Front-page LA Times article presents McCain's troop snub charge as he-said-she-said, but McCain camp admitted it "seem[s]" to be false

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

A front-page Los Angeles Times article reported that Sen. John McCain "has attacked [Sen. Barack] Obama for canceling a visit to wounded U.S. soldiers at a military hospital because he couldn't bring reporters along. Obama's campaign has angrily disputed the charge as false and misleading." But in depicting the issue as a point of contention between the Obama and McCain campaigns, the article did not note that the McCain campaign has since acknowledged that the attack, which it had included in a campaign ad, "seem[s]" to be inaccurate. Nor did the article note that numerous reports, including a separate Times article that same day, have supported the Obama campaign's position that the attack is "false and misleading."

In a front-page July 31 Los Angeles Times article, staff writers Bob Drogin and Peter Nicholas reported that Sen. John McCain "has attacked [Sen. Barack] Obama for canceling a visit to wounded U.S. soldiers at a military hospital because he couldn't bring reporters along. Obama's campaign has angrily disputed the charge as false and misleading." But in depicting the issue as a point of contention between the Obama and McCain campaigns, Drogin and Nicholas did not note that the McCain campaign has since acknowledged that the attack, which it had included in a campaign ad, "seem[s]" to be inaccurate. Nor did Drogin and Nicholas note that note that numerous reports have supported the Obama campaign's position that the attack is "false and misleading." Indeed, in a separate July 31 Times article, staff writer James Rainey highlighted a Washington Post report that he said "showed that Obama never planned to take the media to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, putting the lie to charges from John McCain that the Democrat was on the prowl for a cheap photo op."

As Media Matters for America has noted, the McCain campaign ad falsely suggests that Obama "canceled a visit with wounded troops" because "the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras." In a June 30 blog post, McCain deputy communications director Michael Goldfarb wrote, "It does now seem that Barack Obama snubbed the troops for reasons other than a lack of photo-op potential." Additionally, after MSNBC host Joe Scarborough asked why the McCain campaign thought Obama didn't visit the troops on the July 29 edition of Morning Joe, campaign manager Rick Davis acknowledged: "I don't know what the truth is."

In his "On the Media" article in the Los Angeles Times, Rainey reported:

The Washington Post published a smart, thorough takedown Wednesday of the baseless charge that Barack Obama spurned a visit with wounded troops because he couldn't turn the trip into a public relations coup.

Reporters Michael D. Shear and Dan Balz showed that Obama never planned to take the media to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, putting the lie to charges from John McCain that the Democrat was on the prowl for a cheap photo op.

Indeed, the July 30 Post article, headlined "McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence," reported: "For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true."

Similarly, as Media Matters for America documented, on the July 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell stated, "There was never any intention -- let me be absolutely clear about this. The press was never going to go. The entourage was never going to go. There was never an intention to make this political." She later said, "And the McCain commercial on this subject is completely wrong, factually wrong." ABC senior national correspondent Jake Tapper and Time national political correspondent Karen Tumulty both also noted that the McCain campaign has provided "no evidence" to support the ad's suggestion that Obama canceled the visit because "the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras."

From Drogin and Nicholas' Times article:

For McCain, the new and sharply negative tone toward Obama could damage the Republican's image as a maverick who rejects the attack-dog politics of traditional Washington.

The Arizona senator's new TV ad shows pictures of Obama's speech last week to an estimated 200,000 people at an outdoor event in Berlin, comparing his celebrity to that of pop culture figures [Paris] Hilton and [Britney] Spears. "But is he ready to lead?" it asks.

In addition to launching the ad, McCain recently has accused Obama of being willing to lose the war in Iraq in order to win the November election. Over the course of several days, he also has attacked Obama for canceling a visit to wounded U.S. soldiers at a military hospital because he couldn't bring reporters along. Obama's campaign has angrily disputed the charge as false and misleading.

David Winston, a GOP operative in Washington, argues that McCain has erred by issuing negative personal attacks. McCain should put Obama on the defensive by highlighting their policy differences on taxes, energy and national security, he said.

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