Matthew Norman: Is this the end of the Fox-Palin affair?

This one, to borrow from the President-elect on the infinitely vexing question of when precisely human life begins, is above my pay grade. So I call on our revered professors of journalism to settle the matter as only they, in all their sonorous wisdom, can. It concerns our friends at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and a conundrum they faced.

Now available on YouTube is a post-election chat between Fox anchor Shepard Smith and chief political correspondent Carl Cameron, in which the latter relates how a McCain staffer told him that, when she joined the ticket, Sarah Palin was labouring under the belief that Africa was a country rather than a continent.

We need not spell out the impact this revelation would have had on an electorate already tending towards the dubious over the Alaskan Governor’s credentials to lead the free world should McCain die (that oft-quoted actuarial 7-2 shot) during his first term. It would have indisputably ended any lingering chance Fox’s preferred candidate had of winning the White House. Mr Cameron peremptorily explained that he hadn’t seen fit to share this with the public because it “was off the record until after the election”.

It’s worth noting here how taken Mr Murdoch was with Mrs Palin, patting her on the back and whispering “thank you very much” as they emerged from a charity gala in late September. A little earlier, meanwhile, the New York Post (as much the mouthpiece of his world view in the US as The Sun is here) had described her in a leader as “charming” and, with wonted prescience, “rock solid”. So the question is as follows. Was Carl Cameron’s startling reticence a stirring expression of the highest journalistic ethics regarding the respecting of a confidence? Or was this in fact the most irresponsible, cowardly and despicable instance of partisan self-censorship in broadcast media history? Professors, it’s over to you.

A missed target

If the mild temptation with this one is to sneer and tease, the overpowering emotion is pity. For the editors of our newspapers, daily beset by a range of insoluble problems into which it is too depressing to go, here was a gift from God. After an election that established with brutal clarity how in America the internet has already relegated the printed word to the status of aged uncle sitting bemusedly in the corner, here was a blessed chance to put a stamp of sorts on an event of historical significance. And to its credit, with near unanimity, our editors accepted the gift with glee with a series of uplifting front pages. And so to Peter Hill of the Daily Express. Charged with capturing the mood on Thursday, “Target Obama” was Peter’s headline for a splash dwelling on the bullet-proof screen behind which Obama made his acceptance speech. As if the obvious needed spelling out in a two-paragraph brief on page 29. Gifted an opportunity to offer that fabled first take on history, this was the best Peter could manage.

Win for stats supremo

Our award for Website of the Year goes to, on which Nate Silver analysed the staggering weight of polling data with an insightful brilliance unwitnessed in this field even from the golden pen of Times number cruncher Peter Riddell.

Many polling firms had spectacular elections, but Silver’s final popular- vote projection came within two tenths of a percentage of the reality, and a media superstar was born.

Pure parody

A joy to note the spreading influence of sportswriter Simon Barnes – who once assured us that Roger Federer “is as myriad-minded as Shakespeare ever was” – on his colleagues at the Times. “Arsenal’s football was pure parody for much of the first half,” declared the genuinely excellent Matt Hughes of a scoreless Champions League effort last week, “a work of art beautifully constructed but ultimately worthless. Were they mocking the notion of art itself?” Were they? Was that what Cesc Fabregas, Gaël Clichy and Robin van Persie were up to at the Emirates? I think, on balance, it certainly was.

Half measures

It would be a crime against humanity to allow this diary to pass without mentioning my favourite columnist’s take on Obama’s victory. Jon Gaunt tells Sun readers that he’s irked by talk of Obama being black when half of him is white. “Surely the fact that he is mixed-race is a more potent symbol of how far America has progressed …” Or might it have been even more potent had the US elected a jet-black descendant of slaves with no reassuringly middle-American genetic heritage? As so often with his musings, we could spend months pondering the question and be not one inch closer to the answer.

Play nicely, children

Elsewhere in another flawless column, Gaunty rebukes the comedian Kevin Day, “who squared up to me this week and accused me of slagging him off”. Gaunty had accused Kevin of being a faux-football supporter. “Grow up, you pathetic specimen – you must be nearly 50 years old, not 15,” he thunders. “‘Oohmummy, Gaunty says I’m not a real football fan!’” The infantile preciousness of these media types, eh? It is three weeks today since Gaunty rang me in the highest of umbrage (“I’m not having you making out I’m thick, you twat”) over the perceived suggestion that he included Rolf Harris among his Top 10 Brits – shame on Daunt’s in London’s latte-sipping Holland Park, by the way, for not stocking the new book – in ignorance of Rolf’s nationality. Jon Gaunt is 47 ¾.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all