Imagine for a moment that one of the leading Republican presidential candidates said that 10,000 people had been killed by the recent tornado that destroyed Greensburg, Kansas, Saturday.
Do you think this would have been easy fodder for the broadcast television news divisions that always seem fascinated with gaffes made by folks on the right?
If your answer is an unequivocal “Yes,” then why did ABC, CBS, and NBC completely ignore Sen. Barack Obama’s statement Tuesday wherein he accidentally exaggerated the death toll from the Greensburg tornado by 9,988?
"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died—an entire town destroyed," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a speech to 500 people packed into a sweltering Richmond art studio for a fundraiser.
Obama was off a bit, as only twelve people have been confirmed dead.
Yet, as NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein pointed out Wednesday, NBC’s “Today” show, while focusing attention on the President’s much publicized gaffe regarding Queen Elizabeth and the year 1776, completely ignored Obama’s mistake.
In fact, all of the broadcast morning shows disregarded Obama’s gaffe, as did all of their evening news broadcasts.
After all, in August 2006, when Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) said a word on the campaign trail that likely 99.99 percent of Americans had never heard of, ABC News did a “Good Morning America” and “Nightline” segment on the supposedly offensive racial slur and how it was going to impact his reelection campaign.
Over at NBC, the “Nightly News” filed a report involving Allen’s gaffe about a week after it occurred.
An unaudited LexisNexis search identified a total of 26 reports by the three broadcast networks which included the word “macaca” – whatever it means – prior to Election Day.
Of course, most political analysts now blame this one word for Allen – who had been leading Democrat candidate Jim Webb by 16 points in the polls just prior to this incident – not only losing his Senate seat, but giving the Democrats control over that Congressional chamber.
Maybe more important, the extraordinary publicity this one word received likely signaled the end of Allen’s political career.
By contrast, when Democrats make misstatements on the campaign trail, the media either ignore them, or make excuses for the behavior.
Such was certainly the case when the media gave Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) a pass for his comment about people in the military all being stupid. Of course this was sold to the public by a sycophantic press as a “botched joke.”
And, when Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) made a comment about Barack Obama being clean and articulate, any potentially racist element was quickly dismissed by liberal press members as absurd. Here’s how ABC’s George Stephanopoulos characterized the incident on the February 4, 2007 “This Week”:
And, you know, you have to feel bad for the guy. He's definitely not a racist but this fed into the perception that a lot of Democrats have that this is his biggest problem, he shoots from the lip.
Democrat strategist Donna Brazile, Stephanopoulos’ panel guest that morning, agreed:
Well he stumbled. There's no question both shoes were tied together and he stepped on his own announcement. But, look, Joe Biden has one of the most remarkable civil rights records, a strong supporter of equal opportunity. He came before the Democrats and said, so how was your week and then he went on to apologize once again. I think Joe Biden will be able to recover. I also should add he gave the shortest speech, again, has broke the record of his entire career but Joe Biden is very sincere, very able politician and I believe that he has lots to say on many other issues.
Finally, in this instance with Obama, even though CNN did a number of segments on this story Wednesday, they were designed to categorize the Senator’s comments as a simple mistake due to how tired he was.
For instance, Wolf Blitzer on the 4PM installment of “The Situation Room” brought Democrat strategist James Carville on to do damage control:
Completely meaningless. I mean, he just made -- he was tired… He obviously didn't mean it. It would be ridiculous. It might be funny, but it is completely meaningless. And Senator Obama shouldn't suffer any detriment because of this.
So, when a Democrat candidate makes an error on the campaign trail, the press depict it as just a simple mistake or a botched joke. However, when a Republican misspeaks, it could be the end of his career.
Why the double standard?
Regardless of the answer, this demonstrates a tremendously worrisome condition with a presidential election now just eighteen months away.
As one could certainly make the case that "macaca" gave the Democrats the Senate in the 2006 elections, and a variety of other media-related issues -- not the least of which being the fascination with the Mark Foley affair -- assisted in key Republican defeats in the House -- what are an emboldened press going to do this time to ensure that a liberal is in the White House in January 2009?
If Democrat presidential candidate gaffes are continually either ignored or downplayed, while those from the GOP candidates are headline and front-page news, how can a Republican possibly win?