As it turns out, La Totenberg loves Christmas — and her innocent remark was badly misinterpreted. She explained everything to Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger, of the Washington Post’s Reliable Source….
Let’s go back to the original statement (which you can also listen to if you like). In an on-air discussion about uncertainty with respect to the budget, Totenberg said:
And I was at — forgive the expression — a Christmas party at the Department of Justice, and people actually [were] really worried about this [budget issue].
This was perceived by some right-wing bloggers as Totenberg firing a shot in this year’s War on Christmas. For example, here’s what John Hayward wrote on Human Events, in a post entitled “Christmas Without Apologies”:
The comment was shocking, and highly amusing, because it so neatly confirmed the stereotypes conservatives occasionally feel guilty about holding, with regard to out-of-touch NPR liberals. You mouth-breathing Jesus freaks out in flyover country are cows to be milked for tax funding, but otherwise ignored as much as possible. It’s a damn shame that necessity forced the elegant Lady Totenberg to attend one of your primitive rituals. What was she supposed to do? It was a government function. She simply had to attend, and we’re so fortunate she returned alive, to share what she learned around those melancholy bowls of Justice Department eggnog…..
Totenberg and her ilk talk this way because they practice talking this way. They are making a conscious and deliberate effort to scrub the religious meaning from the winter holidays, because Christmas instills confidence in a particular religious movement they fear and despise. Could you imagine Totenberg saying, “I was at – forgive the expression – a ‘Kwanzaa party’ at the Department of Justice…?” She’s very carefully trained herself never to say something like that, and if she did, she would never be forgiven for it.
[According to colleague Gordon 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.”
I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Totenberg’s splendid singing voice (and you can too). Her affection for Christmas, given the musicality of the holiday, makes perfect sense.
[W]e 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.”
And on that note — if you’ll forgive the expression — Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!