The Washington Times - November 9, 2009, 04:18PM

In a sharply worded critique of a ProPublica article in the Columbia Journalism Review, writer Dean Starkman uses the term “tea-bagging” to refer to Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-profit taxpayer watchdog group.

“But at least the Journal doesn’t rely for its lead quote on the media director of some obscure tea-bagging operation…”

SEE RELATED:


When called on the sexual meaning of “tea-bagging,” Starkman claimed innocence in a comment on his blog post:

“Yup, I do apologize for that language. … “tea-bagging” carries connotations I certainly didn’t intend. I found the quote to be intemperate, as I said, but then used language that was much worse. …”

Starkman followed up when contacted by The Washington Times:

“It was a screw up on my part.  I had it in my head as a more or less commonly accepted way of referring to tea-partyers.  The sexual connotation did not enter my mind at all.  And I felt bad about that for obvious reasons.  That [term] can be really silly, but also not nice and harmful, and that was not my intent.”

The Water Cooler contacted the executive editor of CJR, Mike Hoyt, to inquire whether the Journal’s editors stood by the term’s usage.

Hoyt e-mailed this response Monday:

“We—Dean and me— had zero idea of the sexual connotations of the term.  Since we are reliably told that it has sexual connotations, we regret using it.”

The excuses are really pathetic. Left-leaning commentators and bloggers of the particularly low-rent sort have been enjoying adolescent chuckles for months using that “tea-bagging” line. Conservatives have been pointing out the real meaning of the sleazy playground taunt ever since.

Take the CJR folks at their word — this was ignorance not malice — but claiming ignorance may actually make them look worse. About the only way that CJR’s writers and editors could be ignorant of the meaning of “tea-bagging” is by existing in a left-leaning media ghetto bounded by MSNBC and Kos.

Dean and Mike need to get out more. If they’d like to play a useful role as media critics, they might want to try reading and listening to a broader selection of reporting and opinion. Of course, many on the right long ago concluded that CJR is more interested in scoring political points than acting as a disinterested media monitor. This is just more proof.