MSNBC, CNN Say Britney Ad Racist, but American People Do Not

Exactly how wide is the gulf between elite media opinion and public opinion on matters of politics? Let’s put it this way, after Sen. Barack Obama falsely accused Sen. John McCain of saying he (Obama) doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency and has a funny name, Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, called Obama's "Dollar Bill" statement "self-deprecating":

ANDREA MITCHELL: I have to tell you that the people who heard Barack Obama say what he said Wednesday night—and it's very similar to things he's said in Paris and Berlin and a lot of other stops—it's very self-deprecating. He says "I don't look like other people who have been President of the United States," most people who watched that, I don't know very many people who've watched that, and the people in the audience, the reporters, have never interpreted it, have never inferred from that, that he is making some kind of racial statement, but that's the way the McCain camp says that they took it, and Rick Davis by putting it out there, sure –

Sen. Obama, echoing Mitchell's talking points, himself made the same observation during his Saturday morning press conference:

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Most of the people here were at this event in Union, Missouri. Almost none of you, maybe none of you, thought that I was making a racially incendiary remark for playing the race card. …

So we’re clear: According to Andrea Mitchell and Sen. Obama himself, no one in the journalist class heard Sen. Obama’s remarks about his looks and name to be a reference to his race. There can be no doubt that this lopsided view within elite media has colored the coverage. Here’s how CNN’s Wolf Blitzer kicked off a panel discussion last Thursday:

WOLF BLITZER: It doesn't get more poisonous or explosive than to inject this whole issue of race, especially when you have obviously the first African-American on a major ticket. So what's the strategy behind the McCain campaign right now?

Meanwhile, on a Sunday morning panel, Blitzer gave credence to the idea that the McCain campaign’s Britney-Paris-Obama ad was racial in tone:

WOLF BLITZER: All right. Images are very important, and there's been several comments in recent days, our own Donna Brazill made the suggestion here in "The Situation Room" the other day and Bob Herbert a columnist for "New York Times" wrote this, referring to this ad. Referring to the blonde and the Harold Jr. ad when he was running for senator in Tennessee. That's a very serious charge that's been leveled against the McCain campaign right now saying that what the McCain campaign did this week was similar to what Republicans did against Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee when he was running for the senate …

According to the media consensus, then, Sen. Obama was not playing the race card when he wrongly accused Sen. McCain of commenting on his looks but Sen. McCain’s campaign was playing the race card when he compared Barack Obama to mindless celebrities. This morning pollster Scott Rasmussen provides for us a snapshot of regular peoples’ views on the controversy. And it isn’t at all in line with the elite media’s view. According to Rasmussen:

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of the nation’s voters say they’ve seen news coverage of the McCain campaign commercial that includes images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and suggests that Barack Obama is a celebrity just like them. Of those, just 22% say the ad was racist while 63% say it was not. However, Obama’s comment that his Republican opponent will try to scare people because Obama does not look like all the other presidents on dollar bills was seen as racist by 53%. Thirty-eight percent (38%) disagree.

To recap: Zero journalists interpreted Sen. Obama’s remarks as racist. Fifty-three percent of the general public did.