NBC Nightly News Hypes Allen's 'Macaca' and Heritage Stories, Puffs Opponent

Following the Washington Post script, "NBC Nightly News" on Wednesday covered the Senate race in Virginia as tightening all because of Senator George Allen's bumbling. Brian Williams teased the story at the show's opening: "First an ethnic slur, now the touchy topic of his own Jewish roots. Virginia's Republican Senator is suddenly in a tight race for his own job." Chip Reid's story dwelled mostly on the Post's personal stories on Allen, and touched on issues only to allow Allen's opponent Jim Webb to denounce the Iraq War. While NBC lingered on Allen's "Macaca" remark (which they called "politically devastating") and his newly discovered Jewish roots, they completely left out the Post's front-page story on Webb's trouble with feminists over his old "Women Can't Fight" article, that said coed dorms at the Naval Academy are a "horny woman's dream." Instead, they promoted him as a Reagan man, noted his Marine son deployed in Iraq, and his view that Iraq is a "blunder of historic proportions."

MRC's Brad Wilmouth transcribed the Virginia Senate story, apparently part of a series. Republicans won't be welcoming this series if it's in any way as slanted in the Democrats' favor in each race like this story was.

Williams: "NBC Nightly News 'In Depth' tonight, we begin a special series that will take a close look at some of the most interesting races in these upcoming midterm elections. We begin tonight in the Commonwealth of Virginia where a Republican incumbent, who shares a name with his famous football coach father, is facing a tighter contest than anyone would have guessed. It's largely because of things he has said. Our report from NBC's Chip Reid."

Chip Reid, over video of Allen on a horse in a parade: "For Virginia Republican Senator George Allen, reelection was supposed to be an easy ride to victory. Supporters say his 'aw, shucks' style, cowboy boots and chewing tobacco give him the air of a regular guy and were promoting him for President in 2008.

Notice NBC's insinuation that Allen's image is manufactured. It would "give him the air of a regular guy," not demonstrate he's a regular guy. Reid continued:

"But recently, Allen's smooth path turned bumpy. The latest controversy, when a reporter asked whether he has hidden his Jewish heritage."

Senator George Allen (R-VA), at debate: "So I'd like to ask you, 'Why is that relevant?'"

Reid: "Today, Allen said his mother's family does have Jewish roots, but that he only recently found out."

Allen: "Well, I'm really proud of my diverse religious or ethnic heritage. It's part of who I am."

Reid: "That incident followed another that was politically devastating."

Allen, August 11 in Webb campaign home video: "This fellow here, over here, with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is-"

Reid: "Allen, referring to one of his opponent's campaign aides, an Indian-American, as 'Macaca,' a racial slur. Allen says he had no idea what it meant, but the issue dominated the news for weeks."

This is one of those assertions that demonstrate liberal bias, even as they ignore it. The "Macaca" issue dominated "the news" because The Washington Post fiercely promoted it, putting it on the front page at least four times and at least twice on the front page of the Metro section. Reid continued by puffing up opponent James Webb, underlining he worked for Reagan, his son deployed in Iraq, and his denunciation of the war:

"Six weeks ago, George Allen appeared to be a shoe-in for reelection. Now, Democrats say they're fired up, confident they have a real chance to win this race. Their candidate, James Webb, a highly decorated Marine, was Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy, now running as a Democrat. His son, a Marine, is now in Iraq, but in a debate on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, he called the Iraq War a blunder of historic proportions."

James Webb, Virginia Democratic Senate candidate, on Meet the Press: "We did not need to go into a country, decapitate the government, and inherit the responsibility of rebuilding it."

Allen, on Meet the Press: "This is a central battle front in the War on Terror, and it's not just the President or the Vice President or me saying that. That's what al-Qaeda says."

Reid: "In recent weeks, Allen's lead in the polls has shrunk from 16 points to four [48-32 to 46-42], giving new life to Democrats in a race that may now be up for grabs. Chip Reid, NBC News, Washington."

Nowhere in the story are the domestic issues that may make the difference in Virginia. Iraq is certainly an issue. But Reid was more interested in Allen's personal issues than in exploring the economy, immigration, abortion, gay marriage, taxes and spending. Instead, it looked like story cooked up to order for Webb's political advisers.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis