Following pattern in the media, CNN's King uncritically repeated McCain campaign's false attacks on Democrats

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On The Situation Room, John King uncritically reported that "[i]n a statement, a McCain spokesman took a shot at the other party, saying, 'Americans can't afford the Democrats' liberal agenda to raise taxes, nationalize health care, cut off trade, and crush the economy under big government.' " Following what has become a pattern in the media, King failed to note the significant falsehoods and misleading claims in McCain's statement and simply read it without challenge.

After discussing Sen. Hillary Clinton's new campaign ad with senior political correspondent Candy Crowley on the April 2 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, guest host John King uncritically reported that "[i]n a statement, a McCain spokesman took a shot at the other party, saying, 'Americans can't afford the Democrats' liberal agenda to raise taxes, nationalize health care, cut off trade, and crush the economy under big government.' " But McCain's statement included significant falsehoods and misleading claims, which McCain has promoted and which the media have frequently reported without challenge. Indeed, King did exactly that, simply reading McCain's claims.

The assertion that Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama would "raise taxes" is misleading. As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, despite the claims of McCain and his campaign advisers, Clinton and Obama have, in fact, proposed tax cuts for the poor and the middle class. As The New York Times noted, Obama has proposed "at least $80 billion a year in tax cuts to middle-class workers, homeowners and retirees." Clinton's campaign website says that she would "[l]ower taxes for middle class families by: extending the middle class tax cuts including child tax credit and marriage penalty relief, offering new tax cuts for healthcare, college and retirement, and expanding the EITC [earned income tax credit] and the child care tax credit."

The assertion that the Democrats want to "nationalize health care" is false. As Media Matters noted when Fox News host Sean Hannity suggested Clinton was "gonna nationalize health care," the Clinton plan provides consumers with the option of obtaining government-managed health insurance; the plan does not provide for government-run health care. As Media Matters also noted, Obama's health-care plan does not require the government to manage or fund health insurance for all Americans; rather, his plan allows individuals to keep -- and pay for -- their private health insurance if they so choose, while establishing "a new public insurance program, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP [the State Children's Health Insurance Program] nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees."

The assertion that the Democrats want to "cut off trade" recalls a claim by former Republican vice presidential candidate and Copley News Service columnist Jack Kemp that Clinton and Obama have "call[ed] for a halt to trade with Canada and Mexico." In fact, neither Clinton nor Obama has called for a halt to trade with Canada or Mexico. Rather, both have spoken of "opt[ing] out" of NAFTA if the agreement is not renegotiated. Moreover, Clinton's campaign website says that "[s]he will also ensure that trade policies work for average Americans. Trade policy must raise our standard of living, and they must have strong protections for workers and the environment." Obama's campaign website says that "Obama will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. He will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks."

From the April 2 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

KING: Hillary Clinton is unleashing a new TV ad warning about dangers in the middle of the night. This time, she's targeting Republican John McCain and whether he could handle an economic crisis. Listen to this.

[begin video clip]

NARRATOR: There's a phone ringing in the White House. And this time, the crisis is economic: home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering. John McCain just said the government shouldn't take any real action in the housing crisis. He'd let the phone keep ringing.

Hillary Clinton has a plan to protect our homes, create jobs. It's 3 a.m. -- time for a president who's ready.

CLINTON: I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message.

[end video clip]

KING: The economy, of course, Issue One for Americans, including many Democrats still trying to choose between Clinton and Barack Obama.

[...]

KING: And, Candy, another 3 a.m. phone-call ad from Senator Clinton, but a different target this time. What's this all about?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Well, what's -- what's interesting is that the 3 a.m. ad, as you know, against Barack Obama was all about national security. It was seen as a very effective ad by the Clinton campaign. It ran in Texas. She won, at least the primary section of Texas.

So, now they're running it against John McCain. And I think this is -- there's a double message here. First of all, she has been pounding McCain very hard on the campaign trail, as you know, saying, "Listen, he says he doesn't know anything about the economy, and it's sure showing," that sort of thing. So this now puts that ad up there.

But in addition to taking out after John McCain, as you know, it kind of elevates the race for her. She's no longer looking at Barack Obama. She's looking toward the fall, and that sort of sends a message: "Hey, who's the presidential one here? Who can beat John McCain? It's me." So, that's the message of that ad.

KING: And we shall see if it works. Still a little bit of ways to go to Pennsylvania.

Candy Crowley for us. Candy, thanks so much.

And the McCain campaign responded quickly to the new Clinton ad, saying the Republican is ready to lead on the economy, get it back on track by cutting spending and lowering taxes.

In a statement, a McCain spokesman took a shot at the other party, saying, "Americans can't afford the Democrats' liberal agenda to raise taxes, nationalize health care, cut off trade, and crush the economy under big government."

New evidence today that John McCain hasn't been able to patch all the cracks in Republican unity. Christian conservative leader James Dobson is accusing McCain of fracturing the party instead of bringing it together. This as McCain makes a list of possible running mates and presses on with his biography tour.

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
Network/Outlet
CNN
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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