Three CNN talking heads - "The Situation Room’s" Jack Cafferty, senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and chief national correspondent John King - all denied that the mainstream media has a "double standard for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton," as "The Situation Room" host Wolf Blitzer put it. Cafferty was the most adamant denier of the charge. "No, it's a vast left-wing conspiracy, Wolf. We all got together in the media and said okay, let's all decide collectively to beat up on Hillary and be nice to Barack Obama. That's nonsense."
The three, along with Blitzer, had a discussion on Tuesday’s "The Situation Room" at the bottom of the 6 pm Eastern hour in response to a report by Howard Kurtz which was played immediately before the segment. Kurtz, commenting on the Clinton campaign’s charge that "media are giving her [Clinton] a hard time and Barack Obama a free pass," proposed that it was "hard to deny that Senator Obama has gotten largely upbeat coverage from the time he first flirted with running for president." After playing various clips such as the now-famous "Saturday Night Live" sketch which portrayed the media as being "totally in the tank for Obama" and Chris Matthews’ "thrill going up my leg" comment, Kurtz concluded that "[t]here are signs that Obama is starting to draw a bit more critical scrutiny now that he's the Democratic front-runner. But it will take a lot more of that to change the ‘Saturday Night Live’ image of a pro-Obama press corps."
The first to respond to Kurtz’s hypothesis was Cafferty, who went into one of his extended populist-tinged rants, all the while denying that the media has it in for Hillary Clinton.
WOLF BLITZER: Jack, what do you think? Is there a double standard? Is Hillary Clinton sort of getting tough coverage and he's getting a free ride?
CAFFERTY: That would be the meaning of double standard. I got it. No, it's a vast left-wing conspiracy, Wolf. We all got together in the media and said okay, let's all decide collectively to beat up on Hillary and be nice to Barack Obama. That's nonsense. This is a tailor-made story for the U.S. news media from a couple of perspectives. One, the arrogance and the incumbent presumed nominee way with which this thing was launched -- I don't need the voters, I'm going to be the next president. Katie Couric says what if you -- what if you're not the nominee? Oh, I'll be the nominee -- this arrogance, almost. The lack of planning, figuring it's all going to be over February 5th. No money, no people on the ground in the states that came after that. And this young guy, who recognized the deep dissatisfaction among the people in this country -- not the politicians, the people -- at their government, at their foreign policy, at the economic policies, at the military-industrial complex's choke-hold on the country. And it began to resonate. And all of a sudden, it's the media's fault? Get out of here.
Blitzer then asked Borger for her take, who placed the blame squarely on Hillary Clinton herself for her apparent media problem.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, blame the media. Don't blame the candidate. Don't blame the campaign. Blame the media. And Hillary Clinton herself said look, I've been vetted. Well, she's continuing to get vetted in the way she performs as a candidate. Is Barack Obama new on the scene? Of course. Has Hillary Clinton been around for a couple of decades? Do voters think they know her? Does the press think that it knows her? Of course. But is she getting [un]favorable treatment because of some mystical quality that Barack Obama exudes? No. It's her campaign and it's the candidate.
After Blitzer played a clip of a Hillary Clinton interview where she claimed she was "misunderstood," it was King’s turn for a take on the issue. King brought up Clinton’s "more public" record, her connection to her husband Bill Clinton, and concluded by agreeing with Kurtz, that Obama will now receive more scrutiny, particularly because of the upcoming Tony Rezko trial.
JOHN KING: Well, look, her record is much more public than Barack Obama's record because Hillary Clinton has been in Washington throughout her husband's presidency -- eight years of that, plus her time in the Senate. So it is easier to go back and look at the Hillary health care controversy, to look at her sparring with what she calls the vast right-wing conspiracy over the years. And, yes, she does get the baggage of Bill Clinton's presidency attached to her. Is that fair? It's not my call to make, but it is a reality and a political reality. She benefits from Bill Clinton's, well, likeability in Democratic politics and she is criticized sometimes from it. I think, in the long run, this all balances out. The Rezko trial begins next week in Chicago. Senator Obama will get some scrutiny because of that. But it has been a constant complaint from her campaign, Wolf. Without a doubt, they believe there has been a double standard and they complain about it on a daily basis.
Even with the evidence squarely placed in front of them by Kurtz, these three journalists pretty much brushed aside the theory of a pro-Obama mainstream media.