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Elizabeth Lauten and the Week the Media Broke

The media's stupid coverage of a Republican staffer's opinion.
NBC News Anchor Brian Williams speaks onstage at 2014 Stand Up For Heroes at Madison Square Garden at Madison Square Garden on November 5, 2014 in New York City.

NBC News Anchor Brian Williams speaks onstage at 2014 Stand Up For Heroes at Madison Square Garden at Madison Square Garden on November 5, 2014 in New York City.

Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

This week is ending with a national chin-stroke contest about The New Republic, and with Rolling Stone spooling out progressively longer editor's notes admitting that its explosive story about rape at the University of Virginia put too much trust in its key source. Let's just not forget how this week began: With a sweaty, embarrassing, round of rock-tossing at now-former House Republican staffer Elizabeth Lauten. As the Thanksgiving news cycles began, Lauten experienced some strong emotions about the way Sasha and Malia Obama acted during the ceremonial presidential pardoning of a turkey. "Your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much," wrote Lauten on Facebook, by way of saying that the girls lacked role models. "Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar."

This was not "news," in the traditional sense of the term. Lauten was one of hundreds of communications staffers on the Hill. Had Lauten e-mailed a reporter with a quote about, say, the need to de-fund the president's new immigration policy through a mandatory spending bill, it's vanishingly unlikely that the quote would have been used. Lauten erred in criticizing the first daughters, insofar as she was a communications pro who did not get the invisible memo that no one is supposed to attack political children (here are exceptions), but her bigger error was doing this during a news lull. She was ripped apart in what is for obvious reasons called "Black Twitter," where resentment about any personal disrespect for the Obamas is intense. She resigned.