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Pro: Media’s grade-school crush on Obama flunks smell test for most objective Americans

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Peter Schweizer
August 23, 2008
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, Has media coverage of the presidential election campaign crossed the boundaries of objective journalism?

Anyone who thinks the media have been balanced and unbiased during the current election simply hasn’t been paying attention.


Barack Obama has benefitted from adoring coverage, a lack of journalistic rigor, and a sizeable advantage in media coverage. In short, everything in the media seems to break his direction.


Large parts of the American public already recognize this. According to a recent study by Rasmussen Reports, 50 percent of independent voters and even 27 percent of Democrats believe that the media are trying to help Obama win. Just 12 percent of independents said the media were helping John McCain.


This bias works several ways. Consider, for example, how much coverage the presidential candidates have been getting.


When McCain went overseas a few months ago, he received scant coverage by the news media.


When Obama went, all three television network anchors joined him. According to The Washington Post ombudsman, between June 4—when Obama clinched the nomination—and Aug. 17, Obama had a three-to-one advantage over McCain in front-page stories in that paper. A similar pattern exists in most of the mainstream media.


It comes as little surprise, then, that according to a recent study by Pew Research, 48 percent of those surveyed—and 51 percent of political independents—said they had heard “too much” about Obama.


The excuse for this imbalance is that people need to get to know Obama. But the media coverage has been fawning and superficial.


CBS’ “The Early Show” ran a story about how constant campaigning has aged Obama; it even talked to his barber (gray hair!) and worried about the fact that “he’s eating hot dogs, tacos, fajitas, cheese steaks and cake.” But more important stories about his friendships and allies get glossed over.


Consider the case of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose hate-filled “sermons” have been all over the Internet. The Rev. Wright presided over Obama’s wedding and was his pastor for 20 years.


The mainstream media largely ignored this story until they were forced to cover it because of the attention it was receiving on talk radio and the Internet. Had McCain been “mentored” by a racist pastor spewing hate, the media would most certainly have covered it with vigor.


Or consider Obama’s association with Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, members of the notorious Weather Underground. The Ayerses bombed the Pentagon during the turbulent ’60s and are unrepentant about this terrorist past.


Obama launched his political career at their home and served as chairman of the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a foundation Ayers founded. But major media have been almost completely uninterested in the story.


Imagine if John McCain had a similar relationship with a right-wing militia leader who had bombed a federal building.


When Obama slips up, the media seem all too eager to bail him out of his problems. Obama has several times raised the race card, saying that McCain and conservatives would bring up the fact that he was black as a way to defeat him.


The McCain campaign fired back, rightfully stating that no one had done such a thing.


What was the media’s response? Chris Cuomo of ABC, said on “Good Morning America” that it was McCain who was “seizing on race” by responding to Obama.


The American public knows better. A study by Rasmussen Reports found that 53 percent of Americans did find Obama’s statements to be racist. Only 38 percent disagreed.


As reporter John Harris has written: “As one who has assigned journalists to cover Obama at both Politico and The Washington Post, I have witnessed the phenomenon several times. Some reporters come back and need to go through detox, to cure their swooning over Obama’s political skill.”


Let’s hope they do. But I’m not counting on it.


Peter Schweizer is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former consultant to NBC News. Readers may write to him at Hoover Institution, 434 Galvez Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. 94305-6010; Web site: www.hoover.org.

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