You've got to hand it to Fox News contributor Sarah Palin. After all, there aren't many people who can make news with a single Facebook post. Her status updates are like catnip for journalists and media types.
In a story detailing purported liberal criticism of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel,The Wall Street Journal reported this week that, in a private meeting, Emanuel called plans by liberal groups to run ads targeting conservative Democrats "F-ing retarded."
Following news of the hurtful comment, Palin, the mother of a child with Down syndrome, took to Facebook to demand Emanuel's firing in a post she titled, "Are You Capable of Decency, Rahm Emanuel?"
The deservedly stern comments of an offended mother or the hypocritical nonsense of a political opportunist?
First, it's worth noting that Emanuel has apologized for the comment at least twice now. It's also worth noting that just a few short weeks ago, Palin fretted that we were becoming a nation where we -- I'm guessing all the Joe the Plumbers out there -- couldn't use words that were "politically incorrect."
Far from consistent, Palin has exposed herself as someone who deploys selective-victimhood as a politically motivated weapon.
How else can one explain her harsh rebuke of Emanuel and near silence when it comes to eerily similar language used by conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh and her Fox News colleague Glenn Beck?
Last January, during an interview with Mary Lynn Rajskub, a star of Fox Broadcasting Co.'24, Beck laughed at the idea of artwork produced by children with Down syndrome, asking, "What do the paintings of the retarded children go for?" Then there was the time right after the 2008 election when he went after Newsweek over a story on Palin that he found objectionable. Purporting to offer the magazine's view of the former governor, he played the role of an unnamed Newsweek staffer saying, "When it's really, truly about Sarah Palin and how stupid, she's practically retarded. Yes. I think that's appropriate word to use for Sarah Palin, retarded. I think that's an... if you would like a retarded person running the State of Alaska, just higgeldy-piggeldy."
So what did Palin, then the newly minted Fox News contributor, have to say about these comments during her first hour-long sit-down interview with Beck?
Nothing. Nada. Crickets.
Responding to the controversy surrounding Palin and Emanuel, Limbaugh said liberals who complained about health care reform "are retards." Sure, El Rushbo went on to say that he was just using the term in "quoting Emanuel," but it wasn't the first time the language had appeared on his radio program. Almost a year ago, long before the Emanuel gaffe, while discussing the flu, Limbaugh appeared to mock those concerned with the use of such language, saying, "[a]nything you can do to stop it or to arrest it or to retard -- sorry -- to 'Special Olympic' its duration, then it -- you should do it."
On Thursday, Limbaugh addressed his controversial comments and suggested that Palin wouldn't "denounce" him because she "knows I do this kind of" thing. Just four hours later, responding to a request for comment on Limbaugh's comments by Greg Sargent of Washington Post Co.'s The Plum Line blog, Palin's spokesperson provided a broad statement saying in part that use of the word constitutes "crude and demeaning name calling."
How long would Palin stand up to radio's reigning king of radical right-wing vitriol? Not long at all.
The following day on his radio program, Limbaugh told listeners that a Palin representative had called him in a "panic" to explain her criticism. Heaven forbid she should offend Boss Limbaugh.
During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Palin offered then-Senator Hillary Clinton advice on dealing with the pervasive sexism Clinton faced in the media, saying essentially that she should stop whining.
If Palin can't be consistent in her criticism, perhaps she should take her own advice.
Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.