NY Times, AP, Fox's Doocy report McCain's "most liberal senator" claim of Obama, but not McCain's voting record or subjectivity of National Journal study

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

Articles by the AP and The New York Times uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain's labeling of Sen. Barack Obama as "the most liberal" senator without mentioning that the National Journal rankings to which McCain was referring did not offer a ranking for McCain himself because he "did not vote frequently enough" to receive one. They also did not mention that the ranking was based on subjectively selected votes, or that a separate study that considers all non-unanimous votes offers a notably different ranking for Obama.

In uncritically quoting Sen. John McCain's labeling of Sen. Barack Obama as "the most liberal" senator, the Associated Press and The New York Times both failed to report that, according to the National Journal, whose results McCain was referring to, McCain himself "did not vote frequently enough" to receive a rating. Nor did they report that the National Journal ranking was based on votes selected by National Journal staff, or that a separate study by political science professors Keith Poole and Jeff Lewis that was based on all 388 non-unanimous Senate votes during 2007 produced a different result.

In a June 2 article, AP writer Liz Sidoti uncritically quoted McCain as saying: "I think it's clear I have a record of working across the aisle. Senator Obama does not. I think it's my record of reform and efforts to change the way we do business in Washington. He has the most liberal voting record of any senator in the U.S. Senate." Similarly, a June 4 New York Times article quoted McCain as saying Obama had "accumulated the most liberal voting record in the Senate."

The AP also left unchallenged McCain's assertion that he has "a record of working across the aisle" to "change the way we do business in Washington." In fact, in a January 13 article (accessed via the Nexis database) in Congressional Quarterly, a non-partisan publication that tracks legislators' votes, found that McCain was the Bush administration's most reliable vote in 2007: "Repeated votes on immigration and the Iraq War also helped elevate Republican John McCain of Arizona, one of Bush's chief adversaries in the Senate in 2005, to be one of his biggest supporters in 2007. McCain's 95 percent support score for last year was the highest in the chamber."

Also, on the June 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy repeated the "most liberal" claim about Obama, and further mischaracterized McCain's record, stating: "We've looked at the studies that suggest that Barack Obama could be the most liberal senator in the U.S. Senate, and meanwhile, John McCain, more in the middle." Doocy's characterization is also contradicted by the American Conservative Union, which gave McCain a score of 80 out of 100 on the basis of his votes in 2007, and a lifetime score of 82.16. By way of comparison, in 2007 Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine -- generally considered to be moderate Republicans -- scored 28 and 36, respectively.

From the January 13 Congressional Quarterly Weekly article:

On a few occasions, Republicans defected wholesale from the president's side. In the Senate, they twice blocked action on bills to overhaul immigration policy, combining enhanced border security with temporary-worker programs and a path to citizenship for people already in the United States illegally.

Repeated votes on immigration and the Iraq War also helped elevate Republican John McCain of Arizona, one of Bush's chief adversaries in the Senate in 2005, to be one of his biggest supporters in 2007. McCain's 95 percent support score for last year was the highest in the chamber.

From the June 4 New York Times article:

In an advance version of a speech he was to deliver Tuesday night in St. Paul, Mr. Obama said that "while John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign." He said Mr. McCain stood with Mr. Bush 95 percent of the time in the Senate last year.

Mr. McCain took square aim at Mr. Obama, proclaiming that he had "accumulated the most liberal voting record in the Senate," mocking him for belief in diplomacy with enemy nations and even criticizing him for voting for Mr. Bush's energy bill, which Mr. McCain opposed.

"You know, I have a few years on my opponent," said Mr. McCain, 71, "so I am surprised that a young man has bought into so many failed ideas."

From the June 2 AP article:

Previewing his remarks, McCain told reporters on his campaign bus in Nashville, Tenn.: "The message is change. It's real change. I think it's clear I have a record of working across the aisle. Senator Obama does not. I think it's my record of reform and efforts to change the way we do business in Washington. He has the most liberal voting record of any senator in the U.S. Senate."

An Obama spokesman responded by arguing that despite McCain's "occasional independence" from the GOP, he has embraced most of President Bush's agenda. "No matter how hard he tries to spin it otherwise, that kind of record is simply not the change the American people are looking for or deserve," Bill Burton said.

For weeks now, Obama has been portraying McCain as a Washington insider who offers nothing more than a third term of Bush and a continuation of partisan politics that turns off people.

From the June 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

MIKE DUNCAN (RNC chairman): Our candidate believes in growing the economy, believes in protecting America, reforming our government, and their candidate believes more of the liberal same of the past. So, after tonight, I think people in Minneapolis-St. Paul are going to have a better idea about Barack Obama.

DOOCY: And, in fact, there's going to be a real choice because, you know, we've looked at the studies that suggest that Barack Obama could be the most liberal senator in the U.S. senator -- in the U.S. Senate, and meanwhile, John McCain, more in the middle. Would you rather have a guy more to the right or more in the middle right now?

DUNCAN: Well, John McCain is the right candidate for the Republican Party at this time in history. John McCain is getting about 9 out of 10 Republican voters and he's appealing to Democrat voters. If you look at exit polls from Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, you'll see that he's reaching across the aisle and he's bringing a lot of the old Reagan Democrats back to the Republican Party, and we're pleased with that.

DOOCY: All right, very good. RNC chair Mike Duncan, we thank you very much for joining us today from D.C.

Posted In
Government, The Senate
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, Associated Press, National Journal Group
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends, National Journal
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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