Conservative journalists in Washington have been rallying around The Daily Caller‘s Alex Pappas in recent days like a pack of angry lions after Sarah “Will She or Won’t She” Palin falsely attacked the scribe for something he didn’t do.
Pappas, a campaign reporter, wrote a story last week from Des Moines questioning which Republican Palin would back for president – that is, presuming she doesn’t run herself. The story called her undecided. Palin told Pappas, “Could I support somebody like Mitt Romney? Yeah.” The rest of the story detailed the vagaries of her vague existence. Things went awry after Fox Nation got their filthy aggregating paws on Pappas’ story and slapped on a bogus headline saying she supported Romney.
Out in Iowa, the Palins got wind of the story and went ape shit. The former Alaska Governor complained as only a member of the Palin clan would: “Those dang reporters.” Politico‘s Kasie Hunt was in the vicinity. A press aide ushered her in closer as Palin angrily phoned Pappas. The American Spectator said Palin purposefully yanked in a Politico reporter, but FishbowlDC sources have learned a different account, that it was a random succession of events and not part of a Palin plot to use Politico against The Daily Caller, two publications that have sparred as of late.
Here’s how it all went down… There was an enormous scrum of reporters, cameras and onlookers at the Iowa State Fair, an absolute crush of people. Todd Palin
pulled the Fox Nation headline up on his BlackBerry. He handed the BlackBerry to Sarah and talked about being angry. As it was told to FBDC, Palin’s dressing down of Pappas was out in the open, which Hunt and anyone in earshot could have heard if they wanted to. It was not a private one-on-one conversation by any stretch.
Hunt wrote up three graphs on Palin’s phone call to Pappas and placed them near the bottom of a larger story on the mystifying presence of Palin in Iowa. Like Pappas, she wrote about who, if anyone, Palin might support for the GOP presidential nomination if she doesn’t run.
“And when The Daily Caller wrote a story suggesting that she’d said she favored Romney, the Palin entourage was visibly angry,” Hunt wrote. Palin railed at Pappas, saying, “So what you’re saying is that I said that I support Mitt Romney?” she asked Pappas. “You need to be clear, otherwise people really lose faith in the state of journalists today.”
But, in fact, Pappas’ story did not suggest she supports Mitt — that was Fox Nation’s wacky conclusion about a story that clearly wasn’t read with eyes before they wrote the headline. Palin never apologized to Pappas. Instead, an aide phoned him, according to a story in the The American Spectator, and acknowledged Fox Nation’s error. The piece fiercely defended Pappas and spoke of him being a “rising star” with the author, Quin Hillyer, coming clean in the piece that he has known Pappas since he was in junior high. Hillyer’s story is a harsh critique on Palin, which is no small thing coming from the right. No doubt his email inbox isn’t filled with virtual flowers and candy.
The American Spectator wasn’t alone in defending Pappas. A Daily Caller source who spoke anonymously told FishbowlDC, “If Sarah Palin wants to monitor the Caller that closely, but not so closely that she doesn’t take everything out of context, then maybe she could apply for a job at Media Matters. They’d get along famously.”
Conservatives on Twitter, meanwhile, encircled the scribe and lashed out at Palin with a vengeance. Sonny Bunch, a former editor at The Weekly Standard , wrote, “Her refusal to personally apologize is just shitty.” But that was kind compared to what else he said. “That’s just a petty, dick move and, frankly, unpresidential,” he wrote. “What gets me about the @AlexPappasDC story is Palin’s refusal to apologize after calling him in front of a rival reporter to embarrass him.”
Slate‘s Dave Weigel, a progressive reporter, also went after Palin. He wrote, “Unsurprisingly dumb and classless move from Palin here.”
Some conservative reporters see the situation as incredibly weak on Palin’s part. They see her struggling for relevancy. Between Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Palin, it’s Bachmann who comes out on top. They look at Bachmann’s low-key reaction to the bug-eyed Newsweek cover (a real slight) as a sign of strength and Palin’s handling of Pappas (an imaginary slight) as preposterous.
Pappas took a bemused tone with The American Spectator and explained that no, the Palin camp definitely did not apologize. Despite emotions still raging over the incident amongst some reporters, Pappas has gone silent. “I’d prefer not to say anything else on this,” he wrote in an email.