Dec
05
2011

Anonymous Experts Agree: Newt Gingrich Is Smart, Caring

Many big papers have rules about when reporters can use anonymous sources. It should be rare, and the information generated should be important and difficult to get without granting a source the privilege to speak anonymously. Of course, reality is different–as Janine Jackson documented in the new issue of Extra!.

Anonymous sources supposedly aren't allowed to abuse the privilege to attack someone–and they also aren't, as Jackson noted, supposed to do the opposite:

Both papers officially caution against special pleading and spin, along with quotations, as the Post rules have it, "whose only purpose is to add color to a story."

I thought of that while reading a piece in the Washington Post about Newt Gingrich. Peter Wallsten and Anne Kornblut got this evaluation of Gingrich from a Democratic strategist:

"He does not carry Wall Street baggage," said one Democratic strategist working on the Obama reelection effort, speaking on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss his thinking. "He's really smart. He's definitely authentic."

The flattery is bipartisan–here's a Gingrich adviser, in the same piece:

A Gingrich adviser, speaking anonymously, said the former speaker's long interest in traditionally Democratic issues such as inner-city poverty is "an underestimated advantage" in a general election and could soften his image with independents. Gingrich plans to start talking this week about "conservative solutions" to urban problems, the adviser said.

Is that a reference to the "advantage" of advocating that poor kids work as janitors?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.