In his weekly column, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt ludicrously argued that Barack Obama has gotten tougher coverage since January 2007 (when Obama entered the race) than John McCain:
By my count, The Times has published more tough articles on Obama, 20, than on McCain, 13, since the beginning of last year.
The Times has never filed any story targeting Obama that remotely approaches the mendacity of its February 21 hit piece alleging a McCain affair with a telecommunications lobbyist (Hoyt himself at the time said the Times was wrong to run the affair allegations). Also, Hoyt's narrow definition of bias helpfully eliminates stories with asides about McCain's temper, or constant mentions of McCain's "gaffes."
Hoyt also avoids the paper's laudatory treatment of Obama's "race speech" in Philadelphia, delivered solely in response to troubles with his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but compared by the Times to speeches by John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Meanwhile the Times constantly hinted in both editorial and news stories that McCain was making racial appeals in his campaign advertising.
Hoyt's conclusion also ignored clear double standards in coverage. McCain campaign reporter Elisabeth Bumiller has three times brought up the fact that McCain has sometimes called the Czech Republic by its old name Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, the Times has yet to report on Obama's "57 states" gaffe, or Obama's evident belief that the climactic scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" (in which Cary Grant hangs off Mt. Rushmore) was actually shot on Mt. Rushmore. Neither does Hoyt's list factor in the two separate stories questioning McCain's eligibility because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone (rumors about Obama's birthplace have never been covered by the Times).
And Hoyt's emphasis on "tough" stories doesn't take into account the effect of soft-soap puffery like the June 5 "Many Blacks Find Joy in Unexpected Breakthrough." Also left off: the Times's rejection of a McCain op-ed opposing Obama's own Times op-ed supporting withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
During the Republican primary, John McCain did benefit from being the Times's version of an acceptably moderate Republican in a race that included Mitt Romney and the moderate but Times-loathed Rudy Giuliani. But that changed as soon as he clinched the GOP nomination.