy. They got sued.
We report, you decide.