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Another CNN goof over on-air expert in Eliot Spitzer case

March 12, 2008 |  5:06 pm

And some media people wonder why their reputations seem to sink lower than those politicians they often cover so cynically.

CNN -- yes, them again -- has admitted it made a little mistake Tuesday during its on-air commentary about the sex scandal surrounding New York's about-to-be-ex- Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the onetime gung-ho, crime-busting, prostitution-prosecuting state attorney general now himself involved on the receiving end of an investigation into prostitution.

As most cable channels do, CNN hauls in these on-camera experts to fill air between commercials talking expertly about things they just heard about on the radio themselves. Oftentimes, writing a book makes you an expert and you can help sell some. There seem to be a whole lot of unemployed Democratic strategists and Republican strategists to call on. Maybe a retired judge or two, who'll say things they'd never say in a courtroom.

Tuesday, CNN introduced Kendall Coffey as a former U.S. attorney. He's been ...

... on before. There seems to be a bundle of other former U.S. attorneys available for cable appearances on any afternoon. So Coffey talks with CNN anchor Tony Harris about the Spitzer case's legal issues and questions and what kind of federal charges the New York governor might be facing.

So far, so good. Coffey then speculated that Spitzer's biggest troubles could come from attempts to cover up the immense cash transfers reportedly involved in his several rendezvous. That's what alerted Glenn Garvin, another one of the world's brave band of bloggers who help make democracy safe for cable viewers to sit on their couches and pass judgment on public personalities.

Glenn writes Changing Channels for the Miami Herald. He did an item providing a somewhat fuller introduction of former U.S. Atty. Coffey than CNN did. Glenn noted that Coffey "achieved his formerness" in 1996 by biting a stripper on the arm during an attempted kiss at the Lipstik Club on Miami's South Dixie Highway.

It seems Coffey was thrown out after paying his $900 bill with a credit card. But then later Coffey's father showed up and paid $1,200 to recover the credit card receipt. And the angry stripper and her even angrier hubby got suspicious and one thing lead to another, including Coffey's becoming a former U.S. attorney.

So there Coffey was on global television opining on an elected official in trouble with the law over a hooker when he'd lost his own job for biting a stripper. A CNN spokesman later acknowledged that Coffey "was probably not the right one for this story."

Probably.

You may remember reading here last November about the CNN Democratic presidential debate that had David Gergen and James Carville, two former Clinton administration officials, on the post-debate show as "analysts" to discuss the performance of their former boss' wife and the Illinois senator who's trying to defeat her.

You may not be shocked to learn that both men had favorable things to say about Mrs. Clinton's debate performance. Anderson Cooper nodded. And some Obama fans muttered about CNN really being the Clinton News Network.

At the time Cooper neglected to mention that Carville had written a fundraising letter for Clinton and had announced months before on national TV that he would vote for her. Other than that he had an open mind.

But those are probably isolated incidents.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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