As you may have sniffed out by now, Paul Ryan has not really been going around calling Mitt Romney “the Stench,” as Roger Simon wrote in his Politico column on Tuesday:
Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”
…Ryan reportedly said, “Let Ryan be Ryan and let the Stench be the Stench.”
It’s all satire, Simon said late yesterday. It may not be particularly good satire when it’s located inside false quotation marks. But the significant thing is that so many people so easily believed that either Paul Ryan would call his boss “the Stench” within earshot of reporters or that his entourage would eagerly leak such roguishness. From MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who devoted a thirteen-minute segment to the Stench (“Yeah, he said that,” said O’Donnell with glee) to Craig Robinson, a former Iowa GOP political director, who inadvertently inspired the fracas, almost no one, including me, saw this as mere truthiness.
It all started when Robinson was quoted in Sunday’s New York Times saying, “I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.”
On Wednesday, when Robinson saw the Simon story, he took pains to explain what he meant on TheIowaRepublican.com: “I used the word stench to basically say that Paul Ryan will have plenty of baggage to deal with should he and Romney come up short on November 6th. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that, but my choice of words has elevated my comment to something I didn’t necessary [sic] intend it to be.”
Simon eventually fessed up to Buzzfeed that the column was “satire,” and late last night wrote not an apology, exactly, but an explanation for confused readers:
Jonathan Swift did not really want Irish people to sell their children for food in 1729; George Orwell did not really want the clocks to strike thirteen in 1984; Paul Ryan, I am sure, calls Mitt Romney something more dignified than ‘Stench’ and Microsoft did not invent PowerPoint as a means to euthanize cattle. At least I am pretty sure Microsoft didn’t.