Media Report Re-Warmed Obama Campaign Talking Points as Fact

As Culture and Media Institute Director Robert Knight has noted, the media are still presenting Obama campaign spin on the McCain sex ed ad as hard facts. Last week the McCain campaign released an ad charging Senator Obama with supporting sex education for kindergarten children when he was an Illinois state senator.  According to the Obama campaign and the media the legislation in question "was written to protect young children from sexual predators."  That's a line that Obama himself used during last year's CNN/YouTube debate:

I've got a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old daughter.  And I want them to know if somebody is doing something wrong to them, encroaching on their privacy, that they should come talk to me or my wife.  And we've had that conversation, but not every parent is going to have that conversation with their child, and I think it's important that every child does, to make sure that they're not subject to the sexual predators (emphasis mine).

The only problem is that the goal of the bill wasn't to stop sexual predators, but to revamp the Illinois sex ed curriculum.  Many members of the media failed to report the heart of the story.  Instead, they repeated Obama's talking points.   Here's a sampling of what some had to say about the ad:

September 10, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: "The legislation in question was not sponsored by Barack Obama.  It never became law and it was actually designed to warn young children about sexual predators. (Emphasis mine.)

September 12, syndicated columnist Mark Shields on PBS "NewsHour:" "Obama voted for...a bill in the Illinois state legislature that would - for age-appropriate sex educations for youngsters taught to be - to warn them about adult sexual predators and what they could do to avoid and to discourage and to resist."  (Emphasis mine.)

September 12, CNN's Larry King during "The Larry King Show" "...the quote about kindergartners is not teaching sex to kindergarten kids.  It's dealing with predators."  (Emphasis mine.)

A quick read of the proposed legislation, however, indicates that it's much more than teaching young children the difference between bad touches and good touches.  The term "sexual predator," never appears in the document.   57 lines in the 14-page, 455-line document (a 19-line section repeated almost verbatim two more times) address "unwanted" and "nonconsensual sexual advance," but even this section is aimed principally at resisting "peer pressure," not child molesters. The great majority of the bill addresses a variety of sex education issues, most prominently removing socially conservative language about abstinence before marriage from Illinois sex ed curricula.Just as the McCain ad said, SB 99 would have lowered the beginning of "age-appropriate" comprehensive sex education from sixth grade down to kindergarten.  Here's how the proposal appears in the bill itself.  Proposed additions to the code's language are bolded, and deletions italicized: 

22        Sec. 3.  Comprehensive Health Education Program.

23        (a)  The   program   established  under  this  Act  shall

24    include,  but  not  be  limited  to,  the   following   major

25    educational  areas as a basis for curricula in all elementary

26    and secondary  schools  in  this  State:  human  ecology  and

27    health,   human   growth   and  development,  the  emotional,

28    psychological,    physiological,    hygienic    and    social

29    responsibilities of family life, including sexual  abstinence

30    and   prevention  of  unintended  pregnancy  until  marriage,

31    prevention and control of disease, including age  appropriate

32    instruction  in  grades  K  6 through 12 on the prevention of

33    sexually transmitted infections,

The media left it to a handful of guests on news programs and two Fox News personalities to explain that McCain's characterization of Obama's stance on sex education for children was correct.  On the September 10 "Special Report with Brit Hume," Fox News correspondent Major Garrett stated, "there is evidence and this was raised back in 2007 that that legislation also had age-appropriate sex education that did not deal with sexual predators but had very explicit language about what sex was and wasn't and talked about homosexuality and various body parts."  Later that night on Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity delved deeper into the issue of what the bill meant by "age-appropriate" sex education:

It talks about specific names of body parts for men and women and reproduction organs.  The some people are homosexual; it means they can be attracted to and fall in love with other people of the same sex.  Masturbation should be done in a private place.  This in that level one curriculum that he supported.  Why shouldn't that be a campaign ad?

Perhaps Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said it best during CNN's "Election Center" on September 15, when he said of the bill, there are "standards in there [in] which 5-8 year-olds should be, you know, talking about body parts, lifestyles and what feels good and a lot of American think that that's going too far.  Now, you know, whether he intended it or not, that's what he voted for and that's fair game."  But that's not something you'll hear from the liberal media.