Fox spokesman on Anderson Cooper: "The Paris Hilton of television news"

It is, at long last, officially on. Nice catch by Noel Sheppard, although I’m not sure I grasp the analogy. Paris = Anderson because they’re both good-looking scions of famous families who owe their careers to their pedigrees? Or Paris = Anderson because they’re both ill informed and look uncomfortable in front of the camera?

Cooper’s okay, actually. He did a decent job with Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah this summer.

As Noel notes, that crack came in the context of the ever stupider controversy over Insight magazine’s story about Obama’s supposed Wahhabist education. “Au contraire,” Insight would say. “Our story wasn’t about that at all. It was about Hillary’s researchers alleging that.” Here’s their latest statement on the subject:

We at Insight commend CNN for at least showing the initiative to follow-up on the story and send a correspondent to check it out. But, contrary to their claims, CNN didn’t debunk anything about our story. For the record, Insight never–not once–in its article claims that Obama went to a Madrassa. We didn’t claim it; Hillary’s people did. We reported–and we fully stand by our story–that the Hillary Clinton camp had conducted their own opposition research on Obama’s Muslim past, and that the Clinton investigators had concluded Obama had attended a Madrassa.

Having thus distanced themselves from the ludicrous Obama-as-Wahhabist-manchurian-candidate scenario, they then proceed to take it seriously:

The media uproar over our reporting reveals a media establishment choosing not to ask the tough questions about Obama’s Muslim past: If he was raised in a secular household (as he claims), why does he have–or retain–Muslim names, Barack and Hussein? Were his father and stepfather as secular as he says? What is the exact nature of Obama’s current religious affiliation and what are the beliefs and teachings of his current church in Chicago, the Trinity United Church of Christ? Does he adhere to these teachings or is he a Sunday bench warmer only?

I don’t buy their “they said it, not us” defense at all, incidentally. Captain Ed made the Jamilgate analogy the other day, but I’m going to borrow it here to show the flaw in their logic. Here’s a paragraph from Insight’s story about the madrassas:

Although the background check has not confirmed that the specific Madrassa Mr. Obama attended was espousing Wahhabism, the sources said his Democratic opponents believe this to be the case—and are seeking to prove it. The sources said the opponents are searching for evidence that Mr. Obama is still a Muslim or has ties to Islam.

And here’s the same paragraph with a few words changed:

Although the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior has not confirmed that the specific attack took place, Capt. Hussein said he believed it to be the case—and is seeking to prove it. He said he is searching for evidence that firebombs were thrown or that six people were burned alive.

Imagine if the AP dropped that on us.

Meanwhile, six days after the story broke and two days after CNN debunked it, Obama’s aides are still issuing memos denying it’s true. Hotline wonders why. Possibilities:

1. The story still has legs, and Obama’s staff are concerned that the madrassa rumor will never be fully put to bed unless it’s tucked under the covers by Obama himself. Obama, we’re told, was asked about the madrassa story at least six times yesterday. One reporter wasn’t aware that CNN had proven the rumor false.

2. They’re angling for a hit off the Obama versus Fox News match-up. The memo takes Steve Doocy and John Gibson to task for repeating the charges and documents how CNN (Fox competitor!) thoroughly debunked the story. Bashing Fox — and in this case, Fox warrants a bit of bashing — is like throwing a log in a heated fire. Compare this to Sen. John McCain’s embrace of MoveOn.org’s ads against him. The more liberals attack McCain, the more conservative he seems.

3. Obama will not be swiftboated. Period.

4: His staff is a bunch of amateurs who don’t know when to leave well enough alone and let bad, discredited buzz die.