NPR reporter Nina Totenberg was talking about a fairly wonky topic--how Congress's failure to pass a budget bill has thrown the federal bureaucracy into a state of uncertainty--when she, perhaps accidentally, stepped into a steaming pile of culture war. Reporting what top federal workers had told her, Totenberg said to the rest of the Inside Washington roundtable, "And I was at--forgive the expression--a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and people actually were really worried about this."

Forgive the expression? What does that mean? What is it, exactly, about Christmas that Totenberg feels she needs to apologize for? This was the question posed by Newsbusters' Brent Baker, who decided the reporter was "seemingly embarrassed to invoke any religious teminology." Maybe she would have preferred to say "winter solstice party" or "seasonal gathering," Baker muses.

Naturally, bloggers feeling their holiday cheer are seizing on Totenberg's comment. They will not pardon the expression, not one bit.

I wonder how often Ms. Totenberg has had to apologize for calling Christmas, well, Christmas during the course of her hip, chatty DC cocktail circuit conversations with liberal elites who turn their noses up at all things traditionally Christian? ... When you bring this issue up to liberals, oftentimes they laugh and accuse you of being one of those conservatives who 'takes things too seriously' and who should 'lighten up in the spirit of the season.'  In response, I note that the 'spirit of the season' is exactly why I and many others who share my viewpoint take the saying of the word Christmas so seriously.  Give liberals like Totenberg and other politically correct people in this country an inch on this issue and they will take a mile. ... it's liberals who did take the issue seriously enough to get politicos and businesses, etc, to 'moderate' their 'holiday greetings,' who put people like me and you in the position of feeling they  had to take a stand in favor of saying Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays.
  • Remember Juan Williams, Don Surber notes at the Charleston Daily Mail. Referring to Williams's firing from NPR because he said he was scared to be on an airplane with folks in Muslim garb, Surber says: "Don't worry. [Totenberg] only insulted Christians, not Muslims so she will keep her job."
  • She Must Be Nuts, Creative Minority Report's Patrick Archbold says. Noting that Totenberg her remark "without the least bit of levity or irony," he writes, "These people are insane. There is no other way to say it. In their feeble little liberal minds, to even say the word Christmas is so offensive that it must be apologized for in advance."
  • Totenberg Has an Odd Relationship with Religion, Townhall's Katie Pavlich observes. Pavlich points to a moment in 1995, when Totenberg, again on Inside Washington, uttered a rather unfortunate remark during a discussion about AIDS. "This," Pavlich writes, "is the same woman who wished AIDS upon Senator Jesse Helms after he suggested AIDS funding be reduced. 'I think he ought to be worried about what's going on in the good Lord's mind because if there is retributive justice, he'll get AIDS through a transfusion or one of his grandchildren will.' Apparently, Totenberg is only comfortable using religion as a tool to wish ill on others."
  • Time for a Little More War on Christmas?  Ann Althouse asks her readers. After quoting Totenberg, Althouse offers a handy quiz. Would her readers like her to write more on the issue? Do they understand the problem with the quote? The options: (a) "More words. I don't get it. I'm as confused as [Newsbusters'] Baker purports to be." (b) "More words. Like Baker, I'm itching for a battle in the War on Christmas." (c) "Say no more. You're hostile to Christianity. Like Baker, I get it." (d) "Say no more. I understand the problem that Totenberg acknowledged with a friendly light touch. (e) "Say no more. I understand the problem that elites like you and Totenberg like to trump up."