Crazy About Fox

Posted November 9, 2007 at 6:39pm

“I want my MTV” was the mantra of many an angsty ’80s teen. Last week, “I want my Fox News!” was the new battle cry for a different set of malcontents, when the network disappeared from TV screens around the Capitol. Staffers looking for their daily dose of “We report, you decide” coverage on Wednesday flipped to the usual channel, only to be surprised to find dead air. Conspiracy theories, unsurprisingly, abounded. “I sense Pelosi’s behind this,” one House GOP staffer mused, suggesting that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had banned the right-leaning network from the Democratically controlled halls of Congress. [IMGCAP(1)]

By Friday, staffers, most of whom keep TVs on all day at work, were suffering from severe cases of Fox withdrawal. “I was just forced to watch an MSNBC segment on going green by shopping at farmers markets,” a clearly anguished Senate GOP aide griped. “We need Fox back, stat.” Just before things got really ugly, the network was back up and running by Friday afternoon.

A Fox engineer explained that there was a technical glitch as the network shifted its feeds from analog to digital. The receivers in the Capitol are being upgraded, too, he said, contributing to the problems.

But all, he promises, is right again.

Tip of the Hat. The mini-scandal in which NPR reported and then retracted a story about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) stiffing a waitress at a campaign stop at an Iowa diner got HOH thinking about the tipping habits of the Democratic frontrunner.

So HOH thought she’d do a little checking closer to home to see what kind of diner the junior Senator from New York really is. Unsurprisingly, most restaurant folks wouldn’t comment on their famous patron or her gratuity-leaving habits. Still, two industry insiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity for themselves and their dining establishments confirm that Clinton is a well-liked diner in Washington’s eateries — and this in an industry in which however nice you might be, you’re only as popular as your tip is generous. “She and her people are always nice to the servers, and they love her,” one tipster says of several meals on the town that Clinton and her entourage enjoyed. “She did tip very well.” Another waitress at an establishment that Clinton frequents reports the same.

And Robert Bian, the manager of Hunan Dynasty, the modest Chinese joint on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast near the Capitol, says Clinton is a gracious diner, although she wasn’t the one paying for the meals she has eaten there. On one occasion, she was a guest of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is a regular at the restaurant. Schumer, Bian says, is a prolific tipper, always leaving 20 percent or more.

Model Citizens. Sponsoring legislation that would allow more fashion models into the United States may seem like a no-brainer for a single guy like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). But Weiner’s staff assures HOH that the move has nothing to do with the five-term Congressman being a model-izer. Actually, Weiner, who reintroduced a bill last week that would create a new visa class for fashion models, is more worried about the Big Apple losing out on fashion industry revenue to locales like the Caribbean and Spain when top models can’t get temporary work visas, according to spokesman Eric Koch.

Improving the scenery is only, apparently, a fringe benefit.

Gator Gaffe. If awards were given for corrections to e-mails, the “oopsie” missive sent by Jim Kessler of the progressive group Third Way would no doubt be in the running. Kessler e-mailed House and Senate aides on Friday to amend a memo he had sent the day before, explaining that he had misidentified the number of deaths in 2004 attributable to alligators. Come again?

“In the first memo, I stated that in 2004 a person was ‘more likely’ to be eaten by an alligator than to be fined for hiring undocumented labor,” Kessler explained in the mea culpa, which was widely circulated on Friday among staffers looking for a chuckle. Kessler went on to say he had mistakenly used the alligator-fatality toll for 2006 instead of the 2004 number. In 2004, two people were eaten by alligators; in 2006 a whopping three people suffered that fate. The new memo corrects that error. “Since there were three fines in 2004 and only two alligator fatalities, I changed the text to read ‘about as likely to be eaten by an alligator’ than to be fined for hiring undocumented labor,’” he wrote.

Kessler tells HOH that in an only-in-Washington moment, a friend who received the original memo alerted him to the mistake after fact-checking the alligator fatalities. The correction prompted plenty of response, Kessler tells HOH, including a tale from one recipient of an uncle who lost his arm to one of the savage beasts.

That’s ‘Chairman Partner’ to You. CNN talk-show host Lou Dobbs has carefully cultivated an Everyman persona, but he clearly took his proletariat shtick further than he meant to last week. During the live airing of his show Thursday, Dobbs was thanking his guest, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), for appearing. “Thank you, partner,” Dobbs said. Almost as soon as the phrase had slipped out of his mouth, Dobbs was backpedaling. “I didn’t mean to be quite that informal,” he apologized to Rangel, who appeared good-naturedly unperturbed.

But the funniest bit happened once the cameras were off. Dobbs and Rangel clearly thought the show had gone to a commercial, but the sound was still audible to viewers. “I called the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee ‘partner,’” Dobbs berated himself. “Jesus, God.” Rangel laughed it off, but Dobbs wasn’t done excusing the lapse. “I apologize,” he repeated. “God Almighty.”

Where Are Your Manners, Y’all? Speaker Pelosi took a visit down South and came back a bit spoiled by the fine gentility of the ladies and gentlemen of the press. In the rougher company of the relatively ill-mannered Capitol press corps, the California Democrat raved about their south-of-the-Mason-Dixon-line brethren. “When I was in North Carolina last Friday, I walked into the press club and everyone stood up,” the Speaker told a group of reporters on Friday, none of whom appeared to be on the verge of rising from their chairs. “Those Southerners, they’re something, aren’t they?”

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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