Michelle Rhee's 'sex with children' comments aren't the only ones that come back to bite
You can see how it happens. You're a VIP who has endured a million interviews, but this one's different: It's an out-of-town reporter, or it's a cooler setting, so you get a little loose ... and that's when you step in it.
Is that what made Michelle Rhee utter her deadly gossip about last fall's school-system layoffs, not to D.C. education reporters but to Fast Company? ("I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," she told the magazine, causing a stink with city leaders and the teachers union.)
Like Hollywood stars who assume that U.S. fans will never see their tacky Tokyo TV ads, political types have a way of letting their hair down when they think they're not around the regular old press-corps dweebs.
Like then-Mayor Marion Barry, who in 1990 was quoted saying Jesse Jackson (at the time mulling over a race for Barry's job) "don't wanna run nothing but his mouth" by an L.A. Times reporter who interviewed him in a bar. (Barry claimed he was misquoted; the Times stood by the story.)
Or Henry Kissinger, who in 1972 told Oriana Fallaci -- a dishy writer for overseas mags -- that Vietnam was "useless" and called himself a lone "cowboy." He later called it his "single most disastrous" interview.
Or Mitt's dad George Romney, who while running for president told a Detroit UHF station that he only supported the Vietnam War because the generals gave him "the greatest brainwashing." Torpedoed his campaign.
Or Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz, who in 1976 told a vulgar racist joke to former White House counsel John Dean -- who wrote it up for Rolling Stone. Butz resigned.
But now that every small-town paper is on the Web, and every ropeline stranger has a blog or a flip cam, pols are wising up. "Everybody's more on guard," said GWU journalism prof Mark Feldstein. "In the old days, the politicians and the press would go out to drinks, and stuff was kept off the record. Now there isn't that element of trust."
Will these gaffes go extinct? Not yet. ...
The Reliable Source
January 27, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
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