Disregarding U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's warning to "not cast aspersions on people for being named or being discussed" in the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, several in the media have used the scandal as an opportunity to engage in suggestions of guilt-by-association against President-elect Barack Obama, by rehashing Obama's purportedly "questionable associations," or suggesting that Obama is a product of corrupt "Chicago politics."
Discussing reports that President-elect Barack Obama is considering naming Sen. Hillary Clinton secretary of state, several media figures have responded with smears, including speculation that Clinton would pursue her own agenda as secretary of state and not Obama's, references to Clinton as Obama's "enem[y]," and speculation that Obama is considering the nomination because if Clinton remains in the Senate, she poses a threat of challenging him for the Democratic nomination in 2012 and can "mak[e] trouble" for him in the Senate.
On Hardball, Chuck Todd falsely claimed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit "wants to get rid of the Pledge" of Allegiance. In fact, in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, a 9th Circuit panel did not decide that the entire Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional, but rather "h[e]ld that ... the 1954 Act adding the words 'under God' to the Pledge ... violate[s] the Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment.
On MSNBC's Hardball, Chuck Todd said that Sen. Barack Obama "was judged as not winning" the first presidential debate, asserting that "it was somewhat of a draw." But national post-debate polls contradict Todd's assertion, with Obama receiving higher marks from respondents than Sen. John McCain.
NBC's Chuck Todd asserted as fact that Sen. John McCain "pulled the plug on his campaign for two days." But Todd did not note that following McCain's September 24 announcement that he was going to suspend his campaign, McCain campaign ads continued to run; that his advisers repeatedly attacked Sen. Barack Obama on cable news networks; or that McCain gave interviews with the three broadcast networks.
After Alex Witt aired a new McCain campaign ad on MSNBC Live that suggests the Obama campaign is being "disrespectful" to Gov. Sarah Palin, neither Witt nor NBC News deputy political director Mark Murray gave any indication that the ad contains several distortions or that, an hour earlier, Chuck Todd had said that the ad "takes some words out of context."
On Morning Joe, NBC News political director Chuck Todd said of media coverage of Sen. Barack Obama's comment that "[y]ou can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig" while discussing Sen. John McCain's proposed policies: "I think the McCain campaign is laughing, laughing their butts off this morning. That any of us have taken the bait on this lipstick thing, I mean, this is a joke. It is laughable." Time's Jay Carney stated that the McCain campaign's claim that Obama's comments represented "sexism" was "false" and "ridiculous."
With reports that Sen. John McCain had picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, sexist commentary on cable news followed. On CNN, John Roberts raised the question of whether as vice president, Palin would be able to devote the time necessary to care for her baby with Down syndrome, and on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd suggested that Sen. Joe Biden bears the burden of having to adjust his behavior in a vice-presidential debate because of Palin's sex.
NBC's Chuck Todd responded to video of former President Bill Clinton saying of Sen. Barack Obama, "I think we have two choices. I think he [Obama] should win, and I think he will win," by falsely claiming that Clinton failed to make "a choice between Obama and McCain." In falsely asserting that Clinton had given a "non-endorsement" of Obama, Todd also left out Clinton's statement that he would "absolutely" campaign for Obama.
MSNBC's Chris Matthews said that Sen. Barack Obama should pick as his running mate "[s]omeone who's palpably patriotic, who sort of exudes it." Also, referring to Sen. John McCain's 6-percentage-point advantage over Obama among suburban white women in a recent poll, Matthews asserted, "[W]omen are low-hanging fruit, though, in the terms of politics. You can reach up and say, 'I'm pro-choice, he's not.' "
On MSNBC, Steve Thomma asserted that Sen. John McCain's campaign is "not going to touch" controversial comments by the former pastor of Sen. Barack Obama's church. On Morning Joe, McCain adviser Charlie Black declined to comment on Wright's statements, saying that McCain has said that "these candidates cannot be held accountable for all the views of people who endorse them or people who befriend them." Later on MSNBC, Chuck Todd noted Black's comments. However, the McCain campaign had already circulated to reporters a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which Ronald Kessler wrote that "Obama's close association with Mr. Wright ... raises legitimate questions about Mr. Obama's fundamental beliefs about his country," which "deserve a clearer answer than Mr. Obama has provided so far."
On Morning Joe, NBC News' Chuck Todd asserted that "all of this angst on the right has only served to remind moderates that [Sen.] John McCain's a moderate." But McCain does not call himself a moderate, claiming that he is "proud to be a conservative." Moreover, he has changed, and even reversed, his position on several issues, including immigration and taxes, to align himself with the base of the Republican Party.
Reporting on Pat Robertson's endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, MSNBC anchor Peter Alexander asserted, "Giuliani and Robertson: both prostate cancer survivors, both strong supporters of Israel." MSNBC campaign reporter Matthew Berger stated, "They have traveled to Israel together." And NBC News political director Chuck Todd said that "to a lot of evangelicals, the war against Islamic fundamentalism, protecting Israel is actually a bigger issue than some of these other issues." But at no point in discussing Robertson and Israel did an MSNBC news anchor or Todd note Robertson's past controversial comments regarding former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination.