Totenburg backpedals

Now she says she was defending Christmas:

Nina Totenberg does not hate Christmas!

 The NPR legal correspondent created a web frenzy with a seemingly dismissive reference to the holiday on “Inside Washington” last weekend. During a debate about tax cuts and the omnibus bill, Totenberg threw in an off-hand anecdote:

“I was at — forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice,” she said, going on to explain how guests there were worried about the impact of spending cuts.

“Forgive the expression”? Another salvo in the War on Christmas!

Totenberg’s quote comes in the midst of a complex examination of the federal deficit with fellow panelists and moderator/executive producer Gordon Peterson. “I didn’t even notice it,” he told us Tuesday. The reason her remark didn’t appear on Sunday’s show? Panelists tape additional commentary for the public television version that is routinely edited out to make room for commercials on Sunday. Happens every week; no conspiracy here.

Plus, added a puzzled Peterson: Nina adores this season. Years ago, when they taped the show in a studio with a piano, she and Carl Rowan would belt out carols every December. “I know she loves Christmas,” Peterson said. “I’ve seen her at Christmas parties — if you’ll pardon the expression.”

Then we reached Totenberg herself during her “Christmas vacation” (her term) in Jamaica. Turns out her critics got it completely wrong: She was, she says, defending Christmas. The DOJ celebration was officially dubbed a “holiday” party, and she was gently mocking that generic designation. “I think that’s kind of silly because it’s obviously a Christmas party,” she told us. “I was tweaking the Department of Justice. It was a touch of irony at the expense of the Justice department, not at the expense of Christmas.”

As for the bloggers who were so quick to judge — without bothering to ask her what she meant: “Jeesh, these folks need a life — and perhaps a touch of the Christmas spirit, as well.”


I’ll report, you decide.

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