ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday night hailed President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet, pointing to how his national security team is made up of “coalition builders,” including Hillary Clinton, before praising Obama for how “he has also kept his promise of reaching out beyond Washington for change with younger reformers like Shaun Donovan at HUD, Arne Duncan at Education and Lisa Jackson at the EPA.” (All could just as well be described as big city Democratic political hacks.) Thus, ABC's chief Washington correspondent decided:
He’s managed to get this diversity and competence without engaging in any tokenism.
But then Stephanopoulos recited Obama's political tokenism, pointing out how he “picked people in the cabinet with an eye towards fast-growing voter groups” as two cabinet nominations went to Hispanics and two to Asians and three choices were purely about electoral politics, not competence: “The Southwest has been a real prime target area, and look what the President-elect has done. He’s picked Governor Napolitano of Arizona, Governor Richardson of New Mexico, Senator Salazar of Colorado, trying to lock in gains in those three key states.”
Plugging how “Vice President Cheney sat down with ABC's Jonathan Karl for an exclusive interview,” fill-in World News anchor Elizabeth Vargas on Monday night asserted Cheney “made a startling admission about the questioning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.” But Vargas failed to explain what Cheney said to Karl that represented “a startling admission” and Karl didn't point out any “startling admission” from Cheney in the interview excerpt which followed the Vargas set up.
In fact, Cheney didn't really say anything new as he stood by the “remarkably successful effort” to get intelligence from captured terrorists, affirmed the decision to waterboard KSM and denied he's “changed.” Apparently, the “startling admission” came in his acknowledgment, hardly unknown or not previously reported, that in “the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” he allowed: “I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, that is, as the agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do, and they talked to me as well as others to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.”
Usually rude protesters who disrupt events by throwing objects at state leaders don't earn media celebrations, but instead of being embarrassed by their Iraqi media colleague who, as he spewed venomous hatreds, dangerously threw his shoes at President Bush on Sunday in Baghdad, ABC and CBS on Monday night championed his popularity amongst Iraqis. ABC put “Folk Hero?” on screen as fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas trumpeted how Muntathar al-Zaidi has “become an instant celebrity to many of his countrymen” while CBS anchor Katie Couric hailed how “many Iraqis are calling him a hero” before reporter Elizabeth Palmer snidely concluded: “Al-Zaidi should do jail time, said the Iraqi bloggers, because he missed.”
From London, ABC's Jim Sciutto maintained: “Shoes have become a new symbol of anti-Americanism in the Arab world. And the Iraqi reporter who threw them, Muntathar al-Zaidi, a folk hero.” Sciutto touted how “more than 100 lawyers volunteered to defend him. It was a heroic way to say goodbye to Bush, said one Iraqi.” Though Sciutto at least noted how “some Iraqis are embarrassed,” he countered: “Still, in news coverage, on new fan Web sites, in Arabic text messages, the overwhelming sentiment: giddy satisfaction.”
Less than a week after a new report from the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee showcased hundreds of scientists who disagree with the United Nations' alarmist take on global climate change, ABC’s World News Sunday featured a report devoted solely to cheering Barack Obama’s new “green team” — the promotional term was embraced by ABC News — and laying the groundwork for radical action on global warming after what ABC termed “censorship” and “stonewalling” by the Bush administration.
The story by ABC’s Bill Blakemore offered a manipulative presentation, asserting that “wildfires, droughts and downpours [are] increasing exactly as predicted for global warming” — but not mentioning that global temperatures are actually lower now than in 1998 — and scolding how the Bush White House allowed “political assistants in their 20s to rewrite the conclusions of leading climate scientists” — as if the liberal political opinions of scientists could not be second-guessed.
The three broadcast networks started their evening newscasts on Tuesday with stories on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's arrest and corruption charges. All of the newscasts mentioned Blagojevich's Democratic affiliation, but only in passing. And, only ABC's World News questioned the details about the Illinois Governor's relationship with President-elect Barack Obama, while NBC and CBS brushed over the President-elect's connections with Blagojevich and seemed content to end their investigation of this relationship by reporting on Obama's statement that he was not aware of what was going on.
ABC and NBC both identified Blagojevich as a Democrat early in their reports. NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams's introduction to the report by Lee Cowan described the charge as "that the two-term Democratic governor tried to sell a seat in the US Senate to the highest bidder." Brian Ross, reporting for ABC's "World News," identified the Illinois governor as "the boyish looking Democrat branded a greedy, foul mouth politician who tried to sell a US Senate seat to the highest bidder."
The CBS "Evening News," however, did not identify Blagojevich as a Democrat until the very end of Dean Reynolds's report when an on-screen graphic identified the governor as "(D) Illinois" and Reynolds claimed that "fellow Democrats worry that whoever he might pick could wind up tainted politically and could ultimately cost the party a valuable seat in Congress."
Much as when then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught with a prostitute last March, the arrest Tuesday of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on allegations he was trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat raises the issue of whether or not the Big Three networks will forthrightly tag him as a “Democrat.”
Among wire services, the Associated Press has included the “Democrat” label in its round-up, but not in the lead paragraph, while Reuters linked Blagojevich to "fellow Democrat President-elect Barack Obama."
So what would happen if the corruption charges were flung at a Republican Governor of Illinois?
Of the broadcast network newscasts Thursday evening, only the NBC Nightly News took a few seconds to note some more good news from the war front as fill-in anchor Lester Holt reported “combined deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan in November” stood at eleven, “the lowest total since the U.S. invaded Iraq.”
ABC's World News devoted more than two minutes to LBJ tapes, which showed him “anguished about the Vietnam war,” while the CBS Evening News also had no time for the improving news out of Iraq and Afghanistan as the program aired a full story on how the recession is impacting the rich in Beverly Hills who, in Katie Couric's formulation, are being “forced to hawk what they own to pay what they 90210.”
In the interview for Wednesday’s Barbara Walters Special on ABC with Barack and Michelle Obama, excerpts of which were also shown on Wednesday’s World News with Charles Gibson, Walters asked few questions that put the Obamas on the defensive, in contrast with her January 2001 interview, aired on 20/20, with then-President-elect Bush in which she challenged him on a number of fronts. Most notably, she seemed to chide Bush for choosing John Ashcroft as Attorney General because he "openly opposes abortion," and claimed that Ashcroft was "not considered a friend to civil rights." She asked Bush about reports that, as governor of Texas, he "spent relatively little time studying specific issues," and "only does a few hours of work" a day. The ABC host also challenged Bush from the left on the trade embargo against Cuba, and even asked Laura Bush if her more "traditional" plans for her time as First Lady would be a "setback for women." It is also noteworthy that Walters asked Bush about his plans for dealing with Saddam Hussein and cited "people in the know" who contended that the Iraqi dictator was "stronger than ever."
Less than 12 hours after George Stephanopoulos, on Good Morning America, glowed that “we have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes,” he popped up on World News to hail how Barack Obama's team recognized the Bush administration's “vacuum” and so decided to “step in and fill” it by showing “the President-elect taking action on the economy” day after day.
Anchor Charles Gibson set up Stephanopoulos by marveling: “George, I don't think I've ever seen a President-elect getting so involved in policy so early. It does seem like we've got, at the moment, two Presidents.” Stephanopoulos admired Obama's take charge actions:
I think what the Obama team saw -- starting last week with all of that uncertainty in the markets, in the dropping stock markets -- is they had to step in and fill a political vacuum. It began with that leak of Tim Geithner's name as Treasury Secretary on Friday, an announcement of a jobs plan on Saturday, carrying through to today, and there will be announcements both tomorrow and Wednesday to show the President-elect taking action on the economy.
In short items Thursday night, ABC anchor Charles Gibson and FNC anchor Brit Hume both noted how House Democrats voted to replace Congressman John Dingell of Michigan -- as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce -- with Congressman Henry Waxman, but only Hume identified Waxman as a liberal: “Waxman is a strong liberal and environmental advocate.” Gibson left out any ideological tag as he echoed Hume's environmental “advocate” language in benignly describing the Californian, who now chairs the Government Reform Committee, as “a strong advocate of environmental issues.”
ABC News wasn't so reticent about labeling former Republican Congressman Dan Burton who, after the GOP's 1995 takeover of the House assumed the chairmanship of the same committee Waxman now leads (Government Reform). In a story on the April 10, 1994 edition of the long-defunct prime time ABC News magazine show Day One, reporter John McKenzie marginalized Burton as “an ultraconservative Republican from suburban Indianapolis” who “is a favorite of the far right.”
Waxman, who represents Beverly Hills, Malibu and much of coastal Los Angeles County, is certainly a favorite of the far-left.
Eight years ago when incoming President George W. Bush named Senator John Ashcroft as his choice for Attorney General, the broadcast network evening newscasts applied ideological labels and highlighted opposition to him from liberals, but Tuesday night with President-elect Barack Obama's pick of Eric Holder for the same position, the anchors avoided any ideological tags or controversies and hailed him as an “historic” pick which fulfills Obama's promise of “diversity.”
ABC's Charles Gibson noted Obama's promise of “diversity of political party, of gender, of geography and of race” and reported “Eric Holder would be the first African-American” Attorney General. In December of 2000, the late Peter Jennings stressed how Ashcroft is “from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And some of the positions he's taken as a politician have galvanized liberal opposition to his nomination today.”
Katie Couric, on CBS, trumpeted Holder as “another historic choice,” but eight years ago Dan Rather decided “anti-abortion groups and the self-described Religious Right could not be happier” with Ashcroft who is “known for his tough anti-abortion stand. Planned Parenthood immediately urged Congress not to confirm him.”
On NBC, Brian Williams simply summarized Holder's resume as “a veteran lawyer, former U.S. Attorney, number two person at the Justice Department during the Clinton administration. If confirmed, Eric Holder would be the first African-American to become the nation's top law enforcement officer.” Filling in for Tom Brokaw in 2000, Williams referred to Ashcroft as a “conservative Missouri Republican Senator” and asserted the selection “calms the far right politically.”
There's economic trouble in the land with people unable to afford proper health care or heat for their homes ABC and NBC contended on Wednesday night. And where did the network journalists travel to find the heart-rending anecdotes of people in pain thanks to the awful Bush economy? Some Republican area with harsh conservative politicians who have slashed government funding to the poor? No, to Boston, a veritable liberal nirvana of big government for decades, the home of John Kerry, with a Democratic Mayor in a state with an Obama ally, Deval Patrick, as Governor.
ABC's Gigi Stone looked at how “many Americans” supposedly now “find themselves...forced to choose between short-term survival and long-term health.” She asserted: “Doctors here in Boston say they're seeing an increasing number of patients who cannot afford the most basic preventive health measures.” So much for the wonders of the Bay State's mandatory health insurance law.
NBC anchor Brian Williams acknowledged “record levels of government help available” for heating bills, yet “communities around this country are worried people will simply not have enough money to keep warm in the cold winter during this cold economy.” Michelle Kosinski showcased a Normandy veteran in Boston who “sometimes” can't afford to eat before she turned to John Drew of Action for Boston Community Development who fretted people “do not have enough income,” so there are “infants who are at risk” and “as a national government, as a national priority, we've got to do better.”
Friday night stories on ABC's World News and the NBC Nightly News ran a clip of President-elect Barack Obama's gaffe at his press conference in which he related he had talked to all of the “living” former Presidents, as “I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.” But both newscasts failed to note it was Hillary Clinton, not Nancy Reagan, who reportedly had seances in the White House. ABC's Jake Tapper called Obama's comment “a lighter moment” while NBC's Lee Cowan described it as “the only awkward moment of his first meeting with the press.”
FNC's Jim Angle, however, managed to point out in his 6 PM EST story: “It was actually Hillary Clinton who was reported to have engaged in seance-like sessions in which she communed with the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt.”
In his book, The Choice, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward described how Clinton consulted with a spiritual adviser who led her through imaginary conversations with her personal hero, Eleanor Roosevelt. Newsweek magazine, which was promoting the book, characterized the visits as “seances,” a term that White House officials quickly tried to squelch.
Examining “what went wrong” with John McCain's campaign, ABC's David Wright charged Wednesday night that by asserting Barack Obama would “be redistributionist in chief” McCain had “distorted Obama's policy positions” (how that was a distortion Wright did not say) and painted McCain as a hypocrite for having “mocked Obama as an empty-headed celebrity” before “he created a celebrity of his own,” Sarah Palin. While “many were impressed” with her, Wright snidely contended “plenty of others came to see Sarah Palin as an empty designer suit.” In castigating McCain from the left, Wright failed to offer any conservative critiques, such as McCain's lack of consistent conservative positions to contrast himself with Obama.
“If Barack Obama was driving the Cadillac of campaigns,” World News anchor Charles Gibson quipped, “John McCain was driving one that seemed in constant need of a tune-up and by the end it simply ran out of gas.” Wright fretted that after McCain won the GOP nomination “he started to change” and cut off media access, as if that led to his defeat: “The free-wheeling exchanges that put the Straight Talk Express on the map didn't last past the maiden voyage of Straight Talk Air.” Wright pointed out how “McCain had always promised to run a clean campaign on the issues,” but soon, Wright scolded, “McCain attacked Obama's associations....Obama's experience....and distorted Obama's policy positions.”
The broadcast network evening newscasts on Wednesday night all marked Barack Obama's victory with stories on celebrations around the world, the joy expressed by African-Americans and how newspapers sold out as people cheered in the streets. NBC anchor Brian Williams hailed: “As one columnist put it, America matured in 2008 by choosing Barack Obama.” CBS, however, aired the most triumphant story. Though Ronald Reagan earned nearly 59 percent of the vote in 1984 and George Bush captured more than 53 percent four years later, an awed Byron Pitts began by proposing about Obama's win with 52 percent: “When was the last time our nation cheered this much?”
Pitts proceeded to cite anecdotes about several people, black and white, who saw vindication in Obama's victory, including two women at “a suburban home in Iowa. Iowa, the state that first bought into Obama's audacious hopes and where a life-long Democrat like Deb Tekippe and a life long Republican like Brenda Myer made a toast with champagne.” He concluded:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union.” That's what the Constitution says. Last night, all across America for so many people, that's how it felt. A more perfect union.
Is it any wonder that polls revealed a 17 percent increase in Palin's unfavorability ratings in just one month?
After examining the TV news coverage of Palin from September 29 to October 12, CMI found that ABC, NBC and CBS news shows ran 69 stories about Palin. 2 stories were positive, 37 were negative and 30 were neutral. The 2 positive stories were a two-part interview with Palin's parents on the CBS Early Show. Not one of the major network evening news programs - ABC's World News, NBC's Nightly News, and CBS's Evening News - ran a single positive story about Palin.
ABC was hardest on Palin, as 60 percent of its stories on Palin were negative. NBC came in second, as 54 percent of its stories were negative. CBS also ran 54 percent negative stories, but also ran the only two positive stories (8 percent).
CMI found that the networks promoted three major narratives about Palin:
YouTube postings over the weekend divulged a 2001 radio interview in which Barack Obama regretted that “the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society,” but though John McCain on Monday cited this new evidence of Obama's long-standing advocacy of redistributing wealth, the CBS Evening News offered nothing more than a McCain soundbite surrounded by reporter Chip Reid discrediting the criticism as he relayed the Obama campaign's charge McCain had made a “false, desperate attack” and Reid bemoaned: “If the events of today are any guide, this is a campaign that is taking an increasingly negative tone in the last week.”
In contrast, the NBC Nightly News at least ran a short audio clip of Obama from 2001: “The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth.” ABC's World News, in a piece by Ron Claiborne, aired a much longer audio soundbite from Obama:
One of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.
Matt Drudge, with some apparent glee, given the black and white picture he used, reported something yours truly has followed for some time: The Big Three networks' evening newscasts continue to lose viewers.
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?
Despite featuring the story on its "Political Radar" blog on Monday morning, the ABC network ignored for almost 24 hours the claim by Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden that Barack Obama will be tested by a major international crisis in the first (potential) six months of his presidency. Monday's "Good Morning America" skipped the story, as did that evening's "World News With Charles Gibson" and "Nightline."
In fact, "Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden actually conducted an interview with Senator Obama after a campaign rally in Florida. Despite the fact that she had nabbed the first joint interview with Obama and Clinton since the Illinois senator won the nomination, she didn't address the issue. Rather than ask what his running mate meant when he said, "Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy," McFadden chose to limit her questions to how the relationship between Obama and Clinton had changed.
Twisting in the knife. While Barack Obama gets gushing coverage (ABC's Jake Tapper marveled on Monday's World News over Obama's “rather unbelievable weekend where he had his largest campaign crowd ever -- 100,00 in St Louis -- he announced record-breaking fundraising, $150 million in September and, of course, he secured the endorsement of that Republican Secretary of State, retired General Colin Powell”), ABC and CBS took gratuitous shots at John McCain and Sarah Palin, twisting upbeat events and a Joe Biden gaffe into negatives for the Republican ticket while NBC skipped over Biden's warning Obama's election will invite “an international crisis.”
ABC reporter Ron Claiborne cited McCain's “concentrated attack on Obama as not just a tax raiser, but someone whose policies are socialist. McCain never utters the S-word himself. That's left to his running mate.” But, he warned, “Palin may be a damaged carrier of the McCain message.” Claiborne then paired her Saturday night success with a negative poll finding as he noted “her appearance this weekend on Saturday Night Live was a boost for the show's ratings, but an ABC News poll finds that 52 percent of voters said McCain's choice of Palin made them less confident of his judgment.”
Journalists on TV Sunday heralded the importance and impact of Colin Powell's long-expected endorsement of Barack Obama which he made on Meet the Press. Later in that show, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell touted Powell's endorsement and critique of the McCain campaign as “a very powerful political statement.” On the same panel with Mitchell, Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham declared that “having Colin Powell endorse the Democratic nominee for President is like having the seal of approval from the most important military figure of the age.”
MSNBC was so excited by the news the channel produced a special Sunday Hardball devoted entirely to Powell's news. Chris Matthews teased: “Colin Powell, right in the kisser. Barack Obama gets the endorsement of the year. Let's play Hardball.” Cuing up a Meet the Press re-play at the end of the 5 pm EDT hour, Matthews celebrated: “This is history in the making, on Meet the Press, right now.”
NFL football bumped the EDT/CDT CBS Evening News, but both ABC and NBC made Powell their lead. With “Major Endorsement” as it's on-screen heading, ABC anchor Dan Harris teased, “Tonight on World News: On a roll. Obama wins a major endorsement from a major Republican.” CNN's 10 PM EDT Newsroom, which dedicated its first 30 minutes to Powell, plastered “Big-Time Endorsement” on screen before anchor Don Lemon wondered: “I know it is important, but just how important is this?”
On Thursday's ABC World News, anchor Charles Gibson's lead-off story was on the presidential campaign:
"Two weeks, five days to go, home stretch. Barack Obama and John McCain began today laying out their closing strategies. And while Obama continues to hold a double-digit lead in most national polls, it is the results in individual states that are all important."
The emphasis on Obama's supposedly huge, possibly insurmountable lead is used by some in the mainstream media to suggest the inevitability of a Democratic win. But you have to wonder, at least in this instance, what polls ABC News is examining. Obama enjoys a lead in most opinion surveys, but it's not as large as Gibson claimed.
Three weeks out from Election Day, surely more Americans are tuning into the Big 3 networks' evening newscasts, right?
In the past two weeks, Big 3 evening newscast viewership has actually declined by 360,000, or 1.6%. What's more, in percentage terms, viewership among "The Demo" of ages 25-54 has declined even further (220,000, down 3.1%).
On Monday, NewsBusters wondered how much coverage the sex scandal involving Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fl.) -- the Democrat Congressman who in 2006 won the seat previously held by the disgraced Mark Foley -- would get.
Early indications suggest that as far as the television news outlets are concerned, the answer is "not much."
In fact, though all three broadcast network evening news programs covered the Foley sex scandal when it was first revealed on September 29, 2006, not one of them felt that the man who replaced him admitting to having an affair with a former campaign staffer was at all newsworthy.
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.
For ABC's World News on Wednesday and Thursday, Charles Gibson conducted interviews with Barack Obama and John McCain aboard the ABC News bus, but on McCain's “line of attack” against Obama he shared Obama's annoyance (“Are you going to have to address that again?”) while he pushed McCain to justify the criticism: “You're comfortable that this should be a focus in the last days of the campaign?”
With Obama in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Gibson noted how “John McCain has unloaded on you in the last 72, 96 hours, as has Sarah Palin” about how “we don't know who Barack Obama is,” but “were you surprised that he didn't bring it up last night at the debate and use that line of attack?” Gibson next cued up Obama, as if it's an unfair burden for Obama to “again” have to address Ayers: “Sarah Palin has come at you because of the Bill Ayers connection. Are you going to have to address that again?”
Talking to McCain on Thursday in Milwaukee, Gibson raised the obvious (“Does this almost monolithic focus on the economy, in the news, and in people's minds in recent weeks, hurt your campaign?”) before then treating McCain's efforts to change the subject as odd: “Why...have you focused so in what you've had to say on Senator Obama's character?” When McCain brought up Obama's level of “knowledge and judgment,” a befuddled Gibson pressed: “You don't think he's been thoroughly vetted, having gone through all the primaries he did, all the campaigning, running for President as long as you have -- two years?” As for Ayers, Gibson pushed McCain to show his own better judgment, posing the question cited above about being “comfortable” with making Obama's character an issue.
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."