Elections

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  • CBS' Schieffer didn't ask McCain whether Fred Thompson "denigrate[d]" and "attack[ed]" McCain's military service

    ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    In an RNC speech, former Sen. Fred Thompson said of Sen. John McCain, "[B]eing a POW doesn't qualify anyone to be president. But it does reveal character." Similarly, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, in a July appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, told host Bob Schieffer that McCain was "a hero," and that "I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war," but that "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president." But while Schieffer suggested in July that Clark "denigrate[d]" and "attack[ed]" McCain's "military service," he did not ask McCain about Thompson's remarks during a September 7 interview on Face the Nation.

  • Tulsa World reported Inhofe's smears of Obama's patriotism without rebutting purported evidence

    ››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

    A Tulsa World article uncritically quoted Sen. James Inhofe stating, "I am not questioning Sen. [Barack] Obama's patriotism, but you have to question why at times he seems so obviously opposed to public displays of patriotism and national pride, like wearing an American flag lapel pin." The article failed to note that Obama is not "opposed" to "wearing an American flag lapel pin" or that Sen. John McCain reportedly said he doesn't wear a flag lapel pin on a daily basis.

  • Even as Obama Nation author Corsi claimed Obama campaign didn't "prove a single falsehood," he corrected several of them

    ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Obama Nation author Jerome Corsi asserted that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign "failed to prove a single falsehood contained in pages of the book." Corsi then went on to provide a list of 11 "corrections to the next printing of The Obama Nation" -- many of which correct falsehoods documented by the Obama campaign or Media Matters.

  • For hours, Fox News reported GOP claims about American flags -- which Cameron called "the Stars and Bars" -- before providing Dem response

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & CHRISTINE SCHWEN

    On September 6, Fox News' America's Election HQ aired numerous reports documenting claims by Republicans and the McCain campaign that they "rescued" American flags that were going to be "disposed of" by the Democrats after their convention at Invesco Field. But during the reports, Fox News gave no indication that it had sought to contact a Democratic Party official or Obama campaign spokesperson for comment, and only reported a Democratic response hours after it began reporting the Republican claims.

  • Jonathan Weisman's failure to understand history

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    During an online discussion yesterday, Washington Post congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman downplayed the significance of John McCain voting with George Bush 90 percent of the time. As Media Matters explained, Weisman's comments demonstrated an apparent lack of understanding how that statistic was determined.

    But that wasn't the only mistake Weisman made during the discussion. Here's how he responded to a comment about the media's role in the 2000 election:

    2000 Debates: Are actually one of the most interesting moments for media criticism. Following the debates the media and the public generally believed Gore had trampled Bush. But the next morning GOP operatives started pushing around the "Sighs" and other purported Gore gaffes and that became the new reality. These guys haven't been in power for 26 of the last 28 years because they don't know how to alter reality.

    Jonathan Weisman: I disagree. I was at those debates, and when Al Gore started badgering Bush on his position on "Dingell-Ganske," I knew all hope was lost. That was a reference, by the way, to the Patients Bill of Rights, not that 99 percent of Americans had a clue what he was talking about.

    Weisman's response has several flaws:

    First, Weisman can disagree all he wants, but the fact is that the commenter was correct: the instant polls taken immediately after the first debate in 2000 found that viewers thought Gore won them, as Bob Somerby explained. It was only after the media worked themselves into a nit-picking frenzy about Gore's supposed sighs - sighs that hadn't bothered real-time viewers -- that opinion shifted. Disagreeing with that is disagreeing with objective reality.

    Second, The commenter mentioned the media's fixation on Gore's "sighs"; Weisman responded by pointing to Gore's references to "Dingell-Ganske." Problem is, the sighs came in the first debate; the references to the Patients Bill of Rights came in the last debate. It should be obvious that something that happened during the last debate can't explain away the press's effect on public opinion immediately following the first debate.

    Third, It wasn't "Dingell-Ganske." It was Dingell-Norwood.

    Finally, Weisman's snide comment about Gore "badgering" Bush about Dingell-Norwood (not Ganske) is wrong in a variety of ways.

    To start with: If 99 percent of the viewing audience didn't know what Gore was talking about when he mentioned Dingell-Norwood, they must not have been paying much attention. Gore didn't, as Weisman suggests, simply refer to "Dingell-Norwood" and expect the audience to know what he was talking about. He explained what it was. Repeatedly.

    The very first time Gore said the words "Dingell-Norwood," it came at the end of an answer - an answer that began with Gore using the phrase "Patients Bill of Rights." He then explained the need for it, and then, at the end, he referred to it as "Dingell-Norwood." And this was in response to the very first question. If the audience - or, to be more precise, Jonathan Weisman - didn't understand what Gore was talking about when he referred to the bill as "Dingell-Norwood," it simply means they hadn't been paying attention at all.

    Why did Gore refer to it as Dingell-Norwood?

    This is actually really simple: George W. Bush was running around also claiming to support a "Patients Bill of Rights." By invoking a specific piece of bipartisan legislation - the bill sponsored by Representatives Dingell and Norwood - that Bush did not support, Gore was trying to prevent Bush from pretending there was no difference between the two candidates.

    And that's just what Bush did in his response to Gore. Here's the end of Gore's answer: "I support a strong national patient's bill of rights. It is actually a disagreement between us, a national law that is pending on this, the Dingle-Norwood bill, a bipartisan bill, is one that I support and that the governor does not."

    And here's how Bush responded: "Actually, Mr. Vice President, it's not true. I do support a national patient's bill of rights."

    After Bush was finished, moderator Jim Lehrer said to Gore: "would you agree that you two agree on a national patient's bill of rights?"

    That's why Gore made clear that he was talking about Dingell-Norwood: Bush was trying to pretend the two candidates agreed on a patients bill of rights, and the media was going along with that nonsense - in this case, via debate moderator Jim Lehrer who explicitly (and falsely) took Bush's side.

    So Gore had to respond to Lehrer: "Absolutely not. I referred to the Dingell-Norwood bill. It is the bipartisan bill that is now pending in the Congress. The HMOs and the insurance companies support the other bill that's pending, the one that the Republican majority has put forward. ... I specifically would like to know whether Governor Bush will support the Dingle-Norwood bill, which is the main one pending."

    Here's what had happened at this point in the exchange: Gore had explained that he supported a specific piece of patients' rights legislation - Dingell-Norwood. Bush had responded broadly, saying he supported a patients rights bill - but not saying which one. Lehrer had then asserted that the candidates agreed on the matter, leading Gore to point out that they did not - that Bush had not yet said whether he supported specific legislation. And Gore then asked Bush directly whether he supported that legislation.

    So what did Jim Lehrer do? He told Bush "Governor Bush, you may answer that if you'd like."

    After Bush had falsely suggested that the two candidates agreed on the matter, Gore asked a simple question, the answer to which would make clear whether they really did. And Jim Lehrer told Bush he could answer - if he wanted to. That's nothing short of malpractice by Lehrer. Incidentally, Jim Lehrer will moderate the first of this year's presidential debates in three weeks.

    Bush took the out Lehrer gave him, and offered yet another vague response that didn't answer the basic question of whether he supported the specific legislation at hand. So Gore asked him again.

    That's the "badgering" Weisman describes: Moderator Jim Lehrer refused to do his job; instead, he falsely helped Bush try to fool viewers into thinking the two candidates agreed. So Gore asked Bush a simple and direct question - a simple and direct question that Bush didn't answer. So Gore asked it again.

    And that's why Gore referred to the bill as "Dingell-Norwood" -- because Bush (and Lehrer) were pretending that supporting any bill was the same thing as supporting the bill.

    The media's failure in all this should be obvious: Lehrer's job was to clarify, not muddy the waters - a job he simply refused to do, preferring to help Bush avoid getting pinned down on his position on one of the central issues of the campaign. Any reasonably thoughtful person would probably assume that media coverage of that exchange would focus on Bush's refusal to say one way or another whether he supported the bill. Instead, as Weisman's comments demonstrate, they mocked Gore for wanting to know whether Bush supported it.

    So, back to Weisman.

    In Jonathan Weisman's telling, Gore "badgered" Bush. The transcript makes clear that he did not; that the noteworthy part of the exchange is Bush's refusal to tell the American people where he stood on a key issue - and Jim Lehrer's jaw-droppingly incompetent performance.

    In Jonathan Weisman's telling, viewers had no idea what Gore meant when he said "Dingell-Ganske." In reality, Gore had referred to "Dingell-Norwood," and had explained quite clearly what that was.

    And in Jonathan Weisman's telling, this is why people thought Gore did poorly in the debates - even though this exchange came in the last debate, after the media narrative about Gore's poor performances had already taken hold.

    Now, here's why this matters; why this is more than historical trivia. Jonathan Weisman covers politics for one of the nation's most influential newspapers. He covers, among other things, the current presidential campaign. And apparently has no idea - none at all -- how the media affected the 2000 presidential campaign. If he doesn't understand what his profession did wrong then, how is he to avoid making the same mistakes this time? This is a point Bob Somerby makes regularly, and he's right: until people understand what happened in 2000, there's no reason to think it will stop happening.

  • CBS' Rodriguez allowed McCain adviser to claim unchallenged that Obama "has a plan to raise" taxes

    ››› ››› TOM ALLISON

    On CBS' The Early Show, Maggie Rodriguez did not challenge McCain campaign adviser Steve Schmidt's claim that "Senator [Barack] Obama has a plan to raise" taxes, even though McCain's own chief economic adviser has reportedly said it is inaccurate to say "Barack Obama raises taxes." Rodriguez did not point out that, in fact, Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families and raising them only on households earning more than $250,000 per year.

  • Tribune's Silva repeated Palin claim that "Obama-Biden" Dems have attacked her family -- but didn't note complete lack of evidence

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva repeated Gov. Sarah Palin's claim that "the Obama-Biden Democrats have been vicious in their attacks directed toward ... my family," but gave no indication that he had challenged Republican aides to substantiate Palin's charge with examples of purported attacks. By contrast, while reporting the charge, NBC, ABC, and the AP all reported that when asked to provide examples of such attacks, Palin aides, the McCain campaign, and the RNC did not provide any.

  • The press is offended by the McCain campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Not only by its decision to run against the press (after journalists for so many years selflessly promoted McCain), but by the campaign's decision to permanently seal Palin off from the media. Here, Time's Jay Carney airs his disgust.

  • Somebody isn't telling the truth -- will MSNBC tell us who?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Ok, let's try another approach. Earlier today on MSNBC, Obama strategist Robert Gibbs said of Palin's speech: "I don't know that it was heavy on actual facts. She got a lot of that wrong." Host Andrea Mitchell didn't engage on the topic of the truthfulness of Palin's speech.

    Now, one of two things is true: either Sarah Palin got a lot wrong during her speech last night, or Robert Gibbs is making false claims about Sarah Palin.

    Conservatives have been attacking the media for being unfair to Sarah Palin. Allowing an Obama strategist to make unrebutted attacks on Palin's truthfulness can't make those conservatives happy. So I assume they'll join me in asking MSNBC to tell their viewers whether Gibbs' criticism was accurate. I mean, MSNBC shouldn't just allow Gibbs to accuse Palin of getting things wrong without either confirming or debunking his claims, should they?

    Who's with me? Newsbusters? Malkin? Anyone?

  • Scrappy?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Tristero compares the New York Times' coverage of convention speeches by Palin & Biden:

    In his opening paragraphs, John Broder wrote a nearly completely objective report of Biden's speech. Bumiller and Cooper used almost every possible rhetorical device they could pack in to two grafs to signal their support not only for Palin but also for the "scrappy, rebellious former prisoner of war in Vietnam whose campaign was resurrected from near-death a year ago."

  • Pointless.

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    MSNBC's post-Palin-speech coverage has consisted entirely of various reporters sitting around talking about how successful the speech was, speculating about how voters will react to it. But viewers don't need to be told how they'll react to Palin's presentation -- they can react to it all by themselves, without being told how to react by a bunch of pundits.

    Meanwhile, not one MSNBC reporter has said a single word about whether what Palin said was accurate. That's something viewers do need; something they can't easily ascertain on their own. MSNBC has had the text of this speech for hours, and they haven't yet gotten around to telling viewers whether Palin told the truth in it.

    Like her claim about the "bridge to nowhere." Was that correct? (Answer: No, not really. But don't expect MSNBC to tell you that; they'd rather blather on pointlessly about how viewers will react to the speech. Which becomes self-fulfilling: those viewers would, no doubt, react a bit differently if the media told them Palin didn't tell the truth.)

  • Media giving Biden a pass? Not quite.

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Marc Ambinder says the McCain camp's assault on the media has some merit: "The McCain campaign's anger at the media is both genuine and contrived. Where are the stories about Joe Biden's lobbyist son?"

    Well, here are some:

    Washington Post

    USA Today

    ABC

    Bloomberg

    Wall Street Journal

    National Journal

    AP

    Los Angeles Times

    There's a lot more, and The Google makes it easy to quickly find much of it.

    But it's a little harder to find major media mentions of the fact that John McCain's wife was business partners with Charles Keating around the time McCain met with regulators on Keating's behalf. And how many news reports have told voters how much the McCains would save under his tax plan?

    Throughout the Democratic primaries, journalists kept insisting that they'd get around to scrutinizing McCain eventually, once the Democrats chose a nominee. They still haven't done so -- not in any serious way. Presumably, the substance-free McCain complaints about the media are an effort to keep it that way. And reporters are falling for it.