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F-Bomb Round-Up: How The Media Quoted The Unquotable, Joe Biden

Joe Biden just handed the media an easy comic relief story (and a great trademark Joe Biden gaffe), but with the great power to entertain also comes the great responsibility not to offend. So how did the mainstream media chose to report the story without using Biden’s off-color adjective for the health care bill law? We went with the poignant euphemism “f-bomb;” for all you psycholinguistics majors out there, here’s what the rest of the media did.

  • The Associated Press, which prides itself on its “objective” and generally colorless coverage, avoided the word entirely in the title of their report (“How Big a Deal? Ask Joe Biden”). They used dashes to eliminate the unsightly letters.
  • The Washington Post‘s “Reliable Source” column, being a gossip column and all, has a longer leash to run with, so they used some of Eric Massa‘s “salty” language. The offensive word was replaced with “fracking.”
  • Meanwhile, the New York Times was prim and proper about Joe Biden’s “expletive,” describing it as “an adjective between big and deal, that begins with ‘f.’” But they embedded a video from the Mediaite library, so +25 “Whose Line is it Anyway?” points to the Times!
  • More points to the Columbia Journalism Review (we have egos to feed) for referencing us, and for brilliantly avoiding covering the issue by quoting the Times‘ ladylike writearound on Biden’s vocabulary, and lovingly mocking it.
  • The Kansas City Star was possibly the least amused of this press bunch, calling the word a “stinker” and nicknaming Biden “The Mouth that Roars.”
  • Apparently the British are much more lax about this kind of thing than Americans are: although a series of asterisks clothes the wanton word, the Times UK is calling it an “earthy reminder of its historic importance” that “helped immortalize” the moment. Let’s not get carried away, here.
  • The New York Post never fails to disappoint with sensational headlines, so why are we not surprised that the home page is now flashing the above comic book-esque photo headline, with an accompanying article opening with “Oh Joe he didn’t!”
  • Fox News, who first broke the story, went with the AP standard but, of course, they have more to report than just the news. The inappropriate language, they argue, was indicative of an “after-party” attitude the Democrats brought to the bill-signing. How unprofessional.
  • MSNBC, on the other hand, did a bit of everything, combining “&*$#ing” on the front page and a variety of number of dashes in the actual piece. They did report on some previously un-seen (irrelevant) “conflict,” though: President Obama seemed “impatient.” Drama!
  • And CNN, the most sober of the trio, went with Abigail Adams references (and the classic “F-word”).

And while you were reading, here’s how the cable news channels handled the affair on television:



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