In the brouhaha over the lipstick faux controversy, an even bigger issue was overlooked by the media: the McCain campaign’s false and misleading use of the words and images of CBS news anchor Katie Couric in the original version of the lipstick ad.
In the initial version of the ad that was posted on YouTube, footage of Couric complaining about sexism (specifically, the way that Hillary Clinton was treated by the media) was added at the end. The way the editing was done, it appeared that Couric was criticizing Obama for sexism; the ad was clearly constructed to have that effect.
The ad was pulled from Youtube after CBS asked it be removed. A CBS News spokesperson stated that “CBS News does not endorse any candidate in the presidential race. Any use of CBS personnel in political advertising that suggests the contrary is misleading.”
And that’s all well and good. But shouldn’t CBS be saying more than that?
This is a case where the image of a major figure on a major network was misappropriated and misused for political purposes. Where is the outrage?
I would have expected, at the least, an on-air statement that “Katie Couric’s image was used in a fraudulent manner by the McCain campaign. Many of you don’t know this. We want the viewers to know.”
And they could have taken that further by saying “We want the McCain campaign to issue an apology.” And even further: “We want an assurance that it won’t happen again.”
If something like that happened to NBC, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann would have made a 15 minute special comment to decry the egregious behavior of the McCain campaign. (Heck, Olbermann probably wishes this had happened to NBC.)
But CBS did none of that. I hate to be cruel and crude, but I have to say it: the dispassionate statement by CBS amounts to, in street terms, a punk’s response. It’s tone and tenor was nowhere near proportionate to the level of the offense. I’ve seen slaps on the wrist that are harsher.
Let me make it clear: this is not about McCain or the GOP or Palin. This is about a news network taking a stand for its integrity and respect. If CBS can’t stand up for themselves, how can they stand up for their viewers, who are expecting CBS to be a strong and independent voice for the reporting of the news?
Perhaps, after being burned by the controversies involving Dan Rather, CBS is fearful of another charge of liberal bias from the Republican Party. I can sympathize with those concerns.
But the news business is not a place for the weak of heart. If CBS is going to be so reticent that it can’t properly respond to such a blatantly fraudulent use of their top newscaster, then they might as well sell the network to somebody who has the spine to do so.