On Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz continued his pattern of raising the issue of media bias by repeating conservative claims in the form of questions when he asked on November 12 if "journalists [are] quietly rejoicing over the Democratic takeover of Congress." He then wondered: "[W]ill they cover Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as aggressively as they once scrutinized Newt Gingrich?"
Following the midterm elections, prominent Republicans and conservative media figures, as well as The Washington Post, dismissed suggestions that the results represented a referendum on Iraq by noting that Connecticut voters re-elected Sen. Joe Lieberman, despite his support for the war. But these attempts to cast Lieberman's victory as a counter to claims that the outcome of the elections was a repudiation of Bush's Iraq policy overlook Lieberman's efforts in the weeks leading up to the election to portray himself as a critic of the war.
In her column, Deborah Howell misrepresented Thomas Edsall's views on the purported liberalism of most journalists. Although Edsall asserted, as Howell reported, that "most journalists he knew were liberal" during a radio appearance, he explained in a subsequent online chat that, while many of its members are indeed liberal, the press at large is "inclined to lean over backwards not to offend critics from the right" and that the right wing's "campaign against the media ... has turned the press into an unwilling, and often unknowing, ally of the right."
In an editorial, The Washington Post asserted that "[t]he worst offenders" of "negative campaigning" were "Republicans, but that probably was because they were the ones on the defensive." In fact, Republicans also employed vicious smears in winning the 2002 and 2004 elections.
The Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum reported that Sen. John McCain has "long been seen as a champion of independents" and the "good news" for him is that this voting bloc played a significant role in determining the outcome of this year's elections. However, that logic overlooks the fact that independents cited the Iraq war -- which McCain supports -- as one of their top reasons for voting Democratic this year.
Media figures have attributed Democratic gains in the House and Senate in the midterm elections to the number of wins by conservative or moderate Democratic challengers and have suggested that because the party's victory in the House was purportedly "built on the back of more centrist candidates," the incoming Democratic majority will be sharply divided. However, a Media Matters for America survey of the policy positions of 27 victorious House candidates found that they all agree on a core set of issues, including raising the minimum wage and protecting Social Security.
In their coverage of Saddam Hussein's November 5 guilty verdict, several print news outlets reported U.S. officials' assertions that the announcement had not been timed to coincide with the midterm elections but ignored reporting that conflicts with these denials -- in particular, the fact that the full verdict in Saddam's trial is not set to be released until November 9.
Contradicting her earlier reporting, The Washington Post's Ellen Knickmeyer reported that "U.S. officials close to the trial deny" that they have the "power to set [the] date" for the announcement of Saddam Hussein's verdict. Knickmeyer had previously reported that the U.S. government "run[s] much of the day-to-day arrangements for the trial."
Despite the significance of President Bush's November 1 pronouncement that Donald Rumsfeld will remain defense secretary until the end of his presidency, multiple media outlets have devoted much greater attention to the controversy over Sen. John Kerry's "botched joke."
Numerous news outlets have failed to provide the full context for Kerry's recent remarks on Iraq, instead presenting the issue of whether Kerry intended to criticize the troops as a he-said/she-said conflict. These outlets have also ignored comments by several prominent Republicans acknowledging that Kerry did not intend to disparage American soldiers.
A Washington Post story on Sen. George Allen's accusations that James Webb's novels include "inappropriate sex scenes and demeaning descriptions of women" contained an acknowledgment that the newspaper decided to report the story only after Matt Drudge had highlighted it on his website.
Numerous media outlets reported without challenge President Bush's assertion that the "ultimate accountability" for the Iraq war "rests with me" -- some even asserting that he "took full responsibility for the war." But these reports ignored Bush's consistent pattern of deflecting questions regarding his judgments on Iraq by stating that he defers to others, including top generals, the intelligence community, and the Iraqi government, in making such decisions.