NBC, Fox didn't challenge McCain's false claim that Obama was community organizer when Palin was in office

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

During separate interviews on NBC's Nightly News and Fox News Sunday, Sen. John McCain falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama was a community organizer when Gov. Sarah Palin was in elected office. Neither NBC's Brian Williams nor Fox's Chris Wallace noted that McCain's claim is false. In fact, Palin was an undergraduate at the University of Idaho when Obama was a community organizer.

During an interview on the August 31 edition of NBC's Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams did not challenge Sen. John McCain's false claim that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin "was in elected office when Senator [Barack] Obama was still a, quote, 'community organizer.' " Similarly, during the August 31 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace did not challenge McCain's false claim that "when she [Palin] was in government, he [Obama] was a community organizer." Neither Williams nor Wallace noted that McCain's claim that Palin was in government while Obama was a community organizer is false, as the website Politifact.com has noted.

In fact, when Obama was a community organizer, from 1985-1988, Palin was an undergraduate at the University of Idaho (until 1987) and then -- according to National Journal's Almanac of American Politics -- was a television sports reporter. Palin joined the Wasilla city council -- her first elected office -- in 1992, the year Obama served as director of Chicago's Project Vote! -- the local chapter of a national voter registration organization -- and began teaching at the University of Chicago Law School.

From the August 31 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: You've heard the commentators, I know, and by repeating it, I mean no disrespect: A 72-year-old cancer survivor picks a not-yet one full term governor of Alaska. Is she the best person to be, literally, a heartbeat away from the presidency, Senator?

McCAIN: Well, let me just point out, facts are funny things. She's been in elected office longer than Senator Obama. She's been the chief executive of the state that supplies 20 percent of America's energy. She has balanced budgets. She's had executive experience as governor, as mayor, as a city council member, and PTA. So, she was in elected office when Senator Obama was still a, quote, "community organizer." He's never had one day of executive experience. I think it's almost ludicrous to compare her experience in elected office, and as a leader of one of the most important states in America -- certainly the largest -- and compare her experience with his. It's no contest.

WILLIAMS: But you know the question, Senator. Given the field, given all that we know, is she the best person to be a heartbeat away from the president?

McCAIN: Oh sure, in every way. In every way that I know of.

From the August 31 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: But, Senator, you talk about her years of experience. Ten of those years were as a city councilwoman and mayor of a town of 9,800 people. And in terms of foreign policy, in March of 2007, after -- two months after the surge had started, she was asked about it, and she said: "I've been focused on state government. I haven't focused on the war in Iraq" -- understandable for a governor; not understandable for a vice president.

McCAIN: Well, by the way, also she was a member of the PTA. I think it's wonderful. But the point is she's been to Kuwait. She's been over there. She's been with her troops, the National Guard that she commands, who had been over there and had the experience. I'm proud of her knowledge of these challenges and issues.

And of course as governor, she has had enormous responsibilities, none of which Senator Obama had. He -- when she was in government, he was a community organizer. When she was taking tough positions against her own party, Senator Obama was voting "present" 130 times in the state legislature, on every tough issue -- whatever it was -- while she was taking them on. That's the kind of judgment that I'm confident that we need in Washington.

WALLACE: For people who aren't persuaded, at least, initially, in the first 24 hours, about her experience, especially on foreign policy, doesn't this raise even more concerns about your age?

McCAIN: I don't know. Look, it was an issue in the primary, as you know. I've got to show them the vigor. I've got to show them the energy. I've got to show them the judgment. I've got to show them that my experience and knowledge qualifies me to lead.

Network/Outlet
FOX Broadcasting Company, NBC
Person
Chris Wallace, Brian Williams
Show/Publication
FOX News Sunday, NBC Nightly News
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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