Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sarah Palin and Family Guy in a fair and balanced way - INVITATION TO SARAH TO TELL HER SIDE OF THE STORY

I'm going to follow Sarah Palin's advice and write a fair and balanced post using her famous five Ws: Who, What, Where, When and Why. After all, she has a degree in journalism and I don't. I'm really grateful that she was good enough to share her wisdom with the world. Oops, I'm already giving an opinion, that's not allowed. I'll stick to the facts. Let's look at the Family Guy story again, but in a fair and balanced way this time.

Part I

Who? Seth McFarlane, a cartoon character and Sarah Palin.

What? Seth McFarlane included a character with Down syndrome in an episode of Family Guy. Chris, the teenaged son of the family guy invites a girl called Ellen to go on a dinner date with him. Ellen has Down syndrome. While Chris is getting ready for the date, Stewie teases him, singing a song about "The Down syndrome girl". Stewie is the most politically incorrect character in Family Guy. He's a baby and is always given the provoking, controversial lines. Chris goes to a restaurant with Ellen, who, against all the Down syndrome stereotypes, is assertive to the point of being pushy. Chris asks her about her parents and she replies: "My dad is an accountant and my mom is the former governor of Alaska."

Sarah Palin felt that the episode in question was a "kick in the gut" and invited her daughter Bristol to comment on the show. Here's the full text of Sarah and Bristol's reactions to Family Guy, published on Facebook:

"People are asking me to comment on yesterday’s Fox show that felt like another kick in the gut. Bristol was one who asked what I thought of the show that mocked her baby brother, Trig (and/or others with special needs), in an episode yesterday. Instead of answering, I asked her what she thought. Here is her conscientious reply, which is a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make about an issue that begs the question, “when is enough, enough?”

“When you’re the son or daughter of a public figure, you have to develop thick skin. My siblings and I all have that, but insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent. People with special needs face challenges that many of us will never confront, and yet they are some of the kindest and most loving people you’ll ever meet. Their lives are difficult enough as it is, so why would anyone want to make their lives more difficult by mocking them? As a culture, shouldn’t we be more compassionate to innocent people – especially those who are less fortunate? Shouldn’t we be willing to say that some things just are not funny? Are there any limits to what some people will do or say in regards to my little brother or others in the special needs community? If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks. - Bristol Palin”

Where and when: Fox Entertainement channel and Facebook. The episode aired on Valentine's Day and Sarah Palin's note appeared on February 15.

Why? Seth McFarlane pushed some boundaries and included a character with Down syndrome in the episode, claiming to be an "equal opportunity offender". Sarah Palin reacted because she claimed the episode mocked Trig Palin, who has Down Syndrome, and she and her family were offended.

Part II

Who? Andrea Friedman, the actress who provided the voice for Ellen, the New York Times and Palingates.

What? Ms Friedman, who happens to have Down syndrome, took exception to Sarah Palin's response on Facebook and pointed out that the joke wasn't on Trig, it was on Sarah Palin. Andrea had to explain that the line about being the daughter of the former governor of Alaska was sarcasm. The New York Times initially published an edited version of Andrea Friedman's e-mail, but Palingates had the full version, where Ms Friedman concluded her statement with this sentence:

"My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes."

Palingates was the only place where people could see Andrea's statement in full and really gave the whole story its "drive" in the MSM. Several mainstream news outlets and large blogs linked to Palingates, among them the HuffPost, Gawker, Salon, The Daily Dish, CBS, Hot Air and many others.

andrea e-mail

Andrew Sullivan and our own Patrick commented on the NYT edited version of Andrea's e-mail.

Andrew Sullivan:

The New York Times, continuing their inability or failure to truly investigate the truth about Palin, excised the last sentence from Friedman's email in its story. Why am I not surprised? This is a paper that cannot call torture torture because Republican war criminals intimidate them. And they cannot give a person with Down Syndrome an opportunity to expose the cynicism at the heart of Palin's exploitation of Trig.


From our point of view, however, we cannot complain, because the fact that the full uncensored statement was only available on Palingates brought tens of thousands new readers to our blog. Thank you, New York Times!

The following video contains Sarah Palin's outrage on the Bill O'Reilly program and the clip she deemed offensive to Trig.

The NYT eventually published Andrea Friedman's closing remark.

Where and when: the MSM and the blogs, starting on February 19.

Why? Because, in order to be fair and balanced, the MSM and the blogs had to present the other side of the controversy. Sarah Palin issued no further notes on Facebook and didn't comment on Andrea Friedman's statements, although she was approached by the New York Times inviting her to comment on the story.

Part III

Who? Sarah Palin, Jay Leno, the media and the bloggers.

What? Sarah Palin was a guest on the Jay Leno show and complained about the media and the bloggers going after her children, that other people's children are left alone and she would like the same treatment. As an example, she mentioned the Family Guy episode:

“Somebody making a joke that wasn’t so funny because it was a lame episode of the ‘Family Guy,’ but a special-needs family asking me what I thought about the episode. I commented and then that gets out there in the blogosphere, it gets out there in the different forms of the mediums that we have today. And then it’s left there, not an opportunity for me to follow up and kind of elaborate on what I really meant and what I really thought of the thing.”

That's all Sarah Palin said about it. She could have followed up and elaborated on what it really meant to a large audience, on national television.

Where and when: on national TV last night and the blogosphere, it's been left there for eleven days and still counting.

Why? Good question. Perhaps Sarah Palin would like to explain why she didn't follow up and elaborate when she had the opportunity, both when the NYT contacted her and last night on the Jay Leno program?

Was this post fair and balanced? Did I follow the five Ws of journalism to the letter?

The least I can do is invite Sarah Palin to comment on this blog, perhaps write a guest post where she can put her side of the story the way she sees it, so it's not left there. I really, really don't want it to be left there. I want it to be fair and balanced!


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