Any response from the candidate is treated as a denial. The reporting puts the gaffe narrative front and center to keep it alive for as long as possible. The rejection of the gaffe narrative is treated as a shameless and irresponsible lie. “Foreign gaffes won’t matter, Romney strategist says,” offers the Los Angeles Times. “Mitt Romney Blames Press for Foreign Tour Gaffes,” broadcasts ABC News.
Finally if the Romney campaign is not paying enough attention to the media’s manufactured gaffe narrative, there’s an answer for that. “Romney tries to move beyond Britain gaffes” says Reuters, still keeping the manufactured narrative in the context.
With all the gaffes flying around, you would think that there would be a lot of material to cover. But all the “gaffe” stories go to great lengths to avoid discussing the actual gaffes. Instead what they do is discuss the media coverage of their own narrative in other media outlets. They discuss what their own experts think about the story that they manufactured. They pull reactions off the street. And when they do mention the “gaffes”, they avoid quoting Romney as much as possible. Mostly what they do is summarize events in their own words leaning heavily on the reaction to it, rather than the actual event– always a trademark of a manufactured story.
If you have to read to paragraph six of a news story to find out what actually happened, then the odds are good that you are either reading a sloppily written news story or a news story that doesn’t want you to know what actually happened.
We now have 500 news stories that describe Romney’s trip as “gaffe-filled.” What makes a trip “gaffe-filled”? The definition of “gaffe-filled”, even by the media’s standards, are three gaffes.
In the UK, Romney commented on the stories in the media about the trouble with the Olympics. The media then screamed that he had committed a gaffe by saying that the stories that he was seeing in the media were “disconcerting”.
In behavioral terms, this is known as acting as a contrary conversationalist. In media terms it’s known as, “Everything that you say is wrong even though you’re saying exactly what I just said… but it’s wrong because you said it.”
So Romney’s first “gaffe”, in the trip that the media called “gaffe-filled”, was repeating what the media was saying. And while arguably repeating things that the media says may be legitimately considered a gaffe for the reasons this article lays out, I doubt that the media really wants to make the argument that repeating anything they say counts as a gaffe because the media are a bunch of worthless liars.
Then over in Jerusalem, Romney committed his second terrible gaffe by suggesting that maybe Israel was doing better than its neighbors because it had a different culture. Sure it was pretty similar to what Obama had said about the Muslim world’s economic problems, minus the praise for Israel, but it was declared a gaffe. Why? Because the Palestinian Authority objected to it and the media has outsourced its idea of what presidential candidates are allowed to say to a bunch of kleptomaniac terrorists living off foreign aid.
The only interesting thing about either gaffe is that even the most venomous gaffe articles really did not take issue with the accuracy of Romney’s statements. They couldn’t because there was nothing to take issue with. Romney’s London statement couldn’t be denied without also denying weeks of the media’s own coverage. Romney’s Jerusalem statement could be dismissed, but it couldn’t be denied either. Not when the Palestinian Authority was so notoriously corrupt and the GPD differences were just as bad on the Jordanian and Syrian side of the border.
All that the media could do was accuse Romney of being undiplomatic for offending Prime Minister Cameron and the Palestinian Authority. But if offending the British and a Middle Eastern government counts as a gaffe, then Obama had committed it on multiple occasions as an acting head of state.
When the Telegraph talked about Obama’s gaffe in calling the Falkland Islands, the Maldives, when he had meant to call it Malvinas, a political name used by Argentina to claim the rights to the islands, American media outlets did not pick up the story. When Obama called the Israeli Prime Minister a liar in front of an open mic, the media mostly shrugged. That too was not a gaffe. And both actions were far more undiplomatic than questioning London’s Olympic preparedness or the cultural values of terrorists.