Like margarine, interpretations will spread!


WNYC ruled by Zernike: Last Friday morning, Kate Zernike wrote a report for the New York Times about the Mastro report.

As we noted yesterday, Zernike started like this:
ZERNIKE (3/28/14): She “seemed emotional.” She was “habitually concerned about how she was perceived by the governor.” A boyfriend had ended a relationship.

Bridget Anne Kelly has been the center of blame in the George Washington Bridge lane closing scandal since early January, when it was revealed that she sent an email calling for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Gov. Chris Christie, seeking to stanch the damage the scandal had caused to his political fortunes, fired her as his deputy chief of staff after that, calling her “stupid.” But the report commissioned by Mr. Christie and released Thursday doubles down on a strategy of portraying Ms. Kelly as duplicitous, weeping frequently and dependent on men for approval and stability.
As we noted yesterday, Kelly is not portrayed “weeping frequently” in the Mastro report. In fact, she isn’t shown weeping at all.

That statement by Zernike was just flatly false.

Today, though, we want to focus on Zernike’s opening line. And we want to think about how influential the New York Times can be.

Does the Mastro report say that Kelly “seemed emotional?” It’s hard to know how to answer. At one point in the 340-page report, one co-worker says that Kelly “seemed emotional” on one occasion in December 2013. But that is the total extent of the matter.

One co-worker makes that comment, describing Kelly on one occasion. The word “emotional” is applied to Kelly nowhere else in the lengthy Mastro report.

By way of contrast, there are six passages in the Mastro report where Christie is said to have behaved in an “emotional” way. To review all these passages, just click here.

On one occasion, one co-worker said Kelly “seemed emotional.” But Zernike had a theme she wanted to push, so she started with that one remark, completely stripped of context.

That was terrible journalism; it never should have been published. But at WNYC News, it may have been influential.

WNYC, an NPR affiliate, has done some good reporting about the Fort Lee matter. But when Sarah Gonzalez discussed the Mastro report a bit later last Friday, this is the way she started:
GONZALEZ (3/28/14): The internal review into Bridgegate by Gov. Chris Christie's lawyers is being criticized as sexist for focusing on a romantic relationship of Christie former aide, Bridget Anne Kelly.

Kelly sent the infamous email: “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

The governor's legal team called her "emotional" and asserted she used bad judgment because she was upset about a break-up with Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien.
Did the governor’s legal team really call Kelly “emotional?” Plainly, we would say no. But pleasing claims can easily spread, no matter how misleading they may be.

That piece by Zernike was horrible work, executed on a high platform. By the way:

Back in January, did Christie really call Kelly “stupid,” as Zernike says in the passage we’ve posted above?

Once again, we’d have to say no, unless we’re simply writing a novel. But that became a popular claim in January, along with the pleasing claim that Christie called Kelly a “liar.”

As Moses said to God the Father when he played golf with the Holy Trinity:

Are we here to play some golf? Or are we just [blank]ing around?

(Hat tip to Paul Reiser)

The way we remember the joke: Moses has been in Heaven for what seems like a very long time. Finally, the big day comes: T

he Holy Trinity invite him for golf. They want him to round out a foursome.

Needless to say, God the Father has the honors. Jesus and the Holy Spirit tee off next.

Moses watches as they hit a succession of Biblically-themed, trick-shot holes-in-one. [The joke teller can describe these shots as he or she wishes.]

Moses gets more and more annoyed as he watches the trick shots. After the Dove of Peace takes the Holy Spirit’s ball in his mouth and drops it neatly into the cup, he can’t hold himself back any longer.

“Are we here to play golf?” he asks. “Or are we just [blank]ing around?”

A person might have that same reaction to Zernike’s tortured report. Twelve years ago, we recalled that joke after weeks of reading Ann Coulter.


  1. Six references to Christie weeping and emotional and one to Kelly seeming emotional in one meeting, and "progressives" are writing entire columns about the Kelly reference. Ladies, keep those emotions under wraps. Progressives will not tolerate them from females or accusations about females exhibiting them.

    1. All but one reference Bob mentions are repeated descriptions of the exact same event. In the other the emotion described is anger at his staff.

      Mastro, like TDH, is repetitive.

  2. Once again, Bob, until you know for certain that Zernike wrote the words you find offensive instead of David Chen who shares the byline, you are flat out lying to your rubes.

    And please, rubes. Don't rush to defend the indefensible by pretending you know how and why the New York Times assigns bylines.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. Bob has got such a documented loathing of against young females who are far more successful than he is that it can no longer be hidden and excused.

    1. Your stating it doesn't make it a sane statement. You detest Bob's work because he's betraying your tribe, one of two with no standards.

    2. And how quick we are to divide the entire world into warring tribes. And to assign those with whom we disagree into the "other"

      I guess that's easier than thinking.

    3. But is what he said about the content of that column true?

      Do you know for certain that Chen wrote a single word of that article? Do you know that Somerby is wrong about attributing the mistakes to Zernicke? If you do, please present your evidence.

      We can assess whether Zernike/Chen is correct or not ourselves, going to the Mastro report. We do not need to take Somerby's animus toward young women into account to judge whether he is right or wrong in this particular complaint. His motives are irrelevant.

      Personally, I think playing the sexism card (as you have done with this accusation) is despicable because it trivializes actual sexism and uses misogyny for your own ulterior reasons, which seem to be to harm Somerby in whatever way you can. That is very ugly.

      I have been reading Somerby for years and have not seen the pattern you accuse him of. I have seen a wide variety of men and women of all ages criticized here, for fairly consistent reasons. I care deeply about feminism and I would not enjoy reading someone who were sexist and I believe I would recognize it if Somerby were such a person.

      YOU on the other hand do not have the right to coopt the strongly held concerns of female readers in order to attack someone who has been attacked here on such a wide variety of charges that the hostility is naked and obviously has nothing to do with the offenses charged against Somerby. Just shut up and go away. You are not convincing anyone and you are a major nuisance to those who care about these subjects.

    4. Poor Bob fan!

      Sorry, but I am not the one claiming to know who authored the words Bob has deemed to be so offensive.

      All I know is that two names appear in the byline. Bob has been pounding this story for four straight days, and he still can't see that it has two names.

      But let me remind you how the adult world works.

      Bob is making very serious allegations against the professionalism and integrity of Kate Zernike. It is up to HIM to prove his allegations. And no, it is not up to anyone else to disprove them.

      This story has two bylines. That could mean any of a number of things. It could mean that Chen did some legwork and Zernike wrote the story. It could mean that Zernike did the legwork and Chen wrote the story. It could mean that both wrote a story, and a copy editor combined them. It could mean that Zernike and Chen wrote the story together, with each suggesting passages, changes, and information.

      We don't know. Thus we are in no position to pretend to know, and to savagely attack either person. And we don't pretend otherwise. That's Somerby's schtick.

      Now to put your defense in the kindest possible light, your loyalty to Somerby is laudatory.

      However, other longtime readers have seen Somerby descend into a petty, jealous, bitter old man whose sole purpose in life is to insult his select targets in the vilest possible way.

      And of course, while preaching to the rubes how "liberals" are such evil people, unlike Malala, King and Mandela.

    5. "YOU on the other hand do not have the right . . ."

      Oh! I am sorry. I did not realize I was talking to God.

      Now in case you are not the almighty arbiter of human rights, what hubris you must possess to presume you can tell others what opinions they have the right to hold.

      Well, my response to self-appointed egomaniacs remains the same: You can kiss my ass.

    6. Recently 2:23, a commenter, perhaps you, wrote that once upon a time voices were heard in these comment threads which are no longer with us, allegedly due to assualt on that underpinning of democracy known as the one troll-free TDH comment box.

      In an effort to ascertain the possible terrible truth of that chilling well intentioned observation, I dipped all the way back to the early days of Bob's comment box. Guess what was the first post which I came upon?

      What Serendipity! BOB was attacking Kate Zernike back then as well. New Year's Eve. 2011!

      But guess what the bulk of the post was about? It was an attack on NY Times Reporter Ashley Parker for an article she wrote. The post started with an attack on Zernike, but the headline was about Parker.

      And guess what else? Parker did not write alone. She had a co-author. And guess who it was? Here, we'll reprint BOB's own intro to his slam dance:

      "But then, this is one of the dumbest elites ever let loose on the earth. We liberals agree not to state this point. But if you actually doubt that fact, please review Ashley Parker’s latest front-page “report.” (Parker’s beard, Michael Barbaro, helped her write this report.)"

      Forget that Mr. Barbaro was listed first in the byline. The female of the pair gets the headline and most of the savagery.

      Jump forward to today. Poor Mr. Chen merits not even a parenthetical mention. And where is Mr. Barbaro? Well he wrote the preview of the Christie report on which BOB based such high hopes ("Wow!" BOB wrote expectantly). And he wrote the few graphs BOB cited without attribution on what the report actually said about motive. Have you read a nasty word lately about Mr. Barbaro? I didn't think so.


    7. Here's what I don't get, KZ.

      Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall, and Markos Moulitsas all seem to have their "trolls" as defined conveniently as "people who disagree with the blogger."

      Yet somehow, their blogs seem to not only survive but thrive. What must wonder what makes TDH so weak and vulnerable.

    8. "Now in case you are not the almighty arbiter of human rights, what hubris you must possess to presume you can tell others what opinions they have the right to hold."

      Typical troll tactic -- attack someone for something they never said and did not do. I never said you couldn't hold whatever opinions you want, and express them. I said you could not hijack an important issue like sexism and use it for purposes of attacking someone on a blog -- because that both trivializes sexism (which is important) and uses it for ulterior purposes. I complained about playing the S card, not your opinions (which somehow you neglected to express at all in your haste to attack Somerby).

      You trolls are disgusting people.

    9. Oh, then who wrote "You have no right . . ."?

      Typical Bob sheep. Disappearing inconventient truths that don't fit the script.

    10. You have no right to coopt sexism to serve your ulterior motives. You have the right to express your opinions -- something you have not chosen to do here.

      That should be clear even to a troll.

    11. Anon 2:23, well said. Commenters who address the mendacious trolls' poor logic and reflexive reaction of deep anger at a rational argument are admirable.

      The trolls here represent the VAST majority of modern progressives. "Racist" and "Sexist" are thrown around irresponsibly and are meaningless accusations. Nobody takes these types seriously anymore. Glad Bob expends the effort to call them out, though.

    12. Excuse me, but I have expressed my "opinion" quite clearly. My "opinion" is that Somerby has a new target to insult in Zernike and he is so blinded by his hatred that he is either directly lying to his rubes about who wrote what in a story with a double byline, or is too lazy and consumed by his hatred that he doesn't even see the second name.

      Again, not the first time he has done this. KZ has dug up the New Year's Eve post in which he attacks Zernike and only Zernicke for a story that also carried the byline of Michael Barbaro.

      And, as he notes, Barbaro's name appeared FIRST, which blows the BobFan argument that because Chen's name appears second this time, he had nothing to do with the words that appeared in the story.

      "You have no right to coopt sexism . . '

      Well, there you go again, telling me what my rights are and are not.

      Sorry, but in the words of Col. Nathan Jessup, "You can't handle the truth."

      And the sad truth is, Bob to this day can't bring himself to even acknowledge the simple fact that the story contains a double byline, because that would spoil his little hatchet party.

    13. "The trolls here represent the VAST majority of modern progressives. "Racist" and "Sexist" are thrown around irresponsibly and are meaningless accusations."

      And Bob, meet your new audience. Yes, you have officially become a right-wing noise machine tool, whose work is linked to in posts that normally begin with "Even liberal blogger Bob Somerby says . . ."

      But sadly, like the George Zimmerman Defense Team, they will grow weary of you in short order and leave.

      In which case, you will then have to find your next "tulip craze".

      Another young woman who authors a book on education? Nope, that didn't work so well.

      The latest test scores from Finland? Nope, that bored the hell out of them too.

      Guess you'll have to wait for the Ku Klux Klan to burn a cross on the White House lawn so you can cry about liberals throwing around the "R" word.

    14. Personal attack, aimed at Somerby or a commenter, is not opinion. It is garbage.

    15. So tell me, Anon. 9:01, what is a false personal attack aimed by Somerby?

    16. That sounds like another personal attack on Somerby to me.

    17. The scent of his leavings set off the tulip craze some say.

  3. Ah, so Bob seems to be settling into a narrative that Zernike invented the "sexism" angle out of whole cloth, and the rest of the media dutifully fell in line.

    Well, Bob. I'm sure your cattle will love the sweet hay.

    1. That's your replacement for an argument that sexism was evident. It's OK. Modern "progressives" don't make arguments, they make emotional but utterly irrational claims of victimhood.

    2. Shorter 636: Moooo

  4. Bob Trolls Get Results! At least so far.

    Bob is no longer attempting the dubious connection from Fort Lee to the Malaysian airliner, and all the way back to 16th Century Holland.

    But could one of his fans please explain what the alleged joke at the end has to do with anything?

    1. His fans are still trying to get the snow out of their shorts after wriggling out from under his Heidegger drift.

  5. OMB ( Hope. Change. Available now for OTB)

    Keep your Chen up Bobby!!! ZPS Can Be Cured!!!

    Researchers at Baltimore's John Hopskitch University have discovered a cure for Zernike Possession Syndrome.

    MSP* is coming to the blogosphere.

    Yes, a few doses of MSP can relieve endless days of torture from Zernike Possession.

    Warning. MSP can cause hallucinatory flashbacks to 15 year old near killings and electoral losses due to dubious causes and, in rare cases, attempts to review popular but complex scientific literature with perfect strangers outside coffee shop restrooms.

    MSP, also known by its street name Raggin Rachel is described by patients as "a real piece of work." It lasts "all night long" but can really loosen even the tighest of screws that keep ZPS cloggin your bloggin noggin.


    Try some today BOB!

    * Maddow Serial Posting is a treatment for those on a downward spiral
    suffering from broken intellectual culture not seen or diagnosed by many.

    1. Thanks once again for the daily laugh.

      But I got curious about how long our OTB has been possessed by the vile Zernike to such an extent that now he sees her name in a double byline and immediately disappears the other in his mad dash to his keyboard.

      So I went to the Incomparable Archives.

      There are 10 references to Zernike's work in the old blog covering the years 1998-2011. Most of those references were to her vile, evil work as the Times' education reporter early in her career, a subject that we know that Bob knows far more about than any human walking the planet, and expecially in those heady days when he was out of a classroom for a mere 20 years. And this included the brief period in which Somerby swore off politics and tried to turn TDH into an "education blog."

      The World's Worst Reporter rated the attention of Somerby twice in April 2001, once in September 2002, twice in August 2004, and once in December 2004, once in May 2008, twice in March 2010, and finally once in December 2010.

      Then turning to the "new" Howler and it's incomparable archives, we get no mention again of Zernike until -- December 2013.

      Go ahead. Look it up yourself. Six full pages of Incomparable Archives hits on the name Zernike in the past six months.

      And none, of course, of David Chen except in the new-fangled comment section.

    2. And what do you make of this? It suggests to me that Somerby is not obsessed with the person herself (else why the long absence) but rather has been focusing on the mistaken things she has written, things that appear on his radar when she writes about topics he cares about.

    3. Six pages worth of hits since December isn't an obsession?

      And topics he cares about? Oh my word!

      Again, Bob doesn't give a shit about Chris Christie, Fort Lee, low-income kids, education, the Malaysian airliner, Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, or even the price of tulips.

      Bob has finally morphed fully into a bitter old coot who squandered a Harvard education, couldn't write the book he promised 14 years ago, suffers from delusions of self-importance, and resents deeply a handful of chosen targets he uses to vent his spleen.

    4. Years with no hits and then a bunch, all around this Christie issue. That says he cares about this scandal and how it is being reported, not about Zernicke, else he would have been on her case during the intervening years.

      The derogatory remarks in your last paragraph of course reveal your obsession. Anything to hurt Somerby.

    5. .....else he would have been on her case during the intervening years...... Anonymous 3:48

      "Good lord! And yes, she (Zernike) actually wrote that. Does Dowdism get more plain?" 12/29/11

      "In a new advance for the newspaper’s galloping Dowdism, Kate Zernike wrote...... " 12/30/2011

      Once tainted with Dowd a reporter can never recover.

    6. And once you land on Somerby's "bad girl" list, the personal insults fly fast and furious.

  6. "Did the governor’s legal team really call Kelly “emotional?” Plainly, we would say no. But pleasing claims can easily spread, no matter how misleading they may be."

    You have to go to the original source nowadays, because Somerby has become increasingly unreliable in reporting the contents of documents. After the "seemed emotional" on page 99, there are in the next four pages at least four references to seeming "nervous" or "upset," her habitual concern with how she was perceived by the governor, and her having looked like she had been crying. Later we see the speculation of her motives as grounded in personal problems, a type of speculation that does not appear for any other participant.

    Somerby is dead wrong when he faults Zernike for accurately using an actual quote that is verified in different words in at least seven other parts of the report. It was perfectly appropriate reporting. Somerby actually knows he's not being truthful, but it would conflict with his daily need to promote his own script.

    1. This is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. I went to the report too and I do not think it portrayed Kelly as emotional either by implication or direct statement. She herself referred to herself as upset (angry, not in an emotional sense) and she was described as being emotional in the context of the meeting with Christie (and being nervous about whether O'Dowd believed her and concerned about not finding emails) but she was not characterized as an overly emotional person, in my opinion.

      Selective confirmation of a preconceived idea will yield different results than reading for other purposes.

      I have repeatedly expressed concern that Kelly was being scapegoated for something that was probably not her idea (with no support from anyone here for my comments), but now I think the report was not trying to portray her in a stigmatizing way but was probably summarizing things that were actually said about her by other staff. Whether they are still trying to pin blame on Kelly is a different matter and one that seems likely to be continuing. Attacking this report on the basis that it is sexist seems to be missing the larger point about Kelly's role in this. I think those saying this are trying to discredit the report and Christie, by extension, not sticking up for Kelly or trying to get at any objective truth.

      I think Zernicke is wrong and Somerby is right to complain about her. Zernicke is advancing some agenda not reporting objectively. It is not appropriate to do that. Accusing Somerby of lying is unhelpful when interpretations can vary for legitimate reasons, along with perspectives and opinions.

    2. His writing has become increasingly emotional.

    3. Anon @ 3:45

      BOB engaged in a pattern of deception that devloved into outright lying when covering Motoko Rich recently. There was no legitimate reason for it.


    4. Calling someone a liar is still a serious accusation.

    5. So if it is in the eye of the beholder, then Zernike was not wrong to use a direct quote from the text of the report, one that is reinforced several times by similar words and by various stories suggesting personal reasons for her being emotional and having her judgment impaired. The story of her break-up with Stepien, by the way, was repeated more than once in Mastro's press conferences.

      This particular critique of Zernike -- attacking her for using a direct and frequently reinforced quote from the report -- is ridiculous. I have to say, no other blogger on the web that I've ever seen has sycophants as shamelessly sycophantic as this one.

    6. Lying, especially when your basic premise is to expose lies of others is stupid.

    7. It is the weeping quote that Somerby said didn't exist in the report. The emotional one is there but, Somerby said, applied to others besides Kelly and limited in context. What is the lie in that?

    8. The weeping quote does indeed not exist in the report.

      However, if you haven't figured it out, Zernicke, in the portion of the article reproduced above, does not attribute it to the report directly nor quote it. So......

      Did Zernike really say Mastro said Kelly was "weeping frequently" as BOB says repeatedly in his many, many, many Zernicke posts?

      Once again, we’d have to say no, unless we’re simply writing a novel.

      But we don't know that 9:33 was referring to BOB's work on Zernike. The reference could be to the lie none of BOB's many fine fans have refuted that he told about a woman whose sole transgression was to be quoted in an article written by Motoko Rich.


    9. KZ, he quoted Zernicke's article so we can all see whether she referred to weeping or not.

      You are not clever -- just annoying with this schtick of yours.

    10. Will you ever learn how to spell Zernike?

  7. OMB (BOB Uncut. Uncensored. Unapologetic)


    "Back in January, did Christie really call Kelly “stupid,” as Zernike says in the passage we’ve posted above?

    Once again, we’d have to say no, unless we’re simply writing a novel. But that became a popular claim in January, along with the pleasing claim that Christie called Kelly a “liar.”"

    Christie ( Cut, Censuring, Apoplectic)

    "I would never have come out here four or five weeks ago and made a joke about these lane closures if I had ever had an inkling that anyone on my staff would have been so stupid but to be involved and then so deceitful as to just -- just to not disclose the information of their involvement to me when directly asked by their superior."

    "That was obviously a lie. And the emails that I saw for the first time yesterday morning, when they broken in I believe the Bergen Record story, proved that that was a lie. There's no justification for that behavior. There's no justification for ever lying to a governor or a person in authority in this government. And as a result, I've terminated Bridget's employment immediately this morning.


    1. And remember when the "sad" Christie was directly asked if he had asked Kelly why she did it, he said that he didn't have to. All he needed to know what that she lied to him.

      Sometimes you wonder how many of Bob's fans get their news from Somerby and nowhere else. Anybody who had followed this story at all knows what Christie said about Kelly at that press conference.

  8. Is anyone doubting she lied?

    1. Has it been journalistically disproven that the extent of her involvement was already known by those currently making accusations before questions about them were asked?

    2. She was in on it either way, she got to drop the checkered flag. Don't understand the anguish over her being called liar as if it's a slur against all women.

    3. 1:59 I think some of those journalists, like Kelly's friends. and Christie's detractors are following a techniques long employed by Bob Somerby. The pick one egregious or erroneous factand then look for other things to fit with it to weave a pattern.

      In the case of the Mastro report, that fact is Kelly's brief "personal relationship" with Stepien, which really had no value being in the report. All the other "could be" sexist remarks are added to that to get a pattern.

      Does it all add up to painting an intentional sexist portrait of
      one of the perps as a person whose motive need not be explained other than she is a woman scorned who acted
      with a "crazy" man as an isolated tandem in an otherwise stellar exeample of public stewardship that is the Christie administration? We don't know, Bob Somerby would say.
      But we do know Bob Somerby does this same thing all the time.

    4. Just a general thought here.

      Sometimes, the worst cases of sexism or racism aren't "intentional." They are done without thought or even the full realization that they are sexist or racist.

      And the untintentional ways in which racism or sexism rears their ugly heads are a huge problem, and why consciousness needs to be raised.

      "I didn't do it intentionally," isn't really a very good defense.

  9. Seahunt, now Bob Dylan. Anyone who could think for a second that Bob Dylan might have been the source of the anyone-over-30 nonsense (Newsweek and Time liked that blurb, their level of analysis, at the time -- the kinds of statements they seized on -- was it actually Abby Hoffmann or some such? -- gee, you mean the American press has long been terrible?) -- well, it's hard to trust someone on anything who thinks Bob Dylan would have said such a thing.

    bob might have been taken up short by the internal contradiction: over-30 bad, the definitely over 30 Seegers good? Boy, Bob Dylan must have been very confused.

    The Seeger bit. Really, bob, you have to earn it. And you know what else? Pete Seeger was a very nice person. malala and all that. Try it.

    1. I thought the Travelling Willburys were pretty much like the Weavers for Bob's boomer crowd.

      I agree the Seahunt reference was a bit obscure. But when Bob mentioned Airplane! the other day you knew he was hitting a Lloyd Bridges groove that had to resolve itself fully in that complex mind of his.

  10. So Sarah Gonzalez is incapable of thinking on her own?

    1. Don't you know how the free press works in Bob's World? Every reporter waits for the NY Times. Then they repeat it.

    2. Is that the correct usage? "Bob's World"

      Shouldn't it be "Bob World." Where "career Bobs" and "careeer pseudo-Bobs" work and play?
      We, of course, would use capital lettering where appropriate. We are most reverent regarding the OTB.


    3. Who knows how correct usage rules apply in Bob's World, Bob World, or even the OTB UNIVERSE.

      There seem to be several sets of rules applied randomly to suit the occasion, and even they seem to keep changing all the time.