Beginning on the afternoon of April 23, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN aired a controversial ad by the North Carolina Republican Party attacking Sen. Barack Obama and two Democratic gubernatorial candidates at least 22 times combined, in most cases also noting that Sen. John McCain denounced the ad. As media figures on MSNBC and CNN pointed out, the repeated broadcasts benefit the North Carolina Republican Party, which does not have to pay for them, and they presumably benefit McCain, even as he is credited with taking the high road for criticizing the ad.
After airing several reports in February highlighting Sen. John McCain's assertion that "if we left [Iraq], [Al Qaeda in Iraq] wouldn't be establishing a base ... they'd be taking a country," CNN has yet to follow up by noting that McCain reportedly does not believe that assertion. According to The New York Times, "[f]ew, including Mr. McCain, expect Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia [Iraq], a Sunni group, to take control of Shiite-dominated Iraq in the event of an American withdrawal."
The Politico's Jonathan Martin asserted as "fact" that Al Gore and John Kerry "were elitists and were out of touch with average Americans." But to the extent the public perceived them in that manner, the media played a dominant role in creating and promoting that perception while largely avoiding discussion of whether President Bush was an "elitist."
CNN's Lou Dobbs claimed that, "with the exception of Iraq, there isn't much difference among" Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. In fact, on health care, Obama and Clinton have both proposed plans to expand coverage, which McCain has denounced. Obama and Clinton also both support comprehensive immigration reform; McCain abandoned his previous support for comprehensive immigration legislation during his campaign for the Republican nomination.
Lou Dobbs introduced the March 21 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight by announcing: "Tonight, Senator [Barack] Obama wins the endorsement of the nation's only Hispanic governor, Bill Richardson. Is Obama pandering to ethnocentric special interests again? We'll have complete coverage." The subsequent report included no discussion of whether Obama is "pandering to ethnocentric special interests."
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN correspondent Louise Schiavone falsely asserted that in votes cast last week, Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton "said no to additional funding for border security, immigration enforcement, and deportation of criminal aliens." Additionally, Lou Dobbs falsely claimed that Obama and Clinton are "not for border security."
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, National Council of La Raza's Janet Murguia accused host Lou Dobbs of using "hate groups to make your case on immigration," noting that Dobbs had aired a graphic from the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group linked to white supremacists. Dobbs responded: "You got anything a little more recent?" He also asked, "How long was that on the air?" When Murguia responded, "It doesn't matter how long," Dobbs replied, "Of course it does." Dobbs also labeled the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center as "absolute advocate groups for open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens" and said of the ADL, "They are a joke."
In separate reports, Dana Bash and Mary Snow aired a clip of Sen. John McCain saying of Mitt Romney, "He's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue." However, neither noted that McCain himself has changed his position on immigration.
On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Lou Dobbs agreed with a viewer that "[t]here was not one question about illegal immigration" asked during the recent Democratic presidential debate, saying, "You know, I noticed that. I wonder why." But, during the debate, CNN's Joe Johns asked Sen. Barack Obama if his health-care plan would "cover the estimated 12 million or so illegal immigrants" in the United States. And Wolf Blitzer later asked a similar question of John Edwards.
During the early evening of January 8, the day of the New Hampshire primaries, Bill Bennett said on CNN: "The Clintons come in like George McGovern and go out like Richard Nixon. I think they're going out, by the way." Later, Bennett also stated: "Count Hillary Clinton out of this." But after CNN called the primary for Clinton that night, Bennett commented, "You know, watching the mainstream media saying that she was done and finished -- for a conservative Republican, where do I go? Do I side with the Clintons or do I side with the mainstream media?" At no point did Bennett mention his earlier comments.
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Lou Dobbs said of Sen. Barack Obama: "[H]e may not be converting, but he is certainly revealing a relationship with his faith that heretofore had been unexpressed." In fact, Obama has discussed his faith publicly for years, including in his 1995 memoir.
During a report on the DREAM Act, a measure proposed by Sen. Dick Durbin that would have provided permanent resident status to a select group of undocumented immigrants, CNN's Lisa Sylvester reported that the bill's sponsors "held a news conference in the Capitol with illegal alien college students who'd benefit from the program," and that "[o]pponents demanded federal immigration officials detain the illegal aliens." However, several media outlets have reported that the three students featured at the press conference all have temporary legal status.
On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, author Phil Kent asserted that "back in 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union, of all people, rejected some Ford and Rockefeller grants because of fear of terror links." Guest host Kitty Pilgrim did not challenge the claim. In fact, the ACLU has stated that it rejected funding from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations because their "restrictive funding agreements ... might adversely affect the civil liberties of the ACLU and other grantees."