NPR's Liasson played clip of McCain ad without noting its distortions


NPR's Mara Liasson uncritically reported that Sen. John McCain's campaign is "running this ad claiming she's [Gov. Sarah Palin] been the victim of sexism by Obama." In fact, the ad distorts each of the three Obama campaign statements it uses to make its "claim[]" as and The New York Times have noted.

On the September 17 edition of NPR's Morning Edition, national political correspondent Mara Liasson uncritically reported that the campaign of Sen. John McCain is "running this ad claiming she's [Gov. Sarah Palin] been the victim of sexism by Obama." In fact, the ad to which Liasson was referring distorts each of the three Obama campaign statements it uses to make its "claim[]" as and The New York Times have noted.

On the September 12 edition of Morning Edition, Liasson falsely asserted that the ad "catalogued all of the false or sexist or awful things that Democrats and Obama supporters have said about Sarah Palin." In fact, the ad did not "catalogue[]" any "false" statements the Obama campaign or other Democrats have made about Palin.

Liasson also asserted on September 17 that "liberal feminists" had "questioned whether Palin could raise her children and run for vice president." But Liasson provided no examples of "liberal feminists" questioning whether Palin could juggle career and family. Indeed, National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy, a feminist whom Liasson cited making a different point, issued a press statement when McCain named Palin as his running mate saying that Palin's challenges as "a mother of five who has a 4-month-old baby, a woman who is juggling work and family responsibilities, will speak to many women."

From the September 17 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:

LIASSON: Alarmed at polls showing a shift of white women to McCain, Barack Obama is rolling out a series of events targeting female voters. This weekend his campaign will hold rallies and go canvassing in beauty shops around the country. Meanwhile John McCain appeared on The View and cooked ribs with Rachael Ray. The McCain campaign is also continuing to wield its most effective weapon in the battle for women voters, Sarah Palin. They're running this ad claiming she's been the victim of sexism by Obama.

[begin audio clip]

NARRATOR: He was the world's biggest celebrity --

CROWD: Obama! Obama!

NARRATOR: -- but his star's fading. So they lashed out at Sarah Palin, dismissed her as good looking. That backfired, so they said she was doing "what she was told," then, desperately, called Sarah Palin a liar. How disrespectful.

[end audio clip]

LIASSON: The role reversals in this campaign are head-spinning, and so are the charges of hypocrisy. Just as conservative women reacted angrily to liberal feminists who questioned whether Palin could raise her children and run for vice president, liberals, like the National Organization for Women's Kim Gandy, are now tweaking Republicans for their newfound sensitivity. Gandy held a press conference yesterday.

GANDY [audio clip]: I love it that the Republicans have discovered sexism in the media [laughter], because they didn't see any of it when it was being directed at Hillary Clinton, but once Sarah Palin got a dose of it they were all over it.

OBAMA [audio clip]: Nobody actually believes that these folks are offended.

LIASSON: Obama himself at an event last week in Virginia described the Republican attacks as cynical.

OBAMA [audio clip]: Everybody knows it's insincere. The media knows it. I mean this is a game that we play. It's a game, it's a sport.

LIASSON: But it's a game McCain's been playing with some effect, drawing attention away from Obama's message. This week the Obama campaign has settled on a new approach to Palin, focusing not on Palin herself but on her positions. Here's Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, one of Obama's top surrogates, on ABC calling Palin a great role model for women.

McCASKILL [audio clip]: I mean I'm talkin' as a woman who took my breast pump to work for all three of my children, so it's terrific, but if women of America are going to kick the tires in the next 55 days, and they're going to find out that this is a ticket that wants to put women in prison for having an abortion after they have been raped. This is a ticket that has --

LIASSON: But Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and one of McCain's top surrogates, appeared alongside McCaskill and insisted that sexism will drive women to McCain.

FIORINA [audio clip]: There are a whole host of women in the Democratic Party who believe the Democratic Party does not understand what sexism is, routinely underestimates the impact of women, and they are coming in droves to the Republican Party, because they think the party and John McCain get it. That's a fact.

LIASSON: Not so fast, says Mark Blumenthal, the publisher of There's no poll data showing large numbers of Democratic women moving to McCain, but there has been movement of white women to McCain. Right now McCain has an average 13-point lead among white women, so he's back up to the same margin President Bush had when he beat John Kerry in 2004. Sarah Palin has certainly helped McCain there. But Blumenthal says there may be an even more important Palin effect.

BLUMENTHAL [audio clip]: It's the change in the middle, the movement among independents, that is as much responsible for this modest but critically important shift to McCain. Her selection along with John McCain's speech helped to convey to independents that McCain is really the maverick that they thought he was, reminded them of the things that they liked about McCain.

LIASSON: That's the good news for McCain. But the good news for Obama is that these independents are swing voters, and their preferences are not locked down yet, which makes the four upcoming debates critical for this narrow but decisive sliver of the electorate. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.

Mara Liasson, Sarah Palin
Morning Edition
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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