A Media Matters for America analysis of news coverage of recent controversial statements by two Democrats and two Republicans revealed that the news media devoted far more attention to the Democrats' remarks than to the Republicans'. Media Matters compared the coverage allotted to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), who referenced Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany while criticizing Republican senators, to the coverage given Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who stated that South Carolinians had not yet gotten over Abraham Lincoln. Media Matters also compared the coverage given to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), who invoked the 9-11 terrorist attacks in discussing the Bush administration's proposed 2006 budget, with coverage of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who invoked a "car-bomb[ing]" when criticizing Indiana Democrats.
Byrd spoke on the Senate floor March 1 about Republicans' threats to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" -- a change in longstanding Senate rules that would ban the use of filibustering for judicial nominations:
Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men. But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler's dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that 'Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.' And he succeeded.
Graham said at a Lincoln Day dinner for Republicans in Tennessee on March 5: "We don't do Lincoln Day dinners in South Carolina. It's nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things."
O'Malley reacted to George W. Bush's proposed 2006 budget and its planned cuts to urban development programs on February 8: "Back on September 11, terrorists attacked our metropolitan cores, two of America's great cities. They did that because they knew that was where they could do the most damage and weaken us the most. Years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief, the president of the United States. And with a budget ax, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core."
Daniels criticized Democratic state representatives for a legislative boycott that killed a number of bills: "Indiana's drive for growth and reform was car-bombed yesterday by the Indiana House minority."
According to a search of the Nexis database, in the five days (as of this posting) since Graham's March 5 comment, the following news outlets have covered it: National Journal's CongressDaily (3/7); CNN's Inside Politics (3/8); and the White House Bulletin, Roll Call, and Frontrunner (all 3/9). By contrast, in the same period of time (March 1-6) since Byrd made his comment, major media outlets, including cable news, network news programs, and the Associated Press, have covered it:
|Byrd's comment||Graham's comment|
In the eight days since Daniels's March 2 comment, the Associated Press, The Indianapolis Star, and other newspapers in Indiana and Kentucky have covered the remark. But over the same number of days (February 9-16), O'Malley's comment garnered attention on cable news programs and in major newspapers such as The Washington Post:
|O'Malley's comment||Daniels's comment|
Inside Politics offered a case study in the news media's coverage of controversial comments by Democrats versus Republicans. On the March 8 edition of the show, coverage of Graham's comments was limited to the end of the show's "Inside the Blogs" segment, when CNN blog correspondent Jacki Schechner reported: "And then, real quickly, from the um, OK department, DC's Inside Scoop picked up some comments by Lindsey Graham, Senator Lindsey Graham, and he was talking at a Lincoln Day dinner in Tennessee. He's actually a Republican from South Carolina, and he says, quote: 'We don't do Lincoln Day dinners in South Carolina, it's nothing personal, but it takes a while to get over things.' The blogosphere is picking this one up and having some comments on it -- Judy."
With regard to Byrd, the March 2 Inside Politics featured the video of his remarks, and host Judy Woodruff reported that "[t]he GOP is lambasting Senator Robert Byrd for apparently drawing a comparison between Senate Republicans and Adolf Hitler." Woodruff also quoted Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman's response to Byrd. Later in the same show, Schechner and CNN political producer Abbi Tatton further discussed conservative bloggers' reaction to Byrd's remarks.