In a good example of corporate media striving to narrow down the Democratic primary field (FAIR Media Advisory, 5/8/07), USA Today (12/18/07) had a story on candidates' electability that wrote all but two of them out of existence. The story opened with the statement that "Illinois Sen. Barack Obama fares better than New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton against prospective Republican rivals," and went on to report:
Missing from USA Today's polling about electability was John Edwards--even though aside from Clinton and Obama, Edwards is the only Democratic candidate who consistently polls in double digits. And when other polls have included Edwards in questions about electability, Edwards generally does better than the other two, sometimes by wide margins. In a CNN survey of December 6-9, Edwards beat Romney by 11 points more than Clinton and 9 points more than Obama. He beat Huckabee by 15 points more than Clinton and 10 points more than Obama. Clinton lost to McCain in this polling by 2 points while Obama and McCain were tied, but Edwards beat him by 6. There's not as much of a difference with Giuliani, but Edwards still did 3 points better than Clinton and 2 points better than Obama.
If it's true, as USA Today's article reported, that "Democratic voters increasingly are focused on nominating the most electable presidential candidate," then the paper did those voters a real disservice by leaving Edwards out of the equation.
Like other establishment media outlets, however, USA Today seems to have difficulty providing a level playing field to a candidate who consistently attacks corporate interests--otherwise known as the media's owners and sponsors. An exercise in post-debate "fact-checking" by USA Today (12/14/07), for instance, took issue with this statement by Edwards: "One of the reasons that we've lost jobs, we're having trouble creating jobs...is because corporate power and greed have literally taken over the government."
The paper's "reality," as written by David Jackson and Fredreka Schouten, was this: "Edwards is wrong about job creation. There were 94,000 new jobs created in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since August 2003, 8.35 million jobs have been created."
Is USA Today unaware that the USA's population increases every year? In July 2003 the population was 290.8 million; the population now is estimated to be 303.6 million. So that's 8.35 million new jobs for 12.8 million more people. As a rule of thumb, the economy has to add 150,000 new jobs each month to keep pace with population growth. And the economy has lost about 3 million manufacturing jobs since 1998--most of them since 2000. But not, apparently, in USA Today's reality.
ACTION: Please write to USA Today to ask why Edwards was left out of the electability polling--and urge them to fact-check their fact-checking.
Brent Jones, Reader Editor