NBC News reporter Luke Russert was given a lesson this week about the dangers of telling the truth in a less than perfect way in a political year.
The 23-year-old son of the late "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert quickly apologized for a statement he made to "Today" host Matt Lauer after a Wednesday report about how the presidential race is viewed by students at the University of Virginia.
"The smartest kids in the state go there so it is leaning a little bit toward (Democratic presidential nominee Barack) Obama," Russert told Lauer.
Afterwards, Russert was reportedly criticized in blogs for the implications that students at other Virginia colleges weren't as smart and that you're dumb if you don't support Sen Obama over Republican nominee John McCain.
In fairness, Lauer is the one who actually set up that quote in his question to Russert.
"This is a very top-notch school," said Lauer. "Is it representative of what's happening in other schools with the youth vote all around this state and maybe the country?"
The truth is the University of Virginia is a top-notch school and attracts many of the state's smartest kids because it is difficult to get accepted into. And Russert was reporting that students there support Sen. Obama.
Lauer didn't think anything of Russert's answer immediately or he might have tried to save him by getting him to clarify his remarks.
Russert's mistake was tying two truthful comments together. He smartly did what any politician would do. He played damage control by almost instantly apologizing in a blog, saying he misspoke and made "what is without a doubt, quite simply a dumb comment."
"Today was one of my first lessons in the perils of live television," he said. "Lesson learned."
And what is that lesson? In broadcast journalism, be careful how you speak the truth.
-- Alan Pergament