Hanging on Michelle Obama’s every word
So I’m watching TV one night and I’m saying to myself, where is she? Why have I not seen her on the magic LED screen tonight?
No, not Honey Boo Boo. America’s favorite little butterball is on a well-earned hiatus from the redneck adventures of her corpulent, cornpone, flatulence-infatuated family.
No, it was Michelle Obama I did not see on a single show that night, and I worried about why. Was the first lady ill? Had she eaten too much broccoli or, worse yet, experienced digestive problems over a bowl of kale?
She seemed in perfectly fine trim when she appeared live on the Oscars announcing the best picture winner from the White House, surrounded by what looked like a junior version of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (all of whom had these looks on their faces that seemed to say “what in the world are we doing here; is this why we signed up?”). Imagine the anxiety as I searched the tube for Obama. Might she turn up on “American Idol” or even “The Big Bang Theory”? I checked out “This Old House” on the network made possible by viewers like you — maybe she was installing a vegetable patch behind the rehabbed Victorian. No sign of her.
Had FLOTUS maybe sprained an ankle in her recent “dance off” with Jimmy Fallon on “Late Night”? (The “dance off” is believed to be the first for any first lady since at least Dolly Madison, but that was nowhere near as groundbreaking as her husband, Barack Obama, when he recently “slow jammed” the news with Fallon, “slow jamming” apparently requiring the delivery of the headlines to an R&B or “soul” beat, kind of like getting the news from Barry White.)
Might Michelle’s one-night disappearance from the networks be a consequence of the sequester, one of those horrible things that happen when you slice 2.3 percent in spending from a $36 trillion budget? But had not the White House catalogued — and the news media dutifully and breathlessly repeated — every single possible disaster from cutbacks in the feeding of the lemurs at the Yakima, Wash., zoo to the falling of the sky over Fairhope, Ala.? No, it had to be something else to cause Michelle’s absence.
I missed her explaining once again the various considerations when she decided to restyle her hair into bangs. I wanted her on the TV that night telling us how “they” will not allow her to bungee jump or to buy a sports car so it came down to the bangs, and I hoped that she might finally reveal who “they” are. Disappointment!
You hoped she was not staying away because of her minor goofup last week on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when she weighed in on gun control, saying a 15-year-old Chicago girl was shot to death by teens with an automatic weapon. Automatics were virtually outlawed in this country back in 1934, and the rifle in question actually was a semi-automatic — probably just an honest mistake. The erroneous passage — just 10 words — went on ABC’s website, but when the taped interview aired on GMA, presto, those 10 words somehow got deleted, edited out of the middle of the first lady’s sentence.
ABC said it made the edit to save time. Those 10 words take between 3 and 4 seconds to say. Now, if you drive a truck or empty a bedpan to make a living, you might believe ABC’s story about saving on-air time, just happening to delete Obama’s goofup in the process. But if you draw a paycheck by editing news videotape, then you are pretty sure this is an example of the latest PC, as in “poppycock.”
Have I ever eliminated 4 seconds from the middle of a sound bite to save time? Many, many times, to save time or maybe because those words were unintelligible because the speaker sneezed or something. But you do so reluctantly because the device you use to make that edit — maybe a cutaway of the person’s hands or a quick blip in the video — can be subconsciously disturbing to the viewer and distract from the message. And kids, you certainly do not do that with a sound bite from the first lady on an issue as important as gun violence.
Nice try, ABC.
John McLoughlin is a freelance columnist and a veteran Capital Region journalist now at NewsChannel13. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at JMcLoughlin@WNYT.com.