Print press repeats media mantra of McCain as "maverick"

Print press repeats media mantra of McCain as "maverick"


Numerous print publications -- including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times -- continued a longstanding practice of referring to Sen. John McCain as a "maverick" in their coverage of the February 5 presidential primaries and caucuses.

In covering the results of the February 5 presidential primaries and caucuses, numerous print publications continued a longstanding practice of referring to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (AZ) as a "maverick" who has challenged Washington and his own party, despite a lifetime rating of 83 by the American Conservative Union and his recent rightward shift on high-profile issues such as immigration and taxes.

In their February 6 coverage, the following print publications all used the word "maverick" in reference to McCain:

  • An Associated Press article stated that McCain "has appealed strongly to independent voters with his image as a maverick ready to work outside strict party lines." (The AP article did report: "McCain was a lead sponsor last year of the failed compromise bill, backed by President Bush and most Democrats, that would have tightened border security while also allowing illegal immigrants a pathway toward citizenship. During the campaign, as McCain sought support from GOP conservatives, he has stressed that border security would be his first priority, while his Democratic rivals continued to advocate a comprehensive approach.")*
  • The New York Times reported: "This week, as Mr. McCain grew more confident of winning, the maverick who had long defied and exasperated his party began promoting himself as a true conservative who could unify Republicans for the fight in November."
  • An article in The Washington Post described McCain as "a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who has carved out a career as a blunt-talking maverick on Capitol Hill."
  • The Los Angeles Times noted former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's attempts to gain on McCain by writing: "For weeks, Romney has been casting McCain as a Washington insider, despite the senator's maverick reputation." In a separate article on the same day, the Times reported that a voter who liked California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "chose McCain because his maverick, moderate political style is most similar to the governor's."
  • The Chicago Tribune reported: "Romney also sought to benefit from prominent conservative talk show hosts who repeatedly used their media outlets to blast McCain's maverick status as no friend of the Republican right." Further, an editorial in the Tribune headlined "The McCain Surge" listed several reasons why McCain couldn't win the Republican nomination, with one reason being: "He'd spent a Senate career being too much the maverick. He was often disloyal to his party -- and more often a prickly and righteous annoyance to his colleagues."
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer asserted: "[T]he senator from Arizona emerged with unresolved problems on his right flank, as he tries to persuade conservative opinion leaders that they have little to fear from his maverick tendencies and willingness to work with Democrats."
  • The Dallas Morning News reported that when he addressed his supporters after his February 5 primary victories, "Mr. McCain also reached beyond to the conservative and evangelical base of his party, many of whom have criticized the maverick GOP senator."
  • An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch stated: "The maverick Mr. McCain is the leader, but only because the party's conservative base is badly split."
  • A Salt Lake Tribune editorial asserted: "[I]t is impossible to imagine the evangelical base of the party coming out strongly for the maverick McCain in November."
  • In his New York Sun column, Nicholas Wapshott compared McCain to former President Ronald Reagan, writing: "[T]he maverick senator from Arizona was as likeable and as authentic as Reagan, someone who didn't need a poll or a focus group or a finger in the wind to decide where he stood on an issue."

Media Matters for America has also documented the broadcast media's habit of using the label of "maverick" when discussing McCain.

* The original version of this item omitted the AP's reference to McCain's change on immigration. Media Matters regrets the omission.

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