More Unequal Labeling, Misinformation at the Los Angeles Times

An article in today's Los Angeles Times (Sunday, June 18, 2006) on the Presidential ambitions of U.S. Senators is accompanied by an informational box with photos and brief profiles of various Senators. The box was compiled by Times staffer Janet Hook.

Can you catch the problems?

Republicans:

George Allen, Virginia: A favorite of some conservatives for 2008, but first has to fight to win reelection to the Senate in 2006.

Sam Brownback, Kansas: Very close to religious conservatives, having built his Senate career around issues they care most about, such as opposing abortion and stem-cell research.

Bill Frist, Tennessee: Senate majority leader. Plans to leave the Senate after 2008. Courting the party's conservative wing by promoting Bush's judges, constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Chuck Hagel, Nebraska: Conservative with an independent streak. Has been critical of the administration's handling of Iraq war.

John McCain, Arizona: Lost GOP presidential nomination to Bush in 2000. Now trying to blunt charges that he's not conservative enough to win the nomination.

***

Democrats:

Evan Bayh, Indiana: Moderate Democrat. Former two-term governor of Indiana. Supported Iraq war.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware: Leading Democratic spokesman on foreign policy issues. Ran for president in 1988 but dropped out of race because of allegations he plagiarized a speech.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York: Widely seen as frontrunner because of strong fundraising ability. Faces easy path to reelection in 2006.

Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut: Unabashed liberal, former Democratic Party chairman, in his fifth Senate term.

Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin: Maverick who has called for censure of Bush for approving domestic wiretapping. Coauthor, with McCain, of landmark campaign finance law.

John F. Kerry, Massachusetts: Democrats' unsuccessful presidential nominee in 2004, looking for a comeback.

First of all, Sen. Brownback does not oppose all stem-cell research, as Hook leads her readers to believe. Sen. Brownback supports adult stem-cell research, and he opposes embryonic stem-cell research. Read about Sen. Brownback's position here.

Second, Hook is dubiously claiming that Sen. Allen "has to fight to win reelection" later this year, but a recent Rasmussen poll has Allen comfortably leading his competitor, 51% to 41%, even after Allen's competitor received a bump in the poll after his media exposure from his Democratic primary victory. (Allen once led him by 20 points before the primary.)

Third: All five Republican profiles contain references to "conservative" or "conservatives." Only one of the six profiles of the Democrats (Sen. Dodd) contains the word "liberal," although all could be tagged as such. (Sen. Bayh is labeled as a "moderate," and this is certainly debatable. In 2005, Bayh voted 95% of the time with the position of the ADA [link]. He also has 100% rating from NARAL/Pro-Choice America [link].) This is a clear example of unequal labeling at the Times.