WashPost Hypes N.C. Dem’s ‘Attack Ad’, Buries Its Lie on Page A12

Tuesday, May 6 is primary day for the North Carolina race for U.S. Senate, and The Washington Post ran a misleading front-page story declaring “In N.C., Hagan’s attack ad flips script on health law.” 

Reporter Rosalind Helderman began the piece by hyping how “Thom Tillis, the Republican front-runner for a U.S. Senate seat, once called President Obama’s health-care law “a great idea” yet the truth was buried 8 paragraphs later on A12. Helderman eventually informed her readers that the Tillis quote was heavily taken out of context and was in fact false.

As the article continued, Helderman promoted how “the warning didn’t come from any of the seven opponents Tillis will face in Tuesday’s GOP primary, where he has been regularly attacked as not conservative enough. Instead, they were paid for by Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat who will face the eventual GOP nominee in November.” 

Eventually, Helderman admitted that the “attack ad” the piece trumpeted was false: 

A vocal critic of the health-care law, Tillis said Hagan is seeking to have an impact on Tuesday’s primary. During the February radio interview that has become the basis for Hagan’s attack ads, Tillis was highly critical of the measure before concluding that it was a “great idea that can’t be paid for”-a quote that he says was sarcasm that Hagan took out of context. 

PolitiFact rated that ad “mostly false” and noted that “That’s a severely edited quote. What Tillis actually said was that Obamacare is "a great idea that can’t be paid for." Pulling out that tiny sound bite gives a highly misleading view of what Tillis said in the interview.”  

Before she briefly acknowledged the dishonesty in Hagan’s ad, Helderman attacked Tillis as “popular among some conservatives for helping guide a dramatic shift to the right in Raleigh over the past four years that has spawned mass demonstrations on the left.” Even the liberal MSNBC.com website dismissed the claim that the “Moral Monday” protests amounted to “mass demonstrations on the left” as one recent demonstration drew only 1,600 people. 

Apart from briefly mentioning the misleading nature of the Hagan ad, Helderman dismisseed the controversy and proceeded to provide the Democratic senator a platform to slam the GOP candidates running to challenge her: “Every [Republican] candidate has a fringe agenda-I’ll let the primary voters Tuesday decide who my actual opponent will be.” 

Helderman never bothered to push back against Hagan’s assertion that all of her potential opponents have a “fringe agenda” and ignored the fact that the North Carolina Democrat is every bit as liberal as her North Carolina GOP colleague Richard Burr is conservative. According to the American Conservative Union, Senator Burr has a lifetime ACU rating of 91% whereas Hagan’s ACU rating is 9%. 

If the Post wanted to be objective in its reporting, it would have noted that Hagan’s “fringe” comment is bogus given that Hagan has an extremely liberal voting record. Instead, Helderman spins in Hagan’s favor and promotes the idea that:

Potentially more worrisome for Tillis’s supporters, he would need to contend with a runoff campaign just as the North Carolina legislature returns to session later this month. That probably would prompt a new round of protests that could help organize a Democratic base that might otherwise sit out the non-presidential election. 

Since Republicans took control of both chambers of the legislature in 2010 for the first time in more than 100 years, they have passed new voter identification legislation and restrictions on abortion clinics. They have cut taxes as well as education spending. Polls show that the legislature’s approval ratings are low, and Democrats think Hagan and others could benefit from a renewed focus on Raleigh. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.