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'Today' has trouble with Graham joke

By BILL ADAIR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 8, 2003

MIAMI LAKES - Sen. Bob Graham got a prime opportunity to discuss his presidential campaign on the Today show Wednesday morning, but his appearance ended with a strange discussion about a bogus notebook.

Host Katie Couric asked Graham about his habit of logging his activities each day. She quoted a Washington Post story about unusual entries Graham had reportedly made about his Tuesday afternoon campaign kickoff:

12:19 Clap, wave.

12:20 Adjust tie - red, white stripes.

12:21 Double thumbs up.

12:22 Sing along with national anthem, right hand on heart.

Couric then asked Graham incredulously, "What do you do this for?"

"That is absurd," Graham replied. He tried to explain that he hadn't written Tuesday's log until Wednesday morning - an indication that the Post log was fake. But his answer was unclear and viewers probably did not realize what he meant.

Indeed, the Post article was a parody. It was written as if Graham had kept a minute-by-minute chronicle of his campaign kickoff. Graham keeps a running log of his activities each day, noting small events such as when he changes pants and applies his scalp medication.

Some critics have called it an odd behavior, but Graham says the notebooks are intricate to-do lists that allow him to manage his work as a senator.

Today show spokesman Lauren Kapp declined to discuss whether Couric had misunderstood the Post story, saying only: "Katie followed up on a story in the Washington Post regarding the senator's daily log. The senator answered the question."

The Graham campaign was miffed that Couric hadn't gotten the joke.

Campaign spokesman Jamal Simmons said the Post "wrote a parody, as is their right. You would hope the research staff (of the Today show) and any journalist that would refer to it would refer to it as a parody."

Simmons said Graham "was happy to go on the Today show and will again. We just hope in the future they make jokes a little clearer to their viewers."

- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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