If you're a politician, someone complimenting you and also giving you a chance to claim aggrieved status is a coup indeed. And sometimes, female politicians tell reporters about people who just miraculously told them they're terrific but aren't sure about them because they're … WOMEN. No proof of this, but pinkie swear!
Look, people running for office are going to exaggerate, massage the truth and outright lie. But it's something else for media outlets to report on these kinds of quotes so … credulously.
For example, meet Kelda Roys, a Wisconsin Democrat running for the party's nomination for governor. She says she gets approached all the time by people saying that "you'd be so great" but maybe they would be better off nominating a "boring old white guy" instead.
No, really. She says this happens.
"I get a lot of, ‘Oh my God, you’d be so great, but can you win? Wouldn’t we be better off nominating some boring old white guy because that’s inoffensive to voters?’" she told the New York Times.
You know the Condescending Wonka meme, where Gene Wilder is giving you a look that's half-amused, half-pitying at your trash story? That's all I can think of when I see these self-serving, unverifiable anecdotes that are just way too on the button.
The Times found this such a striking quote, though, it tweeted it out to promote the whole piece, and I'm going full Willy Wonka just reading it again.
"I get a lot of, 'Oh my God, you'd be so great, but can you win? Wouldn't we be better off nominating some boring old white guy because that's inoffensive to voters?'" said Kelda Roys, who is running for governor in Wisconsin https://t.co/sHqtvrKoi5
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 6, 2018
No one came up to Roys and said that. No one talks like that. And before you say she's simply generalizing, consider how shifty it is to cast an anonymous set of the electorate as sexist cowards just to boost yourself as a put-upon Wonder Woman fighting the system, all under the guise of interactions with the common folk. Yuck.
This isn't new. For instance, check out this New York Magazine profile of Hillary Clinton in 2016:
The sexism is less virulent now than it was in 2008, she said, but still she encounters people on rope lines who tell her, " ‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me."
But, she maintains, "Unpacking this, understanding it, is for writers like you. I’m just trying to cope with it. Deal with it. Live through it."
Here, Clinton laughed, as if living through it were a hilarious punch line.
I think Clinton actually laughed knowing that reporter Rebecca Traister would swallow this story whole and vomit it onto the 300th version of, "Why Don't You Pieces of Garbage Like Hillary Clinton" articles we got treated to throughout the 2016 campaign.
You see, Clinton was told by these faceless men, you're so wonderful, but we're jerks who won't vote for a woman. And Clinton met some of them and they said this right to her. Pinkie swear again!
Again, no one came up to Clinton on a rope line and said these things. Close your eyes and imagine the kinds of people who go to a candidate's rallies. They either love her or hate her guts. They don't toss out these lukewarm takes that double as perfect narrative creators.
Is it quietly subversive? Perhaps. The reporter might know the politician he or she's interviewing has trotted out weapons-grade baloney and wants the reader to see the game for himself. But I'm not confident of that, given the media's track record of enthusiastically reporting on almost certainly-untrue Evil Receipt stories. Or enthusiastically reporting on almost certainly made-up Woke Eight-Year-Olds whose views suspiciously align perfectly with their progressive mommies and daddies.
Some storylines are too good to resist, after all.
Besides, it's not just politicians who pull this stunt. CNN analyst and Playboy White House correspondent Brian Karem has had simply amazing interactions multiple times that, let me tell you, totally, totally happened.
Overheard by German reporter in the WH "I haven’t heard a head of state describe an investigation into his leadership as an attack against the state since the Nazis were in power in my home country."
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) April 9, 2018
Well, if I did my math right, that reporter Karem definitely overheard is at least in his 80s if he has memories of World War II Germany. He also talks quite formally, within Karem's earshot. And the narrative about the White House being Nazi-esque? Just right on the money.
Met a young Hispanic boy while riding Metro. Saw my press credentials and asked me "why does the President hate me?" @realDonaldTrump
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) August 24, 2017
If Scott Templeton had a Twitter account, this is the kind of stuff he'd whip out.
We can't stop politicians from peddling these insufferable stories, but surely we can write about them with a bit more skepticism.