Morning Joe viewers Wednesday were treated to a truly marvelous demonstration of the media's hypocritical double standard concerning negative campaign ads.
As host Joe Scarborough told Donny Deutsch, despite Barack Obama in 2008 running more negative ads "than any other candidate in history...the mainstream media, every network, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, they all covered for him. Nobody wrote that story because they all wanted him to win" (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):
Early in the segment, Scarborough said, “This is going to be a tough, long campaign. But Donny Deutsch, the man in the driver's seat right there ran more negative ads, 30-second ads four years ago than any other candidate in history.”
He continued, “The only difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is the mainstream media, every network, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, they all covered for him. Nobody wrote that story because they all wanted him to win. It was shameful the way they covered for him.”
Indeed it was. But then Scarborough said something about this race that might shock a lot of people.
“As cynical and as depressing as Mitt Romney’s campaign was this past week, if you're going against a guy that's going to run $1 billion worth of negative 30-second ads this fall, maybe just maybe Republicans that don't like Barack Obama, as you said, have had it wrong all the time, because they've all been saying Newt can get mean and ugly with Barack Obama.”
Scarborough continued, “No, Newt's just kind of all over the place. He's unfocused. Maybe you need a negative, nasty, cynical cyborg – as Rich Lowry said - campaign apparatus to go after the most negative campaigner in the history of American politics when you just measure it by 30-second ads, Barack Obama.”
Fascinating concept when you think about it.
There’s no question this is going to be the ugliest campaign we’ve ever seen with the battle waged on television sets from coast-to-coast.
As we saw in Iowa and now Florida, no matter how much people complain – including the media – about negative ads, they work. And the person that might be able to beat Obama better be willing to swim in this cesspool or he won’t be able to compete with, as Scarborough described, “the most negative campaigner in the history of American politics.”
But this segment wasn’t done, for the double standard concerning how the media have and will cover these negatives ads was further demonstrated when Deutsch responded, “I think we should stop using the term negative ads.”
Scarborough immediately saw the hypocrisy and asked, “Why, because I attached it to Barack Obama?”
He continued, “We've been using negative ads all week when attacking Mitt Romney, and when I brought up the simple fact that every objective outside reporter has stated that Barack Obama ran more negative 30-second ads than anybody in the history of American politics, suddenly it's, ‘Oh, let's not call them negative ads.’ Was that a coincidence?”
Deutsch replied, “Negative ads work because you can put facts in them. In positive ads, there's no takeaway. They’re both going to use them, that’s a fact. We've got to stop calling it ugly and call it competent. They're playing within the rules.”
“Oh, they’re competent now,” Scarborough shot back.
“I want my Commander- in-Chief whether it's either one of those guys to know how to win,” replied Deutsch.
So all week, the media have been criticizing Romney for his attack ads against Gingrich, but when Obama does it, it’s “competent” and knowing “how to win.”
Scarborough smartly jumped on this hypocrisy saying, “This is so beautiful. No, this is so beautiful. All week we're talking about Mitt Romney’s negative ads and nobody interrupts me one time. Now, we bring up the fact that Barack Obama ran more negative 30-second ads than anybody in the history of American politics, and suddenly it proves it’s competent. You can get facts into negative ads.”
This led Scarborough to laugh and Mark Halperin to add, “Let me get Bernie Goldberg on the phone to make sure he’s watching.”
“This is funny,” Scarborough responded. “Bernie could write a book about just this segment. It’s just like John Kerry’s 13.1 percent, 13.1 percent tax rate. It's amazing nobody talked about that throughout all of 2004 but now they're talking about it.”
For those that missed it, Scarborough was referring to Monday's program when New York magazine's John Heilemann admitted that despite his belief Romney's roughly 14 percent income tax rate is a serious campaign issue, he never reported Kerry's 13.1 percent rate in 2004.
The point here is that we can expect the press to come down strongly on negative ads this campaign season except of course when their candidate Barack Obama uses them.
Makes you proud of America's news media, doesn't it?
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