A sillier moment than earlier this week for CNN’s Carol Costello, but perhaps just as revealing. In May, when new nutritional regulations on school lunches endorsed by Michelle Obama came under criticism for a number of reasons — including the fact that kids weren’t eating the meals any more — the CNN anchor led a sympathetic segment on the First Lady’s political efforts by claiming that “Mrs. Obama” had signed the bill into law (via James Nathaniel):
That was Mrs. Obama back in 2010, when she signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act into law.
Ahem. The US Constitution does not provide for an office of First Lady Regnant. (Actually, it doesn’t provide for a “First Lady” at all; it’s a ceremonial but unofficial title from custom rather than deliberate design.) The spouse of a President has as much authority to sign bills passed by Congress into law as Carol Costello has, which is to say none at all. Barack Obama signed the act into law in December 2010, not Michelle Obama, the final action that makes a bill law.
The state of civics education in this country may be poor, but it’s not that poor. Schoolchildren can make this distinction, and an average high-school student would know better than to claim that a First Lady signed a bill into law. Perhaps Costello should have taken a refresher course of Schoolhouse Rock in J-school:
Knowledge is power. The “office” of First Lady … not so much.
What’s more, there has always been plenty of reason to oppose the act, and not just from the food industry, as Costello claims in her report. The HHFKA expanded federal authority over school lunches and imposed a one-size-fits-all approach that clearly doesn’t work. The expansion of authority gave pork-barrel politicos like Chuck Schumer an opportunity to exploit kids on behalf of a food producer in New York, too. The GAO found that the law produced the unintended consequence of pushing kids away from school lunches entirely, and some of them even organized to protest the calorie and food-choice limitations. The USDA backed down on some of the regulations later, but not soon enough. This produced complaints that it was Republicans who politicized school lunches, and this outbreak of civic ignorance in journalism that Mary Katharine caught at the time.
This came up again because of Costello’s giggly, adolescent glee on air at Bristol Palin’s description of an assault on her at a party that ended in a fight. Costello later apologized on social media, but still has not addressed it on air. That’s unacceptable; the offensive behavior took place on air, and an apology for it should be given under similar circumstances. John Nolte noted that Roland Martin got suspended from his on-air job for making a joke on social media and later let go, but Costello’s still on the air after cheering Palin’s understandable distress after being assaulted. It’s not the first issue with Costello, and neither was the above clip; James Nathaniel has been running a Costello lowlights reel on his Twitter feed for the last day or so.
For the Palin segment, the least that should take place is an on-air apology to Bristol and to viewers. As this clip shows (and others Nathaniel is highlighting), though, the question about Costello’s CNN anchor job isn’t so much one of civility as it is of competence. It’s not whether she should keep her job, but why she had it in the first place.