Why Carol Costello’s On Air Palin Apology (Or Lack Thereof) Has Always Been in CNN’s Hands…

Much hay is continuing to be made of Carol Costello’s Palin self inflicted wound and the lack of on air apology. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple thought she should have given one. I would tend to agree with Wemple. I cringed when I saw it which was before I heard about it blowing up on red blogs. It meets the standard for an on air apology. It could be argued that it merits suspension or even termination. Mediaite’s Joe Concha said it was her only option. I think he was wrong, both on the conclusion and the underlying premise that generated it. I’ll get to why in a moment.

Lets first cut away the hysteria from the controversy with a few facts…

Fact 1: The most vocal opposition to what Costello did is coming from the Right. Here, you want to say to me, “No kidding.”
Fact 2: The Right has no love lost for Costello going back well before this incident. One could make a persuasive argument that the feeling is mutual.
Fact 4: Because of Facts 1 and 2, regardless of what she does…or more accurately what CNN allows her to do, the Right won’t be happy until she’s off the air.
Fact 5: That ain’t gonna happen. If it was going to happen it would have happened already.

So, while there are legitimate issues raised about Costello’s commentary in regards to the Palin audio and what has transpired since that occurred, the loudest most vocal chorus of people who are trying to keep this story on fire, post written apology, are a group that doesn’t care whether there’s an on air apology or not because their ultimate goal is not an on air apology but to stick it to CNN and Costello to try and get her fired. Any way possible.

But it is a mistake to assume, as Concha did, that Costello is the one controlling the narrative. It’s CNN. It was never Costello’s “only option.” It was the network’s option…an option the network, for whatever reason…a reason I cannot fathom…chose not to take.

Why do we know this? Because of what CNN told Breitbart’s John Nolte.

UPDATE: According to CNN, Costello will not apologize on the air. “No she will not,” was the official response to a query from Breitbart News.

This quote has been widely misinterpreted by the Right as to mean Costello has refused to apologize on the air. What CNN actually meant was CNN had decided to not have Costello apologize on the air.

How do we know this? Simple. Costello isn’t a big enough talent to be able to freely wield veto power at the network. If the network felt the issue was serious enough to merit an on air apology you can bet your ass Costello would be on the air apologizing and if she balked she’d be gone.

This is why the on air apology was always CNN’s option to take and the network decided, incorrectly in my view, to not take it.

Now CNN is truly in a bind and has left Costello twisting in the wind and this points to something we have seen before with the network under Jeff Zucker. Having made a decision, the network refuses to reverse itself despite any evidence to the contrary that a reversal is in its best interest. Call it the Pandora’s Box option. If the network reversed itself at this point it would embolden its critics and they would, correctly in my view, come away from this having learned the lesson that if you squawk loud enough and make a big enough stink, CNN may cave. No network wants that. I can only think of one instance in the last ten years where a network reversed itself and that was MSNBC and Don Imus. No…Bashir doesn’t count. That was a different scenario.

It’s a dangerous game to play. If the criticisms are full of hot air, there’s no danger and you can ride out the storm. But if the criticisms hold even an ounce of truth, as the non-ideologically based criticisms do have here, then you’re stuck looking doggedly stubborn clinging to a position that is increasingly tenuous.

As I said, this isn’t the first time this year we’ve seen this play out. It happened with Fareed Zakaria. CNN doggedly stuck to its position that it was standing behind Zakaria even as more and more damaging anecdotes came out begging for a reappraisal of the situation. CNN wound up looking terrible for its stubbornness and Zakaria’s reputation is, for many, in tatters.

So, CNN blew it last week by not having Costello apologize on the air. But don’t expect CNN to change course now. It’s made its bed and now it must lie in it, regardless of the lousy optics. And Costello, whether she was really sorry or not, whether her written apology was genuine or not, whether she wanted to apologize on the air or not, will come out the worse for the network’s error.

21 Responses to “Why Carol Costello’s On Air Palin Apology (Or Lack Thereof) Has Always Been in CNN’s Hands…”

  1. You have to wonder if so many would be raising such a stink if this had been Lindsay Lohan or Miley Cyrus instead of a member of the Palin clan.

    I think not — especially given Bristol’s history of being a drama queen and we still don’t know if what she told the cop was ever corroborated.

  2. Disagree with Fact 4…which is actually Fact 3. I don’t see petitions and boycotts coming from the right. I haven’t seen much demand for her to be fired. Mostly what I’ve seen is references to a double standard and pointing out that “see I told you she was a far lefty”. Calls for firings are never as loud or numerous from the right as from the left.

  3. savefarris Says:

    and we still don’t know if what she told the cop was ever corroborated.

    Doesn’t matter: she claimed it. And under the new “Yes means Yes” standard that the Left is pushing, the burden of proof is on the alleged assailant, not Palin.


    I’ll say the exact same thing I said about Zakaria: if other media outlets and female Democratic leaders don’t call out Costello and pound the mess out of her (figuratively speaking), they are by proxy endorsing the notion that violence against women is a laugh riot.

  4. We can wonder about a lot of “what ifs”, but none of that has any bearing on this particular transgression by a television journo who should know better no matter who the subject of the report is about.

    I agree that an on-air apology would serve CNN’s interests, not Costello’s, and that sort of implies that it would be for favourable publicity rather than sincerity. Costello did say publicly that the criticism of her was warranted and she did apologise. If anyone cares to look for it they’ll find it.

  5. Twitchy is like you took the ads in the back of a magazine, plumbed their depths for greater meaning, and added a comment section. Pretty smart take, though, 😉

  6. I don’t see petitions and boycotts coming from the right. You’re not looking too hard then. Someone set up a Facebook page. There’s a hashtag on Twitter. I think there’s also a petition (but I’m not certain on that one). It’s out there…

  7. #FireCarolCostello has been trending for days. Yes, it’s a big deal on the right.

  8. That’s what’s tough about it: She should apologize, but no one is fooled into thinking that that would be enough. Personally, I just don’t plan on watching, anymore. She was always the weakest link in their lineup, so much so that she’s barely even discussed.

  9. Michael T says
    “…and we still don’t know if what she told the cop was ever corroborated.”

    savefarris says:
    Doesn’t matter: she claimed it. And under the new “Yes means Yes” standard that the Left is pushing, the burden of proof is on the alleged assailant, not Palin.
    Is it possible that Carol Costello didn’t see the same level of abuse as many of the news reports (especially from the right) suggest?

    This could be why she was okay with mocking the audio — even though I think we can all agree an apology was prudent even if she didn’t feel she was as ‘mean’ toward Bristol as some have suggested.

    I’m sure she would also agree that in retrospect she should have added a brief caveat that while she finds the audio hilarious, she does not condone a male abusing a female under any cirmcumstances.

    When the cops were questioning Bristol she ‘acted’ all hysterical raising her voice and making sure everyone knew her sun glasses cost $300. Was it real or was it acting?

    It’s important to note that there was a point where the cop interrupted her hysterical outburst (fake or real) and asked about something unrelated to being knocked down. If you listen carefully, all of a sudden she lost the “hysterical tone of voice” and suddenly spoke normally like an actress who had just finished a very emotional and dramatic scene (some might conclude).

    I think for news reports to claim she was “sobbing” or “crying” is a possible misrepresentation of how she was really acting while being interviewed by the cop.

    Just my two cents. I could be wrong.

  10. ^ I actually agree with much of that, although I wouldn’t characterise Ms Palin as acting much different than many other young women would, and she didn’t do anything wrong.

    The incident took place a while ago and was already reported, so at the time this recording was released it was already well established that no one suffered more than a couple mild scrapes. Had I been Ms. Costello hearing this for the first time I guarantee you I would have laughed. I hope I wouldn’t have posted the tweet, though.

  11. I don’t have the personality that would find the sound of Bristol’s voice on that tape funny, but my own private reaction is irrelevant. What no one should have done was gone on air and presented it as comedy to the whole country. That was an insane decision.

  12. Many on the right get all up in arms when Carol Costello only apologizes in print.

    Many on the left get upset that the Fox & Friends apology for Brian Kilmeade was insufficient. (BK commented on Ray Rice’s attack in the elevator by saying, “The message is, take the stairs.” )

    So one could possibly conclude that this is mostly driven by hyper partisan critics who are never satisfied.

    I am starting to find this brohahah is more humorous than it is concerning. People need to grab a cold beer, laugh a little and enjoy life.

  13. This part of the article made me not want to visit this site anymore due to its rude language about us, the audience of this site:

    “If the network felt the issue was serious enough to merit an on air apology you can bet your ass Costello would be on the air apologizing and if she balked she’d be gone.”

    In case you want to contact me about how I felt about the message, you may do so by sending me a message at the electronic mail address in my profile.

    Good bye.

  14. You may be correct that there’s a facebook page and twitter stuff. But there doesn’t appear to be anything organized like there always is when this stuff happens the other way. One reason for that could be that it’s not a national story like it would be if an FNC anchor did something like this.

    At any rate, there’s no chance (IMO) she’ll be fired. There’s simply not enough intensity for that. The right (the portion that wants her fired) would need to be backed up by the national media an that ain’t happening. For one, because there’s isn’t that much intensity on the right and two, because the “victim” is a conservative and a Palin.

  15. “Palins have rendered themselves little more than a joke. They’re not the family of a former candidate for Vice President of the United States — they’re a bunch of white trash idiots throwing chairs, or getting chairs thrown at them, on Jerry Springer.’

    Carol Costello doesn’t owe them or their conservative media proxies a damn thing.

  16. So I see my other posts are not shown here.

  17. “So I see my other posts are not shown here.”

    Get used to it. This isn’t mediaite.

  18. CNN will probably not renew Costello when her contract is up just like they did to Susan Roesgen & the whole Tea Party incident

  19. So I see my other posts are not shown here.

    It’s not the blog apparently. There’s nothing sitting in my moderation bin.

  20. Ah, I see the problem. Bonnie posted some Palin comments to an earlier thread..either about Costello, or a Free For All from last week.

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