The media was quick to jump on Mike Huckabee’s remarks at yesterday’s RNC meeting — quick enough, in fact, to misreport what he said, correct it, and then continue on as if the story hadn’t really changed. A timeline of the events shows the speed with which CNN and MSNBC darted to report the quotation, correct the reporting, and then make hay of the controversy. One reporter initially reported on the meeting without mentioning Huckabee, but returned minutes later after the comments gained attention — in part surely because they were misinterpreted.
According to the RNC’s itinerary for the winter meeting, the luncheon where Huckabee spoke was scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. During his speech, the former governor argued that Democrats believe women are “helpless” and need government support for birth control “because they cannot control their libido.” The immediate reporting of his line left the impression Huckabee himself believed that.
1:16 p.m.: Dana Bash of CNN first tweets Huckbee’s line, attributing the sentiment to the politician:
At Rnc meeting @MikeHuckabee just said fed govt shouldn’t help women w who can’t control their libido w birth control.— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) January 23, 2014
1:25 p.m.: Kasie Hunt of NBC News joined Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC live from the meeting. During the five-minute segment, after Huckabee’s comments, Hunt didn’t mention the speech or “libido” remarks at all, instead discussing the site of the 2016 convention and Chris Christie.
1:34 p.m.: Bash repeats the comments, but notes that Huckabee had attributed the view to Democrats:
More huck: dems insult women thinking theyre”helpless w/out Uncle Sugar” giving rx for birth control “b/c they cannot control their libido”— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) January 23, 2014
1:36 p.m.: About ten minutes after going on television to discuss the meeting’s events, 20 minutes after Bash first reported the comments, and minutes after Bash tweeted the correct context, Hunt erroneously quotes Huckabee:
Huckabee: Women “helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them … birth control because they cannot control their libido”— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) January 23, 2014
1:37 p.m.: Bash clarifies a second time:
See second Huckabee tweet for proper libido quote. Was saying dems think women need help w birth control bc can’t control libido— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) January 23, 2014
1:42 p.m.: Bash clarifies a third time:
2b clear @MikeHuckabee said DEMS insult women thinking theyre helpless giving rx for birth control “b/c they cannot control their libido”— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) January 23, 2014
1:51 p.m.: Just a few minutes before she was set to join Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC again, Hunt sends out a tweet correcting herself:
To be clear: Huck says DEMS blv “helpless without Uncle Sugar” giving them birth control because “they cannot control their libido”— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) January 23, 2014
1:52 p.m.: Bash went on CNN with Wolf Blitzer to report on the “libido” remarks, saying that Huckabee was speaking “broadly” about how he believes Democrats view women. CNN played Huckabee’s quotation in its full context.
1:53 p.m.: Before the end of her show, Mitchell brought Hunt back to comment about the Huckabee controversy. Hunt and Mitchell repeatedly made it clear that Huckabee was talking about Democrats’ views, but said that his “tone and the nature of the way he made his comments has raised a lot of eyebrows.” MSNBC went on to play the entire clip of his comments.
Since then, CNN and MSNBC have regularly focused on the “buzz” surrounding Huckabee’s speech, with commentators suggesting his words exemplify Republicans’ trouble communicating with women.
Later in the afternoon, Hunt said his remarks had caused a “strong reaction,” but one has to wonder if there would have been a story at all had she and other members of the media reported it accurately to begin with.