Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: When the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report finding former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high officials responsible for abusive treatment of detainees in Guantánamo, Iraq and Afghanistan--with few exceptions, the media played the story down, preferring, for instance, righteous anger over embroiled Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. We'll discuss the Senate report with the Center for Constitutional Rights' Michael Ratner, whose book, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, was published in September. Also on CounterSpin today, Obama's pick for education secretary drew more attention than you might have expected--in large part because the [...]
What talk about media favoritism really means
Whether or not Barack Obama wins the election, there will be a substantial argument from conservatives--and even many centrist pundits and commentators--that the press was overwhelmingly biased in favor of the Democratic candidate and against John McCain (Extra!, 9-10/08). But the main evidence for this charge does not actually support the case. Throughout the campaign, the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) has released reports on the quantity of media coverage of the election--which candidates received more airtime, and so on. Several PEJ studies have also discussed the tone of the coverage, in an attempt to reveal which candidates are [...]
Media falsely balance Obama, McCain attacks
After the New York Times (10/4/08) devoted over 2,000 words to a front-page story assessing the "connection" between Barack Obama and former Weather Underground member William Ayers, it was no surprise that the John McCain/Sarah Palin campaign would seize the opportunity to try to re-inject the Ayers/Obama "link"--a popular topic among right-wing pundits like Sean Hannity--into the campaign. In general, centrist pundits looked askance (e.g., NBC News Today show, 10/7/08) at the McCain camp's undisguised attempt to change the subject from the economy to Ayers (Washington Post, 10/4/08). But many in the media bent over backwards to suggest an equivalence [...]
Anchor with Bush ties dismisses abuse-of-power hearings as 'stagecraft'
CNN's Election Center program devoted a July 25 report to mocking a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee investigating White House abuses of power. "Believe it or not, there was a congressional hearing today about impeaching the president," scoffed host Campbell Brown, who added: "It was all stagecraft, though." Brown went on to introduce the report by CNN correspondent Erica Hill by saying, "Tell us about this piece of Kabuki theater, Erica." Hill explained: "From the beginning it was pretty clear this was all just stagecraft, for what one Republican lawmaker deemed impeachment light." Hill underscored this notion by claiming: [...]
A Wall Street Journal news analysis on November 13 had a familiar refrain: The Democrats are in trouble because Congress is unpopular, and the solution is to be nicer to the Republicans. After quoting Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) saying, “if you try to be too political there’s a backlash,” reporter David Rogers wrote, “That backlash is evident: Congress’s approval rating has fallen from 31 percent in March to 19 percent this month in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.” Rogers went on to offer advice on how the Democrats can “soften the tone” and “overcome . . . the [...]
Scandals are non-stories for 'America's Mayor'
Does Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani have some dirt on the press corps? How else to explain the free pass journalists have repeatedly granted him on stories that would threaten to sink less-favored candidates, particularly of the Democratic variety? (See sidebar.) If Ronald Reagan was the “Teflon president” to whom no bad news would stick, then Giuliani would seem to be the Teflon candidate. Consider Giuliani’s campaign in South Carolina, perhaps the most important primary in the GOP schedule, and the state on which Giuliani has pinned his hopes for the nomination. In June, Giuliani state campaign chair and South [...]
The disastrous end to the Vietnam War served as a historical reference point for many pundits urging Democrats to forget pulling out of Iraq. But the history lesson was shaky. Presenting the congressional fight over war funding as indicative of “what will likely become post-Iraq politics in America,” ABC World News (4/26/07) reported that Republicans were standing tough with an unpopular White House, while Democrats were more or less following majority opinion against the war. This, the report noted, was a problem—for Democrats. “Democrats know they must be careful,” explained reporter Terry Moran. “The shadow of the Vietnam War looms [...]
Trivia again distracts media from issues voters care about
Now that the unusually lengthy presidential campaign is starting to close in on the first primary contests, one would hope the national press corps would focus on the candidates' policies pertaining to the issues that Americans are most concerned about--such as the war in Iraq, the economy and healthcare. Or they can choose to direct their attention elsewhere--namely, to Barack Obama's lapel. On October 4, internet gossip Matt Drudge posted the headline, "Obama Won't Wear American Flag Pin Any More." That headline linked to an Associated Press report (10/4/07), "Obama Stops Wearing Flag Pin." Anyone who actually read the story [...]