On MSNBC Live, Andrea Mitchell followed Contessa Brewer in airing a heavily cropped version of former President Bill Clinton's remarks on Meet the Press in which Clinton seemingly declined to respond in the affirmative when asked by Meet the Press host Tom Brokaw if he would say he "admire[s]" Sen. Barack Obama and "think[s] he's a ... great man." Mitchell called Clinton's comments "hardly an endorsement" of Obama and "not as effusive as you would expect." But Mitchell did not air or otherwise note Clinton's statements moments later that he "certainly admire[s]" Obama and that Obama's "greatness will ... become apparent" when he is elected president.
Should any one be surprised by the fact that the ratings for Friday night's presidential debate, once put in historical perspective, were rather mediocre? (Eleventh best overall, to be exact.) Or why, with approximately 57 million total viewers, the debate attracted only ¾ of the audience the co-chair of Commission on Presidential Debates predicted they would, and 40 million fewer than what MSNBC's Chris Matthews confidently predicted last week?
Despite the relentless media hype about the debate, there's no big press mystery about the lackluster viewership. The debate was held on Friday night and on Friday night not as many Americans stay home and watch TV. (Nielsen has known this for approximately three decades.) And that Friday night (non) viewing pattern is even more pronounced during the fall football season.
Why the commission, whose stated mission is to expose as many viewers as possible to the candidates, chose to have the first, and usually most important, debate on Friday night always struck us as being slightly coo-coo. But almost just as odd was the fact that the Beltway press last week, busy dissecting every last angle of the debate preview story (what the topics would be, who ran the candidates' debate practice sessions, etc.) steadfastly refused to raise the issue of a Friday night debate. For most reporters and pundits, Friday night seemed like a perfectly normal time to broadcast a presidential forum.
That notion, along with the way-off predictions that 80 or 100 million people would tune in, just seemed to highlight how out of touch the political press often is with folks beyond the Beltway.
A Wall Street Journal Washington Wire blog post reported that Rep. Tom Feeney, who, in a new ad, apologizes for a 2003 trip he took to Scotland financed by Jack Abramoff, "re-paid the $5,643 cost of the trip to the U.S. Treasury." But the blog post did not note that, according to a plea agreement by another trip attendee, the trip had "costs exceeding $160,000" for Abramoff and the seven other participants, or at least $20,000 per person.
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.
On Hannity & Colmes, Dick Morris said of Gov. Sarah Palin: "[T]here's a fight going on between her sister and her husband and the husband tasered the kid." But the issues raised by this "fight" are not merely issues of family discord; Palin has been accused of misusing her office in allegedly pressuring the Alaska public safety commissioner to fire Palin's sister's former husband, a state trooper, which the commissioner, who was subsequently fired, refused to do.
On Your World, Neil Cavuto did not challenge Rep. Michelle Bachmann's false claim that "[w]e didn't have any spillage whatsoever from the oil rigs during Katrina." In fact, a report prepared for the federal government by an international consulting firm identified damage from Hurricane Katrina to 27 platforms and rigs that resulted in the spilling of approximately 2,843 barrels of petroleum products into the Gulf of Mexico.
Syndicated columnist Debra Saunders and CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck both falsely claimed that Gov. Sarah Palin supports benefits for same-sex partners of state employees. In fact, while Palin did veto a bill that would have prevented state officials from granting spousal benefits to same-sex couples, she stated that she did so because the Alaska attorney general had advised her that the bill was unconstitutional, not because she supported spousal benefits for same-sex couples. She has also reportedly said that she would support a ballot question banning benefits for same-sex couples.
On CNN, Alex Castellanos falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama has never held a job for four years. In fact, Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992-2004, served in the Illinois senate from 1997-2004, and held positions as associate and of counsel at the law firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland from 1993-2002.
On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell falsely asserted that Sen. John McCain had not set a "threshold" that his vice presidential pick would be someone "ready to step in on a moment's notice." In fact, McCain has said that the "overwhelming priority" for his selection "is a person who shares my principles, my values, my priorities ... and could be -- immediately take my place."
G. Gordon Liddy asserted on his nationally syndicated radio show: "[W]e still don't have a birth certificate for [Sen. Barack] Obama. There are claims that he was actually born in Kenya." The Washington Times' Wesley Pruden similarly wrote that a "summer-long controversy continues about when and where the senator was actually born" and falsely asserted that "[t]he Obama campaign has been reluctant to produce a birth certificate." In fact, the Obama campaign has released Obama's birth certificate, and even the right-wing website WorldNetDaily has reported that claims about Obama's birth certificate being fraudulent are false.
The AP reported that Sen. John McCain "has expressed limited support for the rights accorded couples in same-sex civil unions" and that he "oppos[es] a constitutional amendment to ban abortion." But the AP's assertions about McCain's views are contradicted by statements McCain himself has made, which the AP did not report.
On his radio show, Bill O'Reilly falsely suggested that no state would prohibit abortions in cases of rape and incest if such a prohibition were constitutional. In fact, at least two states, South Dakota and Louisiana, have passed laws to take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned that prohibit abortions even in cases of rape and incest.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported as fact the false allegation that Sen. Harry Reid received political contributions from Jack Abramoff. While Reid received contributions from Abramoff's firm's PAC (to which Abramoff did not contribute) and from some of Abramoff's partners and clients, a Center for Responsive Politics breakdown of Abramoff's donations confirms that Abramoff himself made contributions only to Republicans, not Democrats.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncritically quoted a Republican National Committee spokeswoman's false assertion that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "took nearly $68,000 from [former Washington lobbyist Jack] Abramoff." In fact, Abramoff made contributions only to Republicans, not Democrats.