November 1, 2008
New York Times
Shepard the Anchor
We do not often cheer on Fox News's coverage of politics. But we did the other day when the anchor Shepard Smith reported on an especially absurd turn in the "Joe the Plumber" saga.
John McCain's reference at the last presidential debate to Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, the Ohio plumber who worriedly asked Barack Obama about taxes, was a predictable campaign stunt. It ought to have lasted for half a news cycle, especially after it became clear that Mr. Wurzelbacher's taxes would go down under Mr. Obama's plan. But the Republican nominee simply will not let the plumber go.
On Thursday, he shouted: "I’m going to Washington, and I'm going to bring Joe the Plumber with me!" Earlier, in Virginia, Mr. McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, announced that one of her favorite rally signs — sometimes made by voters, but more often supplied by the campaigns — was "I am Jo Momma."
Mr. Wurzelbacher has held press conferences. He was interviewed on the "CBS Evening News," where he compared Mr. Obama to Sammy Davis Jr. According to Politico.com, he has an agent and is exploring "a possible record deal with a major label, personal appearances and corporate sponsorships."
At a campaign rally this week, Mr. Wurzelbacher was filmed agreeing with another McCain supporter that electing Mr. Obama would be "death to Israel."
For five painful live-on-Fox minutes the next day, Mr. Smith repeatedly asked Mr. Wurzelbacher what evidence he had to back up that charge. Mr. Wurzelbacher refused to answer. He said it was up to Mr. Smith's viewers to figure out why he, Joe the Plumber, thought Mr. Obama was a menace to Israel.
Looking incredulous, Mr. Smith gave up. He read a statement from the McCain campaign praising the plumber's "penetrating and clear analysis."
Then Mr. Smith said: "I just want to make this 100 percent perfectly clear. Barack Obama has said repeatedly and demonstrated repeatedly that Israel will always be a friend of the United States no matter what happens once he becomes president of the United States. His words."
"The rest of it," he said, "man, it just gets frightening sometimes."
Yes it does.
From Michael A. Simpson
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