CNN’s Response to Webb Novel Revelations Follows Media Playbook to a Tee
As NewsBusters reported Friday, some rather steamy sex scenes are depicted in the novels of the Democrat challenger to Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), Jim Webb. In NB’s report, the question was raised as to how the media would handle these revelations. An article posted at CNN’s website likely gives us a clue. In fact, you can tell the slant of the story just from the headline, “Webb on sex passage recital: 'It's smear after smear.’”
What followed came straight from the liberal media playbook. First, you need to give the offended Democrat an extraordinary amount of print-space to explain his or her position, and allow the “victim” to blame the attacks on the vast ring-wing conspiracy. Second, you need to discredit the offending Republican. Third, you need to give examples of other Republicans doing exactly what the Democrat is accused of doing.
With that in mind, step one was accomplished thusly:
The first quote describes a shirtless man picking up a naked boy who runs toward him. The book describes what happens after the man picks up the boy and turns him upside down. It comes from the 2001 book "Lost Soldiers."
Webb responded Friday morning on Washington Post radio. "Let me explain what that was," he said. "I actually saw this happen in a slum of Bangkok and when I was there as a journalist. A man placing his lips on his son's private parts ... and the duty of a writer is to illuminate the surroundings.
"There is nothing that's been in any of my novels that, in my view, hasn't been either illuminating surroundings or defining a character or moving a plot," Webb said.
Webb told Washington Post radio that to pull excerpts from his writings "and force them on people, sort of, like pound them over the head with them," rather than having someone read the entire book "is just a classic example of the way this (Allen) campaign has worked. And you know, it's smear after smear."
"This is a Karl Rove campaign," Webb said, referring to the head of President Bush's 2004 re-election bid. "We have known this one was coming for quite some time."
Step two was accomplished thusly:
On Thursday, Webb's campaign posted a news release looking at parts of Allen's voting record with the headline, "George Allen Votes Against Victims of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence." Allen has denied such complaints.
Allen's re-election bid has been dogged by complaints of racial insensitivity. Polls in mid-August showed him with a solid lead until he was caught on videotape referring to Webb campaign volunteer S.R. Sidarth, who is of Indian descent, as "Macaca." The term refers to a class of monkey.
Allen apologized repeatedly and said the term was something he made up. Later, two former associates told CNN that Allen used a racial epithet to describe African-Americans -- allegations Allen and other former associates denied vigorously.
And, step three was accomplished thusly:
Sexual scenarios in fiction novels by prominent political and governmental figures have been controversial in the past. Webb, on Washington Post radio Friday, referred to one.
"I mean we can go and read Lynne Cheney's lesbian love scenes if you want to, you know, get graphic on stuff," he said.
Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, wrote the novel "Sisters," published in 1981, which included lesbian love scenes.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent out a news release Friday pointing to sexual passages in books by other GOP conservatives, including Dick Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
As a post-script, I must say how wonderful it was to see CNN so quickly find evidence to accomplish step three. After all, the media largely ignored Gerry Studds and his relationship to the Mark Foley incident until Studds died about two weeks after the story first broke. Yet, in this case, CNN was extraordinarily expedient in finding examples of Republican writings to deflect criticism from Webb.
Bravo! Encore! Author! Author!