CNN Goes Easy on Barack Obama’s Flip-Flop on Public Campaign Financing

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterCNN’s senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, during a report on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," must have thought it was a foregone conclusion that Barack Obama would give up on his pledge that he would accept public financing for his presidential campaign. "If you raised more than a quarter billion dollars in the primary season, would you limit yourself to $85 million in the fall campaign? Duh!" While she did point out Obama’s previous statements affirming his dedication to public financing, both she and Wolf Blitzer used subdued language to describe this broken promise, and tried to spin how this might be a potential issue in the campaign.

Blitzer introduced Crowley’s report, which aired at the top of the 4 pm Eastern hour, by explaining how Obama was "abandoning an earlier commitment to accept public funding." The CNN senior correspondent then described glowingly "while it may have been an easy decision, and it may have been expected, it certainly is history-making." After making her "duh!" statement and playing an excerpt of Obama’s videotaped announcement on the issue, she repeated how the Democrat "made history" by becoming "the first presidential nominee to refuse public financing in a general campaign."

She then described Obama’s past statements on public financing, while minimizing their possible impact:

CROWLEY: ...Legal and expected, all would be okay except for the video trail of this kind of thing -- dateline New Hampshire, April 2007.

OBAMA: I have been a public supporter of public financing since I got into politics.

CROWLEY: And in late November, Obama responded to, and then signed, a questionnaire stating, 'I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly-financed general election.' John McCain is the decided underdog in the money chase, but his campaign is hoping he does have a political issue.

"Hoping he does have a political issue"? How about, simply put, he does have a political issue. Barack Obama has flip-flopped on public campaign financing. As Blitzer put it in his introduction, "the McCain camp is jumping on that big-time."

Crowley then outlined McCain’s arguments against Obama in this matter, all the while attributing them mainly to Hillary Clinton.

CROWLEY: ...[McCain’s] Aides helpfully provided a timeline of Obama's evolution on the subject, while the Republican National Committee reproduced quotes from Hillary Clinton from February, when it was clear Obama would opt out of the campaign finance system. ‘Now we're seeing,’ she said, ‘how the words don't even mean what we thought they meant.’ McCain, working his way through a day which ends at a fund-raiser, channeled Clinton and said pretty much the same thing.

So I guess McCain doesn’t have an original argument concerning Obama’s decision.

Despite outlining the McCain campaign’s arguments, she did not include any sound bite or statement from McCain or any of his campaign officials reacting to this decision. All of the sound bites came from Obama. Since he made this decision on Thursday morning, and Crowley’s report aired in the afternoon, an official response from the McCain campaign was likely released before the beginning of "The Situation Room."

Crowley, appearing on-camera at the conclusion of her report, seemingly tried to downplay this move by Obama by bringing up a possible source of money for McCain: "For McCain's side, of course, he has the Republican National Committee, which can be of big help to his campaign, and right now, Wolf, they are out-fundraising the Democratic National Committee, about two-to-one for the cycle." Blitzer then tried to explain it away, stating that "Obama makes the point that the whole system is broken right now. That's why he's going to get out this previous indication that he was going to accept it."

Is that all it is, Wolf? It’s probably a safe bet that if a Republican presidential candidate had gone back on his word, the term "flip-flop" or something along those lines would have been used in your network’s reporting.

SEE related item on broadcast networks downplaying Obama's pledge-breaking here.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center