Before the networks had even declared Barack Obama the winner Tuesday night, CBS historian Douglas Brinkley announced that the “Age of Ronald Reagan” was “coming to an end tonight.” Shortly before 11pm EST, Brinkley told anchor Katie Couric: “We're looking at a historic victory for the Democrats and Barack Obama. I think you have to go back to 1964 when Lyndon Johnson had such a landslide over Barry Goldwater to see how momentous this is.”
In a Tuesday night piece wrapping up yesterday’s election, Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh sought out liberal historian Robert Dallek, who similarly declared that Obama’s win “is probably going to mark the end of the Reagan era — this whole conservative impulse that has dominated the country's politics for the last generation....I think you're going to see a whole new era of federal progressive activism.”
On his syndicated Chris Matthews Show on Sunday, the conspicuously pro-Obama MSNBC host announced how he expected that “election night is going to be emotional for all of us....Particularly if it goes in that historic direction, it’s going to be very emotional for everybody. I mean, everybody.”
A few minutes later, in his closing commentary about the election, Matthews (a potential Democratic Senate candidate in 2010) offered a not-very veiled endorsement of Barack Obama, suggesting his election would mean a “leap towards something better and uniting our country as never before in our history.”
So we’ll be more united than we were after 9/11? More united than during World War II? Maybe the bartender who serves the Obama Kool-Aid at MSNBC had better cut Matthews off — he’s had a few too many.
Going into Tuesday’s election, polls show Democrat Barack Obama with a modest lead over Republican John McCain, but one group whose support of Obama should not be in doubt is the national media. Surveys of journalists conducted over the past three decades show the media elite are extremely consistent in choosing Democratic candidates on Election Day.
If only journalists were permitted to vote, we would never have had a President Reagan or a President Bush, but would have instead faced Presidents McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis and Kerry. It wouldn’t have been close.
In their 1986 book, The Media Elite, political scientists S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda S. Lichter reported the results of their survey of 240 journalists at the nation’s top media outlets: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. When asked about their voting patterns, journalists admitted their preference for Democrats:
Yes, the media are rooting for Barack Obama. Two studies out in the past couple of days show that it’s not just conservatives who see a strong tilt by journalists in favor of the Democrats: A nonpartisan media monitoring group and a liberal-leaning research organization both confirm the pro-Obama, anti-McCain bias of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC.
In reports this week, the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) and the Pew-funded Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) found the most balanced campaign coverage was on the Fox News Channel, although PEJ claimed FNC’s balance was actually a right-leaning bias, since it deviated from the “norm” of other big media:
As longtime NewsBusters readers are painfully aware, the supposedly objective news media have showered Barack Obama with fawning press coverage throughout his campaign for the White House. (That, plus a $600 million war chest, will apparently get you pretty far in politics.) The Media Research Center has assembled a special Campaign 2008 edition of our bi-weekly Notable Quotables, chock full of journalists’ most adoring pro-Obama quotes. The full collection can be found here, but here are a few of the choicer quotes and along with a memorable video:
Love at First Sight
“I think the real breakout tonight is [Illinois Senate candidate Barack] Obama. I mean, Teresa [Heinz-Kerry] is a fascinating story, but Obama is a rock star!” — NBC’s Andrea Mitchell during MSNBC’s live coverage of the Democratic convention, July 27, 2004.
Barack Obama was so pleased with the findings of a CBS News/New York Times poll that he gave it a plug at the October 15 presidential debate: "Two-thirds of the American people think that Senator McCain is running a negative campaign, versus one-third of mine."
That's what the poll showed, but do people believe this because McCain's ads really are more negative, or because the media have spent more time complaining about them? MRC intern Lyndsi Thomas went over all 213 broadcast morning and evening news stories that discussed the candidates' ads from the end of the primaries (June 4) through October 21. The results show the networks aired nearly three times as many stories criticizing McCain's ads (84) as hitting Obama's (32).
Over the past few days, the Obama campaign has been claiming — both in ads and in statements by Barack Obama himself — that John McCain would “cut” Medicare benefits by “$882 billion,” a charge that the Associated Press called “shaky” and that FactCheck.org bluntly dismissed as “bogus” and “false.”
Yet of the three broadcast networks, only ABC News has thus far joined the condemnation of Obama’s deceptive ad. NBC on Monday would only go so far as to say “McCain’s advisors say that’s not true...” — implying that it’s merely a partisan difference of opinion — while CBS has thus far refrained from questioning Obama’s truthfulness on this issue.
For weeks now, the networks have complained about the McCain campaign’s supposed nasty and unfair campaign attacks against Obama, so when will NBC and CBS join ABC in punishing this nasty and unfair charge from the Democrats?
On Monday’s Good Morning America, in a fact check of John McCain’s statement that Barack Obama “gives away your tax dollars to those who don’t pay taxes,” reporter Jake Tapper cited the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the McCain and Obama tax cuts to stamp McCain’s charge “false.”
“Obama's tax cuts only go to people who work, so by definition, it's not welfare. Some working people eligible for Obama's tax cut make so little, they do not pay income taxes. But they do pay payroll taxes and other taxes,” Tapper summarized.
In other words, McCain would have been accurate if he’d said “gives an income tax cut to those who don’t pay income taxes — and pays for it by raising income taxes on those who are already shouldering more than half of the nation’s income tax burden.”
But Monday’s piece illustrated the liberal media’s penchant for analyzing tax proposals according to a liberal yardstick — who gets how big a check from the government — rather than by analyzing how the rival tax policies will contribute to greater prosperity (by helping or hurting economic growth, rewarding or punishing job creation, etc.).
Writing at JustFacts.com, James Agresti has a fascinating article documenting how the media spin the economy during Democratic and Republican administrations and during election years. “With another presidential election upon us and a Republican in the White House, negatively skewed economic reporting is climaxing,” Agresti writes.
After detailing how the media castigated George W. Bush for allegedly “talking down the economy” after his election in 2000, Agresti points out how the press is drenching Americans with a steady deluge of bad economic news: “This is not to deny the nation is in troubled economic times, but given what the press and politicians affirmed about ‘talking down the economy’ less than eight years ago, there can be little doubt that they have played and are playing a major role in damaging it now.”
Among the exhibits Agresti provides is a screen capture of the New York Times web site on August 28 of this year. The main headline: “Obama Speech to Cite Failures of Bush on the Economy.” Far down the page, in much smaller type, this headline: “Economic Growth Revised Higher.”
Barack Obama’s supporters are whining about any attempt to link their candidate with former Weather Underground bomber William Ayers as “guilt by association” — even though, as National Review contributor Stanley Kurtz points out, the working relationship between Obama and Ayers can more correctly be described as “guilt by participation.”
But today’s Wall Street Journal treats us to a classic case of guilt by association: a front-page profile of the descendants of slaves owned by John McCain’s great-great grandfather before the Civil War. After documenting the poor treatment that the black families (who share the last name “McCain”) received over the past century, reporter Douglas Blackmon tags Senator McCain — whom he places at the family’s former plantation as a young man in the 1940s and 1950s — as out of touch:
The latest Investor’s Business Daily/TIPP daily tracking poll finds Barack Obama leading John McCain by 3 percentage points, 45% to 42%. But there’s an interesting nugget inside the data: among those who display the American flag, McCain leads by 48% to 39%. Among those who do not display the flag, Obama has a more than two-to-one lead: 61% to 27%.
Why do I doubt that the ordinarily poll-hungry media will bother to mention this insight into who is supporting which candidate?
It was a year ago, you’ll recall, that Obama himself announced that he would not wear the American flag on his lapel, calling it “a substitute for true patriotism.” As NewsBusters recounted at the time, ABC reporter David Wright tried to bolster Obama by declaring of flag pins: “Ike didn't wear one. JFK either. Nixon did wear the flag....as he told the American people he had nothing to do with Watergate.”
Within an hour of the conclusion of Wednesday night’s presidential debate, CNN’s political panel began sketching out John McCain’s political obituary, with senior analyst David Gergen drawing a round of laughter when he replied “beats the hell out of me” when asked by anchor Anderson Cooper what McCain could do next. Gergen bleakly suggested McCain had no chance and should end the race with his “honor intact” (which means no more attacks on Barack Obama):
I think you have to do everything you can to help save as much of the Senate and the House as you can for your party. I think you have to need -- you need to see if you can leave this with your honor intact. I think you need to go positive about what you do on the economy and get rid of this stuff about Bill Ayers and all this garbage that we've been going through now.
Right before the election, CNN is giving a Bush-bashing comedian a weekend show where he can spout off about “politics, entertainment, sports and popular culture,” Variety reported last night.
Back in March 2006, as NewsBuster’s editor Brent Baker reported at the time, D.L. Hughley slammed President Bush during an appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher: “If I hear one more person tell me how this man is a man of faith, I think I’ll lose my mother-f***ing mind.... When thousands and thousands of people were being, dying in New Orleans, this son of a bitch didn’t do sh*t, and that’s very un-Christlike to me.”
Explaining why CNN is now giving Hughley the 10pm slot on Saturdays (repeating on Sundays), CNN President Jon Klein told Variety: “D.L. is a very thoughtful, well-informed guy with unpredictable views, and I’ve always admired his comedy.” (Klein, you might remember, was the one who cancelled Crossfire in order to raise the level of discourse on CNN.)
In his 1999 memoir, “All Too Human,” George Stephanopoulos defined good spin as “a hope dressed up as an observation.” Starting with the 2000 election, however, Stephanopoulos (supposedly) abandoned the role of paid spinner that he filled during Bill Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns, instead offering his expert opinion as an analyst and anchor for ABC News.
But a review finds Stephanopoulos’s campaign-year “observations” seem a whole lot like the spin he used to peddle when he worked for the Clintons. So far this election year, as my colleague Brent Baker has chronicled, Stephanopoulos the neutral pundit has declared Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden the winners of the first three debates.
Does anyone want to bet against him going four-for-four?
A large front-page photo and above-the-fold story in Friday morning’s New York Times offered more evidence that the troop surge that Barack Obama and Joe Biden vehemently opposed last year has substantially improved the lives of everyday Iraqis. The headline, “As Fears Ease, Baghdad Sees Walls Tumble,” pointed to a new phase in the Iraqi capital, one where some of the cement barricades that divided Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods are now being torn down.
“The slow dismantling of the concrete walls is the most visible sign of a fundamental change here in the Iraqi capital. The American surge strategy, which increased the number of United States troops and contributed to stability here, is drawing to a close. And a transition is under way to the almost inevitable American drawdown in 2009,” the Times reported.
But over the last few months, the big three broadcast networks have paid extremely little attention to the progress in Iraq. ABC’s World News last presented a report from Iraq on September 16 — 23 days ago — as reporter Jonathan Karl covered the ceremony in which General David Petraeus handed his over his command over to General Ray Odierno. NBC Nightly News last carried a report from Iraq on September 7, more than a month ago. And the CBS Evening News hasn’t broadcast a story from Iraq since July 31, 70 days ago.
Barack Obama received a valuable campaign contribution from the New York Times on Saturday: a front-page piece reviewing Obama's lengthy association with the ’60s and ’70s Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. The Times' key sentence asserted: "The two men do not appear to have been close."
The Times' stamp of disapproval was all the rest of the media needed to reject the idea that Obama's dealings with Ayers should matter to voters, as Sarah Palin dared to suggest over the weekend. ABC's David Wright on Sunday called Palin's attack on Obama "incendiary," while CBS's Bob Schieffer (moderator of the final presidential debate on October 15) called it a "down and dirty" move, adding that Palin "took after Barack Obama in a style reminiscent of Spiro Agnew."
Retiring ABC journalist Lynn Sherr is trashing Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as not enough of a feminist. “What, exactly, has she done legislatively for other women? What paths has she forged?” Sherr asked TVNewser columnist Gail Shister in an interview published Tuesday morning.
“She seems to have turned it [feminism] on its head. She doesn't seem to care about bringing along other women with her,” Sherr complained as she packed up her ABC News office.
Sherr’s feminist credentials were on display at ABC a dozen years ago when she tossed out the results of her own network’s scientific poll to advance her thesis that the popular culture makes women feel bad about their breasts.
As MRC’s MediaWatch reported at the time (in a NewsBite headlined “Stacked Reporting”):
All week leading up to Thursday night’s debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, NBC’s Today show suggested that the Republican vice presidential nominee could be a disaster on stage, pointing out how “conservatives question her qualifications;” “the McCain campaign is worried;” “Palin stumbled again;” and “not ready for prime time.”
But on Friday morning, after Palin proved the hand-wringers wrong, co-host Matt Lauer suggested that the “melt down” expectations were never the right yardstick for pundits. Lauer asked Tom Brokaw: “Everything you read and hear about the debate this morning is going to say that Governor Palin exceeded expectations, but in your opinion did she exceed expectations simply because she didn't melt down on the stage or did she show the kind of grasp of the issues and the subjects required to hold the second highest job in the land?”
While the networks scrutinize Republican Sarah Palin’s every comment for evidence that she’s a dimwit unqualified for the vice presidency, there’s been barely any discussion of how alleged foreign policy expert Joe Biden was dreadfully wrong in 2006-2007 in his fierce objection to the troop surge strategy in Iraq, which has led to a massive reduction in U.S. and Iraqi casualties and prevented a complete collapse and civil war.
When Biden was picked in late August, the networks touted Biden’s “wealth of experience” and “long record of accomplishment” on foreign policy (CBS); his “deep foreign policy experience” (NBC); and “foreign policy expertise” (ABC). But only NBC’s Tom Brokaw, interviewing Biden on the September 7 Meet the Press, actually confronted the Democratic vice presidential nominee with his strident opposition to the surge, telling Biden: “All the indications are the surge has worked up to a point.”
MSNBC may have dropped Chris Matthews as “news anchor” of major political news events, but he was a major presence during coverage of Friday’s debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. Immediately following the debate and in a special Hardball that aired at midnight EDT, Matthews insulted John McCain as “troll-like” and insisted the Republican nominee showed “contempt” for Obama by looking at moderator Jim Lehrer instead.
But Obama was sensational, correspondent Andrea Mitchell gushed: “He seemed to be a lot more genial than you might have expected. But, boy, he did show a command of foreign policy in terms of the nuts and bolts of it.”
Watching Saturday’s network morning shows, the talking heads seemed to agree that Friday night’s debate did not produce “a clear winner” or any “knockout punch,” and that it was unlikely that any “needle was moved” among undecided voters. Yet those same networks tried to also argue that Obama had really won the debate, superficially suggesting that McCain’s “disdainful” body language poorly contrasted with the “warm” and “deferential” Obama.
On style, “Barack Obama did a much better job,” ABC contributor Matthew Dowd asserted. NBC’s Chuck Todd insisted that “McCain barely could look at Obama, was disdainful at times, almost annoyed that he was having to share the same stage....Here was Obama being deferential, and here is McCain being disdainful.”
Wednesday morning, ABC News and the Washington Post released a new poll showing Barack Obama leading John McCain by 9 points, 52% to 43%. The next day, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released a poll showing a much tighter race — 48% for Obama, 46% for McCain.
Any guesses as to which poll excited the press more? And which poll has come under fire for over-sampling Democrats?
ABC, naturally, reported its own poll on Wednesday’s Good Morning America, with Diane Sawyer touting at the top of the broadcast: “Breaking news this morning: Barack Obama gains ground in a new ABC News poll, a nine-point lead over John McCain.” The on-screen graphic exclaimed: "Obama Surges Ahead"
The two mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — seized by the government September 7 before they went completely bankrupt, at a potential cost to taxpayers of more than $25 billion — have been in obvious trouble for much of the past five years — with criminal investigations, accounting scandals, firings, resignations, huge losses and warnings from the Federal Reserve that their huge portfolio of mortgage securities posed a risk to the overall financial system.
But prior to this year, the watchdogs at ABC, CBS and NBC found time for only 10 stories on the financial health and management of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A review of the three networks’ morning and evening news programs from January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2007 found nine anchor-read items or brief references to the companies troubles, plus one in-depth report by CBS’s Anthony Mason on the May 23, 2006 Evening News, after Fannie Mae was fined $400 million for accounting fraud.
Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal and National Review Online, Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz traces Barack Obama’s partnership with former domestic terrorist William Ayers when the two collaborated at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a charity established to help Chicago’s public schools that was commandeered by Ayers to promote his radical agenda.
The association between Obama and Ayers has received virtually no attention from the three broadcast networks, with the conspicuous exception of a primary-season debate sponsored by ABC when George Stephanopoulos asked Obama about his relationship with Ayers. Out of 1,365 broadcast evening news stories about Obama prior to the end of the primaries, only two mentioned Ayers — one a brief mention of the debate question on the April 17 Nightly News, and the other a World News Sunday story about McCain raising the Ayers issue on This Week.
With just 42 days left until Election Day, the broadcast networks have not presented a single in-depth report on Obama’s relationship with Ayers. But Kurtz’s review of the documents at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) shows the two “worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda,” which “flowed from Mr. Ayers’s educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism.”
On Thursday’s Nightline, ABC co-anchor Terry Moran offered up a nearly seven-minute-long hit piece on “John McCain 2.0,” about how the GOP nominee has, according to Moran, dramatically changed his basic message, his campaign style, his policy positions and launched a dirty ad campaign.
“The old John McCain repeatedly promised voters a different kind of campaign — nobler, less nasty, better,” Moran argued. “That was then, this is now.” After running a clip from an ad criticizing Obama for voting in favor of sex education for kindergartners (“called, quote, ‘simply false’ by the non-partisan Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org,” Moran scolded), Nightline offered a condemnatory soundbite from ABC analyst Matthew Dowd: “I think the McCain campaign wants to have a campaign in the mud.”
Over the next 46 days, as the candidates trade charges and counter-charges, the self-appointed media umpires will act as if they are the ultimate fact-finders in Campaign ’08. Writing for tomorrow’s National Journal, columnist Stuart Taylor says that the media’s track record thus far makes him just as skeptical of the press.
Taylor declares: “Many in the media have been one-sided, sometimes adding to Obama’s distortions rather than acting as impartial reporters of fact and referees of the mud fights.” Rather than cleaning up the record, Taylor reports several instances when the media are themselves guilty of perpetuating partisan disinformation.
Nearly a year ago, when the inexperienced presidential candidate Barack Obama sat for his first interview with Charles Gibson, the ABC anchor did not try and expose any gaps in Obama’s foreign policy knowledge or press him about his readiness for the job he was seeking. Instead Gibson emphasized Obama’s personal story, about how his parents met, how Obama met his wife, etc.
But just as he did with his Thursday night interview with GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Gibson did ask Obama about the “hubris” he displayed in seeking the presidency. Here’s the exchange from the November 1, 2007 World News interview:
CHARLES GIBSON: So did you think to yourself, 'Barack, what kind of hubris is this that I am thinking about being President?"
While, like the rest of the media establishment, CBS’s Early Show seemed to conclude that Barack Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” crack from the day before was nothing but a harmless comment, reporter Bill Plante put the swipe in the context of Democrats’ desperation to find some way to undermine the Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Unlike his competitors at ABC and NBC, Plante on Wednesday highlighted how Newsweek’s Howard Fineman quoted an unnamed “top Democratic strategist” as arguing about Palin: “We’ve got to go after her, and fast.” And Plante quoted from the blog WomenCount.org, which vowed to “work to stamp out sexism where we see it on the campaign trail.”
While all of the morning shows led with the “lipstick on a pig” complaint and steered the discussion to the view that the McCain campaign is thin-skinned and/or cynically calculating for raising such a spurious issue, none bothered to mention the far more absurd complaints from top Democrats that Republican references to Barack Obama as a “community organizer” were some sort of racist plot -- instead of quite obvious shots at Obama’s lack of experience.
Five days after Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was picked as the Republican vice presidential nominee, NBC's David Gregory falsely disputed the idea that the media had crossed a line by suggesting Palin's family life conflicted with her candidacy. Referring to an earlier interview, Gregory argued on Today: "Rudy Giuliani said questions have been asked about whether she can balance this with her kids. That question has not been brought up by the media."
Gregory was wrong — that precise question was posed repeatedly on ABC, CBS and NBC as the networks invaded every nook and cranny of Palin's family life. From August 29 through September 4, the Big Three network morning and evening shows ran a total of 59 stories mentioning Palin's family, or about eight per day. Nearly two-thirds of those (37) brought up the pregnancy of Palin's teenaged daughter; another ten questioned whether she could balance her family obligations with a campaign — the exact suggestion Gregory claimed was never "brought up by the media."
One week ago, former Clinton campaign spinner George Stephanopoulos found nothing to criticize when he reviewed Barack Obama’s speech and the overall Democratic convention for Good Morning America. But on Friday, the ABC host relayed the Obama campaign’s negative take on McCain and stressed how voters don’t think Sarah Palin has as much experience as Joe Biden, and that she doesn’t help her ticket as much as Biden helps the Democrats.
“Go beneath those numbers a little more,” Stephanopoulos instructed. “Joe Biden helps Barack Obama a little bit more than Sarah Palin helps John McCain.”
But ABC’s poll, conducted Thursday after a week of battering coverage of the GOP vice presidential candidate, showed Palin had only a slightly lower overall favorability than Democratic candidate Joe Biden, a difference nearly entirely accounted for by her low approval among Democratic voters. Republican voters are more enthusiastic about Palin (85% support) than Democrats are for Biden (77%).