Political gaffes--including the misspelling of the word potato by former vice president Dan Quayle--were the subject of a discussion with Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby yesterday at the Institute of Politics (IOP).
"A gaffe can cost you an election--and often have," Jacoby said to the group of 30. "Gaffe journalism is often good journalism, and it is often unfair journalism. My take is that it's justified to pay attention to the gaffe, but we [the media] are too hasty about letting that become the story."
As an example of gaffe journalism as it worst, Jacoby pointed to a quote Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) gave in November of last year to a columnist from the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper. "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He better have a bodyguard," Helms told the paper.
"It was sarcastic, off the cuff, and the reporter treated it as such. It was a remark not to be taken seriously," Jacoby said, noting that the comment had been far down in the story. "The AP [Associated Press] reporter put in the first paragraph. It was a little bit shamefully treated."
"This was a case of it not being fair--gaffe journalism at it's worst," Jacoby added.
Jacoby opened his talk by displaying the poster the IOP used to advertise the event, which had a gaffe of its own--it left the letter e off the word gaffe. He joked that there was no better way to advertise the talk "than the way this showed up on the poster."
The reason the press reports gaffes, Jacoby said, was that they demonstrate a perception that is