Media Matters has extensively documented the disparity in media coverage devoted to controversial comments made by supporters of Sen. Barack Obama and to those made by supporters of Sen. John McCain. Several major publications have reported only on the controversy over remarks by McCain supporter John Hagee targeting Catholics, but not his controversial statements about Hurricane Katrina, Islam, women, and homosexuality. Most of those same publications have yet to report on pastor Rod Parsley and his controversial remarks in the context of McCain's campaign.
The Associated Press reported that Sen. John McCain "has decided not to accept the public matching funds," but that the Federal Election Commission "wants him to assure regulators that he did not use the promise of public money as collateral for [a] loan." The article did not mention that FEC Chairman David Mason has asserted that McCain cannot legally withdraw from the public finance system without FEC approval. Additionally, a Wall Street Journal article did not note that McCain may not be able to opt out of the public financing system.
The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, and Reuters reported Sen. John McCain's claim that his trip overseas is unrelated to his presidential campaign without noting that McCain's trip includes a fundraiser in London or that McCain campaign representatives have reportedly acknowledged the political strategy behind the trip.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Newsmax's Ronald Kessler truncated Sen. Barack Obama's response to a controversial statement by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., about 9-11, repeating a statement from a New York Times interview in which Obama said "it sounds like [Wright] was trying to be provocative." But Kessler omitted Obama's statement, reported in the same article, disagreeing with Wright's 9-11 comments: "The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification."
The Wall Street Journal uncritically reported that Sen. John McCain "said his pro-environment positions," among others, would "make him competitive" in California. In fact, McCain has a lifetime rating of 24 percent from the League of Conservation Voters. By contrast, Sen. Hillary Clinton has a lifetime rating of 87 percent and Sen. Barack Obama, 86 percent.
In reporting that Sen. John McCain "committed to public financing" and "slammed Mr. [Barack] Obama for hedging on his pledge to accept public financing in the general election," the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler did not report that McCain is trying to opt out of the public financing system for his primary campaign, yet may not be able to do so because he obtained a loan in late 2007 that could have required him to remain an active candidate, whether or not he had any chance of winning, and apply for federal matching funds to repay the loan.
Various media figures and reports have helped perpetuate the myth of Sen. John McCain as a straight-talking maverick who is feared by lobbyists and representatives of special interests. But McCain's campaign reportedly has more current and former lobbyists on staff or as advisers and more current and former lobbyist fundraising bundlers than any other candidate.
A Wall Street Journal article by Jonathan Kaufman stated that Sen. John McCain's "war record and straight-talking approach could make him appealing to many working-class men," an assertion repeated by Jack Cafferty on The Situation Room. Kaufman and Cafferty join a long list of media outlets that have adopted McCain's self-characterization as a "straight-talker," despite repeated falsehoods by McCain, as well as his stark inconsistencies on numerous issues, including the Iraq war, immigration, and tax cuts.
The Wall Street Journal and washingtonpost.com's The Trail both quoted Sen. John McCain's false assertion that Sen. Barack Obama "once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan." McClatchy Newspapers -- apparently quoting from the prepared text of McCain's January 19 speech -- reported that McCain said Obama "once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan." In fact, in an August 2007 speech, Obama stated: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will."
A Wall Street Journal article about a hypothetical general election matchup between Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama asserted that "Mr. McCain might enter a race versus Mr. Obama with an advantage among Hispanic voters." However, recent polls have found that significantly more Hispanics would vote for Obama than McCain in a head-to-head contest.
A Wall Street Journal article asserted that "[w]hile Sen. [John] McCain has shifted his emphasis, talking more now about 'securing the border first,' he remains committed to the broad strokes of his original approach [on immigration reform]." And the Washington Post editorial board wrote that McCain has made "what amounts to only a mild shift in emphasis in his longstanding position." However, McCain's current position -- that the borders must be secured before other reforms can be addressed -- is a reversal of his prior position; McCain previously argued that border security could not be disaggregated from other aspects of comprehensive immigration reform without being rendered ineffective. Moreover, he now says that he would not support his own legislation if it came up for a vote in the Senate.
In an email to readers encouraging recipients to read the National Journal article on the magazine's 2007 vote ratings, the National Journal Group wrote: "In 2004, President Bush invoked Senator John Kerry's liberal Vote Ratings score repeatedly on the campaign trail and at their head-to-head debates. We anticipate similar attention for our Vote Ratings across the 2008 election cycle." Numerous media did follow suit and tout the Journal's 2003 rating of Kerry. And once again, the media are giving the 2007 ratings the "similar attention" the National Journal Group anticipated -- despite the Journal's acknowledgment that the methodology it used to rate Kerry was flawed.
As purported evidence that Sen. John McCain "has the potential to swing critical independents," The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley A. Strassel wrote: "New Hampshire Independents got to choose their primary last month, and the early betting was that they'd flock to the Democrats and Mr. [Barack] Obama. In fact, they made up a greater share of the Republican primary vote than they did in 2000, drawn by Mr. McCain." However, according to exit polling, many more independents voted in the 2008 Democratic New Hampshire primary than Republican primary, many more independents voted for Obama than McCain, and independents represented a larger portion of Republican primary voters in 2000 than in 2008.
In their coverage of the January 30 Republican presidential debate, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, ABC, and National Public Radio all reported Sen. John McCain's criticism of Mitt Romney over negative campaign ads. However, none of those media outlets noted that McCain has aired numerous ads attacking Romney, despite having said that "negative campaigns don't work."