How Much Christine O'Donnell is Too Much?

With the latest golden nugget of video from Bill Maher’s archives, Christine O’Donnell’s Senate candidacy in the state of Delaware has truly become the gift that keeps on giving for the progressive talk radio outlets that still exist, along with several other candidates for office in the November election.

“Evolution is a myth,” said the Sarah-Palin-like “marketing consultant” on Oct. 15, 1998. “Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?” she astutely added.

With the steady stream of compelling and confusing conundrums uncovered over the last couple of weeks, my production team, like many others across the country, has had to decide how much coverage Christine O’Donnell and her fellow alternative candidates should receive on radio and television.

While I could easily devote every minute of every broadcast from now until the November election to O’Donnell’s gaffes, bizarre statements, and incredible analyses, it wouldn’t be a good decision. At the same time, much of what she has said is so beyond the scope of logic and reason that it would be irresponsible to not give it discussion time each week, even an indication that I’m not doing my job – and this doesn’t even address the entertainment value of the material that has been uncovered since she won her Republican primary election.

Personally, I’ve felt pressure from both sides of the equation.

On one hand, it’s not that often that a candidate with such a rich, broad-spanning resumé of confounding and incomprehensible statements makes it onto the final ballot for major political office, and to leave the panoply of sound bytes outside the bounds of my program would be a disservice – no, even flat out disrespect – to the talk radio audience that demands to know if a Senate candidate has actively campaigned against masturbation.

My audience would suggest I be thrown off the air if I did not provide them with the pleasure of hearing the details of Christine O’Donnell’s “dabble” with witchcraft.

At the same time, how much is too much?

Could I devote a half hour to a thorough review and analysis of O’Donnell’s opinion that AIDS research receives too much money? Certainly! Could I do an hour on her claim that she tied Joe Biden in a Delaware county, even though she received fewer votes, because the results were 49 percent to 49 percent?

No question about it. What about Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle’s saying that she opposes abortion in all cases, even in instances of rape and incest, because even those are part of “God’s plan?” I can’t imagine casually glancing over that on the air. However, the line between reporting what must be reported and going too far is not black and white.

Midweek Politics producer Louis Motamedi said during a discussion on a recent broadcast that “it is the media’s responsibility to inform the public about these candidates.” Many conservatives have recently indicated that the media did not do a good enough job of educating the public about Barack Obama. Sarah Palin recently said that we are “learning more about Christine O’Donnell … than anybody bothered to ask about Barack Hussein Obama.”

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour indicated that we know less about Obama’s history than any other president. Barbour’s suggestion leaves me wondering “Really? We know less about Obama than about James K. Polk?”

Regardless, this clearly indicates a need to get every fact out on the table with candidates for political office, especially those with as questionable a past as O’Donnell.

During a recent interview with Cenk Uygur, host of the hugely popular Internet political show The Young Turks, I asked him about precisely this issue, and he wasn’t as wishy-washy as I am on the correct answer. “There is no limit on Christine O’Donnell stories,” Cenk said, adding: “This is an easy question at this point. An election is coming up and you have to let people know who they’re voting for. If you have a person who is off the rails, it’s our job to let the electorate know that.”

Interestingly, my conversation with Cenk moved to discussion of media coverage beyond election day of candidates like O’Donnell and Angle, with Sarah Palin as an example of a candidate who was actually empowered by the media as a result of radio and television continuing to talk about her after she and John McCain lost to President Barack Obama and Joe Biden in 2008.

Although Palin seemed destined for some level of notoriety even after the unsuccessful conclusion of her vice-presidential campaign, the continued media frenzy surrounding her after millions were relieved that she wouldn’t be second in line for the presidency contributed in great part to her becoming what she is today: A multi-millionaire, Fox News-contributing, bestselling-autobiography “writing,” Tea Party-supporting political force.

The question I have: Win or lose, is Christine O’Donnell destined for the same … and will I be at all responsible?

David Pakman is the host of the internationally syndicated Midweek Politics with David Pakman


Popular Video