Despite attacks on media by McCain campaign, case studies show disparate coverage in McCain's favor

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI, JULIE MILLICAN, RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN, JEREMY SCHULMAN, MATT GERTZ & KIRSTIN ELLISON

The media have for months reported complaints by the McCain campaign that they have favored his opponent in their coverage of the presidential race, while making little attempt to assess the accuracy of those complaints or to confirm or refute them. But in a review of the media's coverage of two stories negatively affecting or reflecting on Sen. Barack Obama and two stories negatively affecting or reflecting on Sen. John McCain -- specifically Obama's ties to Bill Ayers and Antoin Rezko, and McCain's dealings with donors whom he reportedly benefited and his association with G. Gordon Liddy -- Media Matters found that the five major newspapers and the three evening network news broadcasts have frequently mentioned Obama's ties to Ayers and Rezko, but have rarely mentioned McCain's dealings with donors and have ignored his association with Liddy.

The media have for months reported complaints by Sen. John McCain's campaign that they have favored his opponent in their coverage of the presidential race, while making little attempt to assess accuracy of those complaints or to confirm or refute them. Media Matters for America has undertaken a review of the media's coverage of two stories negatively affecting or reflecting on Sen. Barack Obama and two stories negatively affecting or reflecting on McCain and compared the extent of media attention to each. Specifically, Media Matters compared the media's coverage of Obama's association with Chicago developer Antoin Rezko to the media's coverage of McCain's associations with donors for whom McCain reportedly facilitated land deals. Media Matters also compared coverage of Obama's association with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers to coverage of McCain's association with G. Gordon Liddy, whom Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman has described as McCain's "own Bill Ayers."

Media Matters found that while the five major newspapers -- the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post -- and the three evening network news broadcasts have frequently mentioned Obama's ties to Ayers and Rezko, they have rarely mentioned McCain's dealings with donors whom he reportedly benefited and have completely ignored McCain's association with Liddy. Indeed, since The New York Times first reported on April 22 that McCain facilitated land deals that benefited major donors, these media outlets have mentioned those deals in only six additional reports, but news reports and editorial and opinion pieces by or in those media outlets have mentioned Obama's ties to Rezko -- who was convicted in June in a case in which Obama was never accused of any wrongdoing -- 44 times during that same time period. Moreover, while these same media outlets have frequently mentioned Obama's ties to Ayers -- 69 mentions so far in 2008 -- they have yet to mention McCain's connections to Liddy, whom McCain has praised and repeatedly associated with in public and in campaign settings. In addition to serving more than four years in prison for his role in the Watergate break-in and the Daniel Ellsberg case, Liddy also admitted that he plotted to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotted to murder fellow Republican operative E. Howard Hunt; and plotted to firebomb the Brookings Institution. Liddy also reportedly gave advice on how to shoot agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and reportedly admitted to naming shooting targets after the Clintons.

Media Matters previously conducted a review of coverage of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. versus coverage of televangelist James Hagee in The Washington Post and The New York Times and found that, from February 27, the date Hagee endorsed McCain for president, to April 30, the two papers combined published more than 12 times as many articles mentioning Wright and Obama as they did mentioning Hagee and McCain. Media Matters also documented (here, here, here, here, and here) other examples of the disparity between the media's extensive coverage of controversial comments made by Wright and other supporters of Obama and their coverage of controversial comments by Hagee and other supporters of McCain.

McCain and land deals vs. Obama and Rezko

McCain has reportedly facilitated several land deals that benefited wealthy developers who were major McCain donors. But while several major newspapers published initial articles concerning those deals, the media have devoted far less attention to McCain's land deals than they have paid to Obama's ties to Rezko. According to a Media Matters search of the Nexis and Factiva databases, since The New York Times' initial April 22 article, the land deals have been mentioned in only six additional news articles, editorials, or opinion pieces in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, or The Washington Post, and have yet to be mentioned on any evening network news program. By contrast, during the same time period, 39 news articles, editorials, or opinion pieces in those papers have collectively mentioned Obama and Rezko; and the evening news broadcasts have collectively mentioned Obama and Rezko in five reports.

Specifically:

  • The Los Angeles Times has published one news article that mentioned McCain-facilitated land deals, compared to five news articles mentioning Obama and Rezko.
  • The New York Times has published its original April 22 news article and one editorial that mentioned McCain-facilitated land deals, compared to seven news articles and one opinion piece mentioning Obama and Rezko.
  • USA Today published one news article that mentioned McCain-facilitated land deals, compared to two news articles mentioning Obama and Rezko.
  • The Wall Street Journal has yet to publish a news article, editorial, or opinion piece that mentioned McCain-facilitated land deals, but it has published six news articles and four editorials or opinion pieces mentioning Obama and Rezko.
  • The Washington Post has published three news articles that mentioned McCain-facilitated land deals, compared to 12 news articles and two editorials or opinion pieces mentioning Obama and Rezko.
  • ABC's World News has yet to air a report that mentioned McCain-facilitated land deals, but has aired three reports mentioning Obama and Rezko.
  • The CBS Evening News has yet to air a report that mentioned McCain-facilitated land deals, but has aired one report mentioning Obama and Rezko.
  • NBC's Nightly News has yet to air a report that mentioned McCain-facilitated land deals, but has aired one report mentioning Obama and Rezko.

In its April 22 article, headlined "A Developer, His Deals and His Ties to McCain," The New York Times examined McCain's relationship with Arizona developer Donald R. Diamond. The Times reported:

In Arizona, Mr. McCain has helped Mr. Diamond with matters as small as forwarding a complaint in a regulatory skirmish over the endangered pygmy owl, and as large as introducing legislation remapping public lands. In 1991 and 1994, Mr. McCain sponsored two laws sought by Mr. Diamond that resulted in providing him millions of dollars and thousands of acres in exchange for adding some of his properties to national parks. The Arizona senator co-sponsored a third similar bill now before the Senate.

The article described Diamond as "one of the elite fund-raisers Mr. McCain's current presidential campaign calls Innovators, having raised more than $250,000 so far."

In a May 9 article headlined "McCain Pushed Land Swap That Benefits Backer," The Washington Post reported that McCain "championed legislation that will let an Arizona rancher trade remote grassland and ponderosa pine forest here for acres of valuable federally owned property that is ready for development, a land swap that now stands to directly benefit one of his top presidential campaign fundraisers." The Post continued:

Initially reluctant to support the swap, the Arizona Republican became a key figure in pushing the deal through Congress after the rancher and his partners hired lobbyists that included McCain's 1992 Senate campaign manager, two of his former Senate staff members (one of whom has returned as his chief of staff), and an Arizona insider who was a major McCain donor and is now bundling campaign checks.

When McCain's legislation passed in November 2005, the ranch owner gave the job of building as many as 12,000 homes to SunCor Development, a firm in Tempe, Ariz., run by Steven A. Betts, a longtime McCain supporter who has raised more than $100,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee. Betts said he and McCain never discussed the deal.

In the article, the Post also reported that "opponents were baffled by the senator's [McCain] seemingly contradictory positions" on the legislation and quoted Janine Blaeloch, founder and director of the Western Lands Project, asserting, "The bizarre thing to me regarding McCain is, we spent a lot of time with his staff, and we all seemed to be on the same page about the problems with this swap. But somehow, John McCain kept pushing it forward."

Additionally, the Post stated:

Betts is among a string of donors who have benefited from McCain-engineered land swaps. In 1994, the senator helped a lobbyist for land developer Del Webb Corp. pursue an exchange in the Las Vegas area, according to the Center for Public Integrity. McCain sponsored two bills, in 1991 and 1994, sought by donor Donald R. Diamond that yielded the developer thousands of acres in trade for national parkland.

In a May 19 article, USA Today reported on a third McCain-facilitated land deal that benefited his political contributors, writing:

McCain, who has made fighting special-interest projects a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, inserted $14.3 million in a 2003 defense bill to buy land around Luke Air Force Base in a provision sought by SunCor Development, the largest of about 50 landowners near the base. SunCor representatives, upset with a state law that restricted development around Luke, met with McCain's staff to lobby for funding, according to John Ogden, SunCor's president at the time.

The Air Force later paid SunCor $3 million for 122 acres near the base. It was the highest single land transaction of the private lots purchased by the government -- three times the county's assessed value and twice the military's estimated value. SunCor also donated another 122 acres. Alan Bunnell, a spokesman for SunCor's parent company, Pinnacle West Capital, said the donation was meant to minimize the company's tax bill and enhance the value of adjacent property it owns.

USA Today further reported that "McCain's campaigns have received $224,000 since 1998 from donors connected to Pinnacle West, including $104,100 for his current presidential run" and that Pinnacle West's CEO, vice president and lobbyist, and former president, in addition to Betts, SunCor's president, are all McCain fundraisers.

McCain and Liddy vs. Obama and Ayers

According to a Media Matters search of the Nexis and Factiva databases, between January 1 and September 17, none of the five major newspapers or three evening network news broadcasts mentioned McCain's association with Liddy. By contrast, during the same time period, the five major newspapers, as well as ABC's and NBC's evening news broadcasts, have collectively broadcast or published mentions of Obama's relationship with Ayers in 69 reports, editorials, and opinion pieces.

The Tribune's Chapman wrote in his May 4 column, "[B]ack in the 1970s, [Liddy] extolled violence and committed crimes in the name of a radical ideology." Writing that "Liddy's penchant for extreme solutions has not abated," Chapman went on to note that, in 1994, Liddy "gave some advice to his listeners" on how to shoot and ATF officials. Chapman further wrote that "[f]ar from repudiating him [Liddy], McCain has embraced him":

What McCain didn't mention is that he has his own Bill Ayers -- in the form of G. Gordon Liddy. Now a conservative radio talk-show host, Liddy spent more than 4 years in prison for his role in the 1972 Watergate burglary. That was just one element of what Liddy did, and proposed to do, in a secret White House effort to subvert the Constitution. Far from repudiating him, McCain has embraced him.

How close are McCain and Liddy? At least as close as Obama and Ayers appear to be. In 1998, Liddy's home was the site of a McCain fundraiser. Over the years, he has made at least four contributions totaling $5,000 to the senator's campaigns -- including $1,000 this year.

Last November, McCain went on his radio show. Liddy greeted him as "an old friend," and McCain sounded like one. "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your family," he gushed. "It's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."

Incidents in Liddy's past include:

  • Felony convictions. As The Washington Post wrote in its online section about the Watergate break-in scandal, "Liddy was convicted for his role in the Watergate break-in, for conspiracy in the Daniel Ellsberg case and for contempt of court, spending about four and a half years in prison. In 1986, a federal appeals court found Liddy liable for $20,499 in back taxes on Watergate slush-fund money, rejecting his claim that his benefits did not exceed $45,000. As one of the White House 'plumbers,' Liddy spent about $300,000 engineering political dirty tricks and the Watergate break-in."
  • Liddy plotted to murder journalist Jack Anderson. In a 2004 article in the British newspaper The Independent, Liddy was quoted discussing his never-implemented plans to kill Anderson:

He [Liddy] is famous in the US as the most fiercely loyal of Richard Nixon's "plumbers", one of the agents sent to illegally burgle, drug and libel the President's internal opponents. "The war in Vietnam was fought on the streets of America too," he says. "It was lost here at home, by people who didn't have the Will to win. We had to get the people who wanted America to lose." Including killing columnists? "If they were traitors as Jack Andersen [sic] was, directly helping the enemy, then yes."

In his 1980 autobiography, Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy (St. Martin's Press, November 1996), Liddy wrote that he and GOP operative Hunt had become convinced that Anderson had compromised an overseas intelligence source's safety and must be assassinated:

I took the position that, in a hypothetical case in which the target had been the direct cause of the identification and execution of one of our agents abroad, halfway measures were not appropriate. How many of our people should we let him kill before we stop him, I asked rhetorically, still not using Anderson's name. I urged as the logical and just solution that the target be killed. Quickly.

[...]

I submitted that the target should just become a fatal victim of the notorious Washington street-crime rate. No one argued against that recommendation and, at Hunt's suggestion, I gave [then-CIA deputy director of Medical Services] Dr. [Edward] Gunn a hundred-dollar bill, from Committee to Re-Elect the President intelligence funds, as a fee for his services. I took this to be to protect Dr. Gunn's image as "retired."

Afterward Hunt and I discussed the recommendation further. It was decided to include the suggestion that the assassination of Jack Anderson be carried out by Cubans already recruited for the intelligence arm of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. [Pages 208-209]

According to Liddy, when Hunt worried that his superiors would not trust those operatives to carry out the assassination, Liddy said he would be willing to carry out the plot himself:

I thought about the damage Anderson was doing to our country's ability to conduct foreign policy. Most of all, I thought of that U.S. agent abroad, dead or about to die after what I was sure would be interrogation by torture. If Hunt's principal was worried, I had the answer.

"Tell him," I said, "if necessary, I'll do it." [Page 210]

Hunt confirms the murder plot in his own book, American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond (Wiley, February 2007):

Liddy and I, feeling that Anderson had done such harm to the country by exposing foreign-based CIA agents who might be imprisoned and/or killed, spent a lot of time concocting ways to get rid of the pesky journalist, even trying to cook up a way to get him to ingest LSD through his skin from his steering wheel so that he would crash his car. A CIA specialist, however, assured me that skin was an inadequate delivery system, so the plan did not move forward. Still, Liddy was primed and ready to go it alone, planning an assassination if [Attorney General John] Mitchell would just give the word. Ultimately, the attorney general aborted the operation and the muckraker in question outlived most of his adversaries, dying in December 2005 at the age of eighty-three from Parkinson's disease. [Page 199]

  • Liddy participated in Ellsberg psychiatrist break-in, prepared to kill someone "if necessary." After military analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, Liddy and Hunt organized a break-in of Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office in an attempt to obtain files on Ellsberg. Liddy wrote in Will:

I can run for miles, and there were numerous deeply shadowed hiding places in the area from which I could pause to warn the men inside with the transceiver. Only if there were no other recourse would I have used the knife, but use it I would, if I'd had to; I had given my men word that I would protect them.

For the period of the actual breaking and entering, I posted myself in a narrow space between two buildings concealed by more shrubbery, from which I could see clearly the area of the break-in, all of the private, and much of the public parking lot. [Page 167]

[...]

I was completely candid with him [Egil (Bud) Krogh] in my report, showing him everything: the suitcase, tools, even the knife I had carried. He asked me, incredulous, "Would you really have used it -- I mean, kill somebody?"

"Only if there were absolutely no other way. But yes, I would, if necessary to protect my men. I gave them my word I'd cover them." [Page 169]

Liddy also wrote in Will that he and Hunt plotted to drug Ellsberg:

According to Hunt, Daniel Ellsberg was scheduled to speak at a fund-raising dinner to be held in Washington, and [Nixon chief counsel] Chuck Colson thought it an opportunity to discredit him. The dinner would be well attended by media opinion-shapers and the speech would get wide coverage. Could ["[o]ur organization"] ODESSA drug Ellsberg enough to befuddle him, make him appear a near burnt-out drug case?

Hunt and I studied the matter and developed a plan to infiltrate enough Cuban waiters into the group serving the banquet to be able to ensure that one of our people would serve Ellsberg at the dais. One of the earliest dishes on the menu was soup. A warm liquid is ideal for the rapid absorption and wide dispersal of a drug, and the taste would mask its presence. Hunt was certain that he could provide men from the Miami Cuban community who'd worked at major Florida hotels; the drug, a fast-acting psychedelic such as LSD 25, he said he could get from the CIA together with a recommendation of the dose necessary to have Ellsberg incoherent by the time he was to speak. [Page 170]

The drug plan was not carried out because, according to Liddy, "our superiors had waited too long" to approve it and "[t]here was no longer enough lead time." [Page 170]

  • Liddy plotted with "gangland figure" to murder Hunt, a government witness. While in prison, Liddy came to the conclusion that White House officials might want his partner, Hunt, killed rather than risk Hunt cooperating with the Watergate grand jury. Liddy wrote in Will that he made plans to carry out such an assassination order:

By now I knew that the fee for a killing in the D.C. jail was two "boxes." I'd be an immediate suspect were Hunt to be killed, so it would have to be a contract sanction and I'd have to arrange an airtight alibi. That would be easy; just have myself put back in deadlock prior to the event. It wouldn't do, however, to go around soliciting Hunt's execution. Prisons are filled with informers. For that reason I sought the advice of a gangland figure I knew and could trust.

My friend was sharp and as soon as I began to broach the subject, he nodded his understanding but jumped to the conclusion I was referring to [James] McCord, now free on bond. He offered immediately to have McCord shot. I had to explain that I appreciated his offer but had someone else in mind.

[...]

I explained carefully to my friend that I had not yet received orders to kill Hunt, and that under no circumstances was he to be harmed without my specific authorization, which I would not give in the absence of unequivocal orders from my superiors. [Page 309]

Liddy wrote that after Hunt cooperated with investigators, he awaited an order to kill him, but "because the message never came, Hunt lives" [Page 311].

  • Liddy plotted to "firebomb[]" Brookings Institution. Liddy and Hunt believed that because of Ellsberg's past association with the Brookings Institution, classified or sensitive documents might be stored in the organization's security vault. Their plan to retrieve these supposed materials involved firebombing the building:

We devised a plan that entailed buying a used but late-model fire engine of the kind used by the District of Columbia fire department and marking it appropriately; uniforms for a squad of Cubans and their training so their performance would be believable. Thereafter, Brookings would be firebombed by use of a delay mechanism timed to go off at night so as not to endanger lives needlessly. The Cubans in the authentic-looking fire engine would "respond" minutes after the timer went off, enter, get anybody in there out, hit the vault, and get themselves out in the confusion of other fire apparatus arriving, calmly loading "rescued" material into a van. The bogus engine would be abandoned at the scene. The taking of the material from the vault would be discovered and the fire engine traced to a cut-out buyer. There would be a lot of who-struck-John in the liberal press, but because nothing could be proved the matter would lapse into the unsolved-mystery category. [Page 171-72]

According to Liddy, the plan was not approved by the White House because it was deemed "[t]oo expensive" [Page 172].

  • Liddy borrowed terminology from Nazis in outlining plan to thwart "attack" by "leftist guerillas." Before the 1972 Republican National Convention in San Diego, Liddy met with a group of White House officials, including Attorney General John Mitchell, to discuss ways to thwart an "attack" on the convention by "leftist guerrillas":

I proposed to emulate the Texas Rangers by identifying the leaders through intelligence before the attack got under way, kidnap them, drug them, and hold them in Mexico until after the convention was over, then release them unharmed and still wondering what happened. Leaderless, the attack would be further disrupted by faked assembly orders and messages, and if it ever did get off the ground it would be much easier to repel. The sudden disappearances, which I labeled on the chart in the original German, Nacht und Nebel ("Night and Fog"), would strike fear into the hearts of the leftist guerrillas. The chart labeled the team slated to carry out the night and fog plan as a "Special Action Group" and, when John Mitchell asked, "What's that?" and expressed doubt that it could perform as I had explained, I grew impatient.

[...]

With [then-Nixon deputy campaign director Jeb] Magruder and [then-associate deputy attorney general John] Dean out to lunch, I felt obliged to impress Mitchell with my seriousness of purpose, that my people were the kind and I was the kind who could and would do whatever was necessary to deal with organized mass violence. Both Magruder and Dean were too young to know what I was talking about, but I knew that Mitchell, a naval officer in World War II, would get the message if I translated the English "Special Action Group" into German. Given the history involved, it was a gross exaggeration, but it made my point. "An Einsatzgruppe, General," I said, inadvertently using a hard g for the word General and turning it, too, into German. "These men include professional killers who have accounted between them for twenty-two dead so far, including two hanged from a beam in a garage." [Page 197-98]

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Holocaust Encyclopedia, the Einsatzgruppen were mobile killing units organized by the Nazis for, among other things, the purpose of carrying out "the murder of those perceived to be racial or political enemies found behind German combat lines in the occupied Soviet Union." Their "victims included Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and officials of the Soviet state and the Soviet Communist party. The Einsatzgruppen also murdered thousands of residents of institutions for the mentally and physically disabled."

According to Yad Vashem, "Nacht und Nebel" is a "German term used in a secret order issued by Adolf Hitler on December 7, 1941. The order stated that any underground resistance activities against the Reich carried out in Western Europe would be punished in the most severe ways. The term 'Night and Fog' referred to those underground activists from Western Europe who, as a result of this order, were to disappear into the 'fog of the night' without leaving a trace. ... According to the order, special military courts could impose the death sentence without a unanimous decision. If not sentenced to death, the defendants were to be deported to Germany, where they would disappear without a trace into concentration camps or prisons."

The judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg described the purpose and effects of the decree:

The territories occupied by Germany were administered in violation of the laws of war. The evidence is quite overwhelming of a systematic rule of violence, brutality and terror. On the 7th December, 1941, Hitler issued the directive since known as the "Nacht und Nebel Erlass" (Night and Fog Decree), under which persons who committed offences against the Reich or the German forces in occupied territories, except where the death sentence was certain, were to be taken secretly to Germany and handed over to the SIPO [German state security police] and SD [intelligence division of the German SS] for trial or punishment in Germany. This decree was signed by the defendant [chief of the High Command of the German Armed Forces Wilhelm] Keitel. After these civilians arrived in Germany, no word of them was permitted to reach the country from which they came, or their relatives; even in cases when they died awaiting trial the families were not informed, the purpose being to create anxiety in the minds of the family of the arrested person. Hitler's purpose in issuing this decree was stated by the defendant Keitel in a covering letter, dated 12th December, 1941, to be as follows:

" Efficient and enduring intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminal and the population do not know the fate of the criminal. This aim is achieved when the criminal is transferred to Germany."

Even persons who were only suspected of opposing any of the policies of the German occupation authorities were arrested, and on arrest were interrogated by the Gestapo and the SD in the most shameful manner. On the 12th June 1942 the Chief of the SIPO and SD published, through Mueller, the Gestapo Chief, an order authorising the use of "third degree" methods of interrogation, where preliminary investigation had indicated that the person could give information on important matters, such as subversive activities, though not for the purpose of extorting confessions of the prisoner's own crimes. This order provided:

" ... Third degree may, under this supposition, only be employed against Communists, Marxists, Jehovah's Witnesses, saboteurs, terrorists, members of resistance movements, parachute agents, anti-social elements, Polish or Soviet Russian loafers or tramps; in all other cases my permission must first be obtained ... Third degree can, according to circumstances, consist amongst other methods of very simple diet (bread and water), hard bunk, dark cell, deprivation of sleep, exhaustive drilling, also in flogging (for more than twenty strokes a doctor must be consulted)."

The brutal suppression of all opposition to the German occupation was not confined to severe measures against suspected members of resistance movements themselves, but was also extended to their families. On the 19th July, 1944, the Commander of the SIPO and SD in the district of Radom, in Poland, published an order, transmitted through the Higher SS and Police leaders, to the effect that in all cases of assassination or attempted assassination of Germans, or where saboteurs had destroyed vital installations not only the guilty person, but also all his or her male relatives should be shot, and female relatives over sixteen years of age put into a concentration camp.

Liddy's proposed "Special Action Group" for the kidnappings was, in the end, not employed.

  • Liddy's advice for shooting ATF agents. According to an April 26, 1995, CBS News transcript (retrieved from Nexis), Liddy said on his August 26, 1994, radio show:

LIDDY: Well, if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests.

Reporting on Liddy's October 19, 1994, radio show, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz recounted in an October 24, 1994, article:

Ursula from Millerton, Pa., tells Liddy she's afraid the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is coming after her gun-owning friend. Liddy calls the bureau "bottom-dwelling slugs ... a pack of nitwits out to make war on those Americans who take seriously the Second Amendment." Liddy allows that calls to "hunt down and kill" such agents is "going too far." But, he says, "shooting back is reasonable... . I have counseled shooting them in the head."

According to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, on September 15, 1994, Liddy stated:

If the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms insists upon a firefight, give them a firefight. Just remember, they're wearing flak jackets and you're better off shooting for the head.

According to FAIR, Liddy said to a caller later in the show:

When the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms thugs come to kill your wife and children, to try to disarm you and they open fire on you. When they come at the point of a gun, force and violence, when you're going to defend yourself, use that Gerand [sic] [M-1 rifle]. That thing is 30-06, and it'll take 'em right out.

According to an April 25, 1995, Associated Press article:

Talk show host G. Gordon Liddy said Tuesday he gave listeners bad advice when he told them to shoot for the head if attacked by federal agents. Instead, he said, go twice for the body and then the groin.

[...]

Last August, Liddy counseled "head shots" to respond to an encounter with agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, because, "They've got a vest underneath."

On Tuesday, he told a news conference held as part of his WJFK program that people should cooperate if authorities come to their homes with search warrants. But they should shoot back if agents shoot their way in, he said.

He said experts have told him shooting for the head was a bad idea because heads are hard to hit.

"So you shoot twice to the body, center of mass, and if that does not work, then shoot to the groin area," he said.

"They cannot move their hips fast enough and you'll probably get a femoral artery and you'll knock them down at any rate."

Asked about his ATF comments by right-wing blogger John Hawkins in December 2003, Liddy argued they had been misinterpreted:

LIDDY: [A]s usual, people remember part of what I said, but not all of what I said. What I did was restate the law. I was talking about a situation in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes smashing into a house, doesn't say who they are, and their guns are out, they're shooting, and they're in the wrong place. This has happened time and time again. The ATF has gone in and gotten the wrong guy in the wrong place. The law is that if somebody is shooting at you, using deadly force, the mere fact that they are a law enforcement officer, if they are in the wrong, does not mean you are obliged to allow yourself to be killed so your kinfolk can have a wrongful death action. You are legally entitled to defend yourself and I was speaking of exactly those kind of situations. If you're going to do that, you should know that they're wearing body armor so you should use a head shot. Now all I'm doing is stating the law, but all the nuances in there got left out when the story got repeated.

  • Liddy acknowledged naming shooting targets after Clintons. According to the April 25, 1995, edition of NPR's All Things Considered (retrieved from Nexis), during a press conference, Liddy admitted that he named shooting targets after then-President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton. From the press conference, as aired by NPR:

LIDDY: I did relate that on the 4th of July of last year, when I and my family and some friends were out firing away at a properly-constructed rifle range and we ran out of targets, and so we -- I drew some stick figure targets and I thought we ought to give them names. So I named them Bill and Hillary, thought it might improve my aim. It didn't. My aim is good anyway. Now, having said that, I accept no responsibility for somebody shooting up the White House.

Nonetheless, the five major papers and the network evening newscasts have ignored McCain's association with -- and praise of -- Liddy. For instance:

  • Fundraising. In a March 9, 1998, article (retrieved from Nexis), The Washington Post's Al Kamen reported that Liddy hosted a fundraiser for McCain's 1998 Senate re-election campaign. Kamen wrote:

Here's one we wished we hadn't missed. "G. Gordon Liddy and family cordially invite you to a fundraiser reception" at their home in Scottsdale, Ariz., "in support of Sen. John McCain's 1998 re-election campaign."

So McCain (R), a bona fide American hero, is having G. Gordon Liddy, a bona fide American felon and, worse yet, talk show host, do a fund-raiser for him? What is this all about?

Liddy has a home there and "he called and said he wanted to invite some friends over," McCain said, "and I said okay. I was surprised when he made the offer. I hardly know him." As for the old conviction, McCain noted, "He's a successful talk show host."

The affair, which took place over the weekend, was $ 125 per person, but those who ponied up $ 250 a person got to go to the early "VIP reception." There you could have your picture taken with McCain and Liddy.

According to a January 23, 2000, Charlotte Observer article (retrieved from Nexis), Liddy was also scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for McCain's 2000 presidential campaign. Discussing the event, McCain's campaign reportedly vouched for Liddy's "character":

A presidential candidate who has made character a central issue of his campaign is bringing a Watergate felon to a Rock Hill rally this week.

G. Gordon Liddy will speak at a Wednesday fund-raiser to benefit Arizona Sen. John McCain. Liddy served more than four years in prison for his role in the Watergate break-in and later became host of a popular conservative radio talk show.

McCain is not scheduled to appear.

His campaign officials said Liddy's character will appeal to many voters because he was following orders from President Nixon and kept silent afterward.

"His (Liddy's) judgment might be in question, but I don't think his character is," said Ed Walker, the York County chairman of McCain's campaign. "He was following orders just like any good soldier, and he didn't tell on anybody. He felt like he was on a mission and kept his silence."

The Herald of Rock Hill, South Carolina, reported on January 26, 2000 (retrieved from Nexis), "Today's fund raiser for Sen. John McCain's Republican presidential bid has fallen victim to the weather. Keynote speaker G. Gordon Liddy, radio talk-show host and a figure from the Watergate era, can't get out of Washington, D.C."

  • Campaign donations. According to a search of the Federal Election Commission's database, McCain has accepted $5,000 in campaign contributions from Liddy, including $1,000 this year for his presidential campaign. Liddy has donated to several of McCain's campaigns:

2/11/2008: Liddy contributed $1,000 to McCain

9/9/2003: Liddy contributed $2,000 to McCain

3/23/1999: Liddy contributed $1,000 to McCain

3/7/1998: Liddy contributed $1,000 to McCain

  • Radio America's The G. Gordon Liddy Show. McCain has made appearances on Liddy's radio show, including as recently as May of this year. An online video labeled "John McCain On The G. Gordon Liddy Show 11/8/07" includes a discussion between Liddy and McCain, whom Liddy described as an "old friend." During the segment, McCain praised Liddy's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great," said he was "proud" of Liddy, and said that "it's always a pleasure for me to come on your program." From the program:

LIDDY: Your experience in the Hanoi Hilton is remarkable. I mean, I put in five years in a prison, but it was here in the United States, and they didn't torture -- the only torture that I had was being forced to listen to rap music from time to time.

McCAIN: Well, you know, I'm proud of you. I'm proud of your family. I'm proud to know your son, Tom, who's a great and wonderful guy. And it's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon. And congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great.

LIDDY: Senator, congratulations on your surge -- I guess we can call it that. You're coming back with a vengeance. And thank you so much for sharing time with us. Really appreciate it.

McCAIN: Thank you. Thanks Gordon, great to be with you.

LIDDY: Good to be with you, Senator.

Rezko coverage

From April 22 to September 18, 44 combined network evening news broadcasts and news, editorials, or opinion pieces covered or mentioned Obama's ties to Rezko:

Los Angeles Times (5)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Hiding Sarah Palin behind 'deference'

9/9/08

N

Barack Obama: Search for identity

8/28/08

N

Obama pounces on McCain's gaffe about his homes

8/22/08

N

Rezko closing arguments begin

5/13/08

N

Antoin Rezko won't take the stand in his fraud trial

5/6/08

N

The New York Times (8)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Obama and McCain Seek a Common Touch

8/21/08

N

UNIONS UNITED; Hitting McCain Where He Lives

8/19/08

N

Ex-Obama Fund-Raiser Is Convicted Of Fraud

6/5/08

N

Corruption Case Taints Rising Political Star

5/12/08

N

Pragmatic Politics, Forged on the South Side

5/11/08

N

Republicans Focus on Obama as Fall Opponent

5/8/08

N

How McCain Lost in Pennsylvania

4/27/08

E

Ex-Official in Illinois Admits Lying About Job for Donation

4/23/08

N

USA Today (2)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

McCain ad: Clinton's 'truth hurt'

8/25/08

N

Obama slams McCain's inability to count family residences

8/21/08

N

The Wall Street Journal (10)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Obama Should Come Clean on Ayers, Rezko and the Iraqi Billionaire

8/30/08

E

House Party: Obama Homes In on McCain

8/22/08

N

Obama Played by Chicago Rules

8/20/08

E

Friends of Barack

6/11/08

E

Campaign '08: GOP Starts Recycling Primary Clips Attacking Obama

6/7/08

N

Obama Heads to Election With Some Weaknesses

6/5/08

N

Rezko Convicted of Wire Fraud, Money Laundering

6/5/08

N

Our Collectivist Candidates

5/28/08

E

For Obama, Advice Straight Up

5/12/08

N

From Their House to the White House

5/9/08

N

The Washington Post (14)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

McCain Strategist Blasts Media

9/3/08

N

Romney Leads a Denver Counteroffensive

8/27/08

N

Obama Calls His Pick, Biden, Both a Statesman and Fighter

8/24/08

N

Extreme Campaign Makeover

8/23/08

E

Obama's Judgment Is Questioned

8/22/08

N

Houses Add Up to A Snag for McCain

8/22/08

N

Can McCain Use Advice Clinton Got on Obama?

8/13/08

N

In Obama's Circle, Chicago Remains The Tie That Binds

7/14/08

N

Obama Got Discount on Home Loan

7/2/08

N

Former Obama Fundraiser Convicted of Corruption

6/5/08

N

For Clinton, A Following Of 'Marshans'

6/4/08

N

Obama as You've Never Known Him!

5/23/08

N

Rezko's Defense Rests Without Calling Witness

5/6/08

N

Obama's 'Distractions'?

4/25/08

E

ABC evening news broadcasts (3)

Show

Date

World News Sunday

8/24/08

World News with Charles Gibson

8/21/08

World News with Charles Gibson

6/4/08

CBS evening news broadcast (1)

Show

Date

CBS Evening News with Katie Couric

6/4/08

NBC evening news broadcast (1)

Show

Date

Nightly News with Brian Williams

6/4/08

Land deals coverage

From April 22 to September 18, seven news, editorials, or opinion pieces mentioned that McCain reportedly facilitated land deals that benefited wealthy developers who were major McCain donors:

The Washington Post (3)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Top McCain Adviser Has Found Success Mixing Money, Politics

6/26/08

N

John McCain's Rapid-Fire Responders

5/20/08

N

McCain Pushed Land Swap That Benefits Backer

5/9/08

N

The New York Times (2)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

The Trouble With Not Being Earnest

4/25/08

E

A Developer, His Deals and His Ties to McCain

4/22/08

N

Los Angeles Times (1)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

McCain land deal benefits donor

5/9/08

N

USA Today (1)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Price of power: McCain action helped Arizona land developer

5/19/08

N

The Wall Street Journal: No coverage.

ABC evening news broadcast: No coverage.

NBC evening news broadcast: No coverage.

CBS evening news broadcast: No coverage

Ayers coverage

From January 1 to September 18, 69 combined network evening news broadcasts and news, editorials or opinion pieces mentioned Obama's ties to Ayers:

The New York Times (19)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Interest Groups Step Up Efforts in a Tight Race

9/15/08

N

On the Web, a Nonpartisan Look at Those Partisan Campaign Ads

9/12/08

N

Obama Looks to Lessons From Chicago in His National Education Plan

9/10/08

N

Obama Steps Into O'Reilly's 'No Spin Zone'

9/5/08

N

Obama Campaign Wages Fight Against Conservative Group's Ads

8/27/08

N

A Billionaire Finances Ads Hitting Obama

8/22/08

N

Group Plans Ad Criticizing Obama's Ties To Ex-Radical

8/21/08

N

Late-Period Limbaugh

7/6/08

N

Pragmatic Politics, Forged on the South Side

5/11/08

N

Republicans Focus on Obama as Fall Opponent

5/8/08

N

A Backlash?

5/3/08

E

McCain Criticizes Clergyman's Remarks

4/28/08

N

How McCain lost in Pennsylvania

4/27/08

E

Brush it Off

4/20/08

E

Clinton Impugns Obama's Toughness

4/19/08

N

'60s Radicals Become Issue in Campaign of 2008

4/17/08

N

Former Friends Weigh Into Debate, and the Former Amity Drains Out

4/17/08

N

Clinton Uses Sharp Attacks in Tense Debate

4/17/08

N

Battle of the Baggage

4/17/08

E

The Washington Post (19)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Group With Swift Boat Alumni Readies Ads Attacking Obama

9/14/08

N

Obama Met With Fox News Executives

9/3/08

N

The Perfect Stranger

8/29/08

E

Obama's Response Ad Reflects Lessons of 2004

8/27/08

N

Romney Leads a Denver Counteroffensive

8/27/08

N

'She Could Accept Losing. She Could Not Accept Quitting.'

6/5/08

N

Obama as You've Never Known Him!

5/23/08

N

Candidates Vie to Be The Anti-Lobbyist

5/20/08

N

Clinton Quiet About Own Radical Ties

5/19/08

N

Obama Has the Upper Hand. But McCain Can Still Take Him

5/18/08

E

The Race's Real Winner

5/11/08

E

Too Late to the Duck Hunt

5/9/08

E

Obama's 'Distractions'?

4/25/08

E

McCain Questions Obama Remark Comparing '60s Radical, Lawmaker

4/21/08

N

Obama Looks To Turn Debate Into a Victory

4/18/08

N

Performance By ABC's Moderators Is a Matter Of Debate

4/18/08

N

Former '60s Radical Is Now Considered Mainstream in Chicago

4/18/08

N

Obama Pressed in Pa. Debate

4/17/08

N

'Soft' Press Sharpens Its Focus on Obama

3/3/08

N

Los Angeles Times (18)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Barack Obama raises the funding roof

9/15/08

N

Some Obama links will mislead

8/30/08

N

Barack Obama: Search for identity

8/28/08

N

Biden's jokes about his wife Jill? OK with Pelosi

8/24/08

N

Billionaire behind Swift Boat ads funded anti-Obama spot

8/23/08

N

Ad attacks Obama's ties to leftist leader

8/22/08

N

John McCain puts the focus on economy

7/19/08

N

The Obama-McCain age gap that matters

6/1/08

E

Obama pounds away at McCain

5/19/08

N

Steeling Obama

5/15/08

E

GOP makes a target of Obama

4/25/08

N

Ex-radical William Ayers keeps low profile

4/24/08

N

What to look for in Pennsylvania

4/22/08

N

Heating up in Pennsylvania

4/21/08

N

Moderators' 'gotcha' tone inspires angry new debate

4/18/08

N

Obama and the former radicals

4/18/08

N

The influence test

4/18/08

E

Debate dwells on Obama's past

4/17/08

N

USA Today (2)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Groups play up Obama link to '60s radical

8/26/08

N

Damage control, take 2

4/30/08

E

The Wall Street Journal (9)

Headline

Date

News or Editorial/Op.

Obama Should Come Clean on Ayers, Rezko and the Iraqi Billionaire

8/30/08

E

Legal Controversy Erupts Over TV Ads Linking Obama to '60s Radical

8/29/08

N

Ex-Friends of Barack

6/12/08

E

Why Hillary Goes Nuclear

5/29/08

E

The Clinton Divorce

5/9/08

E

Obama's Other Radical Friends

5/2/08

E

Democratic Fight Has Its Upsides

4/23/08

E

Woods Fund Could Become Obama's 'Swift Boat'

4/18/08

N

Democrats Meet in Feisty Debate

4/17/08

N

ABC evening news broadcast (1)

Show

Date

World News Sunday

4/20/08

NBC evening news broadcast (1)

Show

Date

Nightly News

4/17/08

CBS evening news broadcast: No coverage

Liddy coverage

Media Matters did not find any coverage from January 1 to September 18 of McCain's ties to Liddy in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, or the evening news programs of ABC, CBS, or NBC. A February 8 Washington Post column by Dana Milbank and an August 13 New York Times article both mentioned Liddy and McCain but did not report or note any ties between the two.

Posted In
Elections
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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