In a November 14 online post to The Washington Post's “The Trail” feature, “a daily diary of Campaign 2008” -- which was reprinted in a slightly different form in the November 15 edition of the paper -- media critic Howard Kurtz reported that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “who is drawing criticism for not challenging a South Carolina voter's vulgar reference to [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY], yesterday issued a letter accusing CNN of having 'stooped to an all-time low' in trumpeting the incident.” The post was referring to McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' response to a report by CNN anchor Rick Sanchez on the November 13 edition of CNN's Out in the Open, during which Sanchez noted McCain's comments at a South Carolina campaign event to an audience member who asked, “How do we beat the bitch?” But while Kurtz quoted from Davis' email -- which, as Kurtz put it, “charged the 'Clinton News Network' with 'gratuitously attacking' McCain” -- he didn't note that Davis falsely claimed in the email that McCain “first responded by saying that he respected Senator Clinton, as he has said repeatedly throughout the campaign. Then, focusing on the question, he pointed to the new Rasmussen national poll showing that he is the only Republican candidate who can beat her in a general election.” In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, a video of the exchange posted on YouTube by the Veracifier blog shows that McCain's first response to the question was, “May I give the translation?” ; then, “But that's an excellent question” ; followed by his reference to the Rasmussen poll. Only after the Rasmussen reference did he say he had “respect” for Clinton.
From Kurtz's November 15 Washington Post “The Trail” entry:
John McCain, who is drawing criticism for not challenging a South Carolina voter's vulgar reference to Hillary Clinton, yesterday issued a letter accusing CNN of having “stooped to an all-time low” in trumpeting the incident.
On Monday night, when a woman at a town hall meeting asked how Republicans could beat Clinton -- calling her a word that rhymes with “witch” -- McCain smiled as the crowd laughed and said it was an “excellent question.” After citing a poll showing him beating her in a general-election matchup, the senator from Arizona said: “I respect Senator Clinton. I respect anyone who gets the nomination of the Democrat Party.”
Anchor Rick Sanchez led off his “Out in the Open” show with the video, saying: “This could be real bad for John McCain. ... No matter what you think of Hillary Clinton, is John McCain done as a result of this? ... I think he could be in trouble for this from women.”
Campaign manager Rick Davis, in a fundraising letter, charged the “Clinton News Network” with “gratuitously attacking” McCain. He said that CNN “owes John McCain an apology because of the outrageous behavior” of Sanchez, and that “the liberal media” are “trying to stop the McCain comeback.”
Sanchez sees no need for an apology, saying McCain “has not addressed what many would see as embracing a word that is demeaning to women. He did not seem to respond appropriately to an offensive word,” Sanchez said, and instead is trying “to get people to focus attention ... on the messenger.”