WASHINGTON (CNN) – Between uncertainty about her appearance at a big fundraiser and a war of words with a late night TV talk show host, former Republican vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was back dominating political headlines last week.
Did the media over do it with too much Palin coverage?
On CNN’s Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz asked three political reporters to weigh in on just that question.
The journalists largely agreed that the wall-to-wall coverage of Palin, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and last week’s annual Republican fundraiser was justified because of all the interest in Palin’s possible presidential aspirations.
"[T]his is one case where it's not the press’ creation," Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin told Kurtz. “A lot of Republican sources that all of us talked to were very unhappy with what Governor Palin did and the confusion in her political operation.”
“And it goes to a larger question,” continued Halperin, “is she doing what she needs to do now in order to be a plausible presidential candidate in 2012? Her relationship with the National Republican Party, confusion in her operation, a lack of confidence in her and those around her is what was at issue there; not gossip and not the rivalry with Newt Gingrich. And that's a legitimate issue and one the people covered.”
Air America’s Anna Marie Cox agreed.
“[I]t was not about Sarah versus Newt. It was more about Sarah versus sort of the apparatus of the GOP - and her relationship with them and the lack of professionalism in her operations,” Cox said Sunday.
The National Review’s Jim Geraghty had a different take, suggesting that the media’s dissatisfaction with the governor’s political staff was coloring the coverage Palin received about the GOP fundraising dinner last week.
“When a reporter doesn’t get a phone call returned, that grates on them,” Geraghty said to Kurtz. “And that may, in one form or another, get reflected in the coverage.”
The four journalists were uniformly critical of late night talk show host’s David Letterman’s recent off-color humor about Palin’s family.
Related: Palin calls foul on Letterman's 'weak' excuse
“I think people across the board say he went too far,” said Halperin. “But in terms of Sarah Palin, it’s not necessarily clear that it’s politically smart for her to do what she did [in response to Letterman].”
“She implied that he was a pedophile,” Cox told Kurtz. “I think the joke was over the line but that’s over the line too. . . . it’s not something that you needed to go to war over.”
“The words ‘I’m sorry’ would’ve been nice,” Geraghty said of what many considered a half-hearted attempt to apologize by Letterman last week as the controversy blew up. “Don’t go after kids,” Geraghty added.
Kurtz added his own “two cents” Sunday, saying that Letterman’s remarks had crossed the line. “This was not Tina Fey gentle mockery, this was pretty rough to go after, as he did, a 14-year-old girl or an 18-year-old girl. And I don't think the apology was sufficient.”