During last year's presidential campaign, the media worked overtime to portray John and Cindy McCain as wealthy private jet junkies with more homes than they can remember, while showcasing Barack and Michelle Obama as just another middle class family with two working parents, one car and freshly paid off student loans. In 2008, a media frenzy whirled around Mrs. McCain's income and the $170,000 she paid household staff in 2006.
On the other hand, Mrs. Obama was defined as an average mom who juggled work and home with extraordinary skill. According to the media, she arranged sleepovers, scoured Target for the perfect wardrobe and served healthy organic dinners. Just like us common folk, right? Well, almost. Those healthy organic dinners were cooked by the Obamas' personal chef, Sam Kass.
Funny how the media didn't mention that on the campaign trail, particularly in all of those syrupy, hagiographic interviews where Michelle discussed her family life, such as this October 17, 2008 CBS "Early Show" segment where she danced around answering reporter Maggie Rodriguez when she asked, “Who cooks at home?” (emphasis mine):
MS. RODRIGUEZ: ...Who cooks at home?
MS. OBAMA: When we cook, I cook. But a lot of times we -- you know, it's a lot of ordering out. It's a lot of folks bringing food, you know. It's -- this year has not been usual.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.
MS. OBAMA: But outside of this year, I would generally cook.
MS. RODRIGUEZ: Are you a good cook?
MS. OBAMA: I'm a good cook when I have time to do it. But I'm not -- you know, I'm not somebody who has to cook. If there's somebody else who's got a good meal, we're there. (Laughs.)
MS. RODRIGUEZ: If he's had a long day and he just wants to come home and have Michelle's what -- what's the best meal you make that he loves?
MS. OBAMA: Oh, he loves my shrimp linguine. It's garlicky, with sun-dried tomatoes. That's one of his favorite dishes.
Did anyone else flash back to Bill Clinton's “what the meaning of the word 'is' is” tap dancing while reading Rodriguez ask Mrs. Obama who does the cooking at home? The Harvard-educated lawyer replied, “When we cook, I cook” (my emphasis) and “outside of this year, I would generally cook.”
While it isn't a big deal that two working parents with children employed people to help with household chores, the contrast in the way that the wealth and personal lives of these two families was reported during the campaign was obvious. There was not a similar dissection of the Obamas' home life, even when it was presented as campaign PR. Republicans face more personal—and public—scrutiny, and those were not the only examples.
The media found time to investigate minute details in the personal lives of the GOP ticket, yet ignored similar stories for the Dems. Not content with rehashing Cindy McCain's past prescription drug problems (and failing to investigate Mr. Obama's illegal drug use), the New York Times skulked around Facebook trying to persuade 16-year-old classmates of the McCains' youngest daughter to dish dirt on Mrs. McCain's mothering skills.
Of course, the personal digging didn't stop with the McCains; Mr. McCain's running mate Sarah Palin--and anyone connected to her—were targeted. The media found time to report that the MySpace page of Mrs. Palin's teen daughter's boyfriend said that he was a “f***ing redneck.” That sure was breaking news about someone marginally related to the presidential race.
The disparity in the way these two campaigns were covered should be an embarrassment to the media. At least the Washington Post finally admitted to the bias after the election.
Lynn contributes to NewsBusters. Email her with tips or even complaints at tvisgoodforyou2—AT—yahoo--DOT--com.