07/18/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Aw Nuts, Jesse Jackson, You Can't Say That On Television!

Can you say "nuts" on television? More specifically, can you report on remarks made about the nuts of another person, when those remarks were made by a newsmaker in to an open microphone about a presidential candidate?

I guess not, given how cagey the press has been about the recently-released remarks by Jesse Jackson about what, exactly, he'd like to do to Barack Obama. ("I wanna cut his nuts off," is what Jackson so charmingly said.) Not that you'd know it by the reporting — according to Andrea Mitchell on "NBC Nightly News" they were "very crude remarks" but apparently destined to be mysterious; CNN's Campbell Brown also called them "crude" and also "a bit vulgar, so we can't repeat all of it on TV." She then lobbed it to Joe Johns for explanation, who clarified this way: "Well, Campbell, he talked basically about cutting off a part of Barack Obama's anatomy, but we don't want to go there." Even if Jesse Jackson does!

How else is the media squeamish? Howard Mortman counts the ways: WaPo went clinical ("crude language to suggest that he wanted to castrate the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee"); the Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page was poetic ("twin objects of male anatomy"); CNN's Don Lemon was confused ("it's to the effect that Barack Obama was cutting off his manhood with black people, or genitals, or something").

But Greg Mitchell evidently saw another program on CNN, because he got the full Monty: "See, Barack's been talking down to black people ... I want to cut his nuts off." Either way, I wasn't the only person to notice that the media had gotten a little bashful here.

Is America strong enough to handle the violent wishes of Jesse Jackson toward Barack Obama's pair? Probably — last I checked, "nuts" wasn't one of George Carlin's 7 words, though certainly news outlets try to be a mite decorous when addressing the nether regions of presidential candidates. Then again, it's interesting to note how many references to the Hillary Nutcracker went by unchecked (see this WaPo story; also, it was the inspiration for Tucker Carlson's now-infamous comment about how his legs react to her voice).

So it's okay to talk about nuts if they are on someone other than a presidential candidate? Or, nuts are off limits but references to Hillary Clinton's steel-plated thighs are okay? I don't have the answer, but then again, it doesn't seem anyone else does, either. If you think that's crazy, well then, you're probably just nuts.

Congrats to the LAT on its, well, balls — with a minimum of drama, they printed Jackson's comment. "'I want to cut his nuts off,' Jackson said, making a jabbing gesture with his hand." The NYT can claim no such pair, says the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who was bemused about the NYT's "story about a controversy concerning Jesse Jackson's words that refuses to print the most relevant word." Yeah, it's pretty nuts.

p.s. Also, just a note: Wow, was radio host Warren Ballantine drowning in his spin last night on Election Center. Check it out here.

Making A Mountain Out Of A Mohel [Extreme Mortman]
Greg Mitchell: "Nuts" Case: How Media Handled Jackson's "Crude" Word

Cable news anchors choking on Jesse Jackson's "nuts"