Twice in the last six months we've had the spectacle of a candidate clinging to a provably false personal narrative. Each tale was meant to show something admirable and significant about the candidate's character. But in each case the press had the goods to show that the tale was too tall to be believed.
One, of course, was Hillary Clinton's "hail of bullets" account of her arrival at the airport in Bosnia.
The other is Sarah Palin's "thanks but no thanks" claim to have opposed funding for the "bridge to nowhere."
In Senator Clinton's case, the more often she repeated the story, the more relentlessly the press said the story was not true. All parts of the press did this: right, left, middle. They didn't say that there was a "controversy" about her story. They said it was false. And eventually she bowed to the inevitable and stopped telling the story any more.
So here are the controlled-experiment questions:
1) At any point will the right-wing press join the effort to hold Palin accountable for her false claim, as all of the press held Clinton responsible?
2) If Palin keeps making the claim, will press critics redouble their debunking, as they did with Clinton, or taper off for fear of seeming biased or boring?
3) At any point will Palin herself -- or, far more significant, McCain -- acknowledge that there are such things as fact and fantasy, and stop making a demonstrably false claim?
There is no more stark illustration of the bias involved in this campaign. Bias, some of it sexist, against Clinton during the primaries, with a pass, some of it sexist, for Palin. This is apparently more pronounced in the television coverage; there's plenty of debunking going on in print, or on the web, in the traditional media, as Fallows post demonstrates. But it was Tweety and his friends who made Clinton back off. When will they do the same to Palin?