Friday, October 27, 2006

Media Matters Latest, October 27, 2006

ABC's Nightline reported that "both sides" are airing "mudslinging" campaign ads, yet Nightline could not point to a single Democratic example
In a report on the ad wars of the 2006 midterm elections, co-anchor Terry Moran reported on the October 25 broadcast of ABC's Nightline that "both sides are playing a serious game of hardball" with "mudslinging" attack ads hitting "below the belt." Moran wondered, "How low can they go?" Despite Moran's insistence that the "low punches" were being thrown by both Democrats and Republicans, the entire Nightline report focused on a handful of controversial Republican commercials -- including ads being aired in Tennessee, Massachusetts, and New York -- that have garnered wide media attention and been broadly condemned, both for their inaccuracies and their ugly personal attacks. Moran's report provided no examples of Democratic-sponsored attack ads being aired that match the level of distortion and personal attack found in the Republican commercials. Read more

Limbaugh falsely claimed of Michael J. Fox: "[E]very one of his ads is run for the benefit of a Democrat"
On the October 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that "every one" of the political advertisements actor Michael J. Fox has appeared in "is run for the benefit of a Democrat." In fact, Fox, who has Parkinson's disease and has campaigned for candidates who support embryonic stem cell research, appeared in a campaign ad for Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) in 2004, as Media Matters for America has noted. Additionally, as purported evidence that Fox supports only Democrats, Limbaugh alleged that Fox has done so "[e]ven in Maryland, where the Democrat [sic] beneficiary of the Michael J. Fox ad voted against exactly what Michael J. Fox is advocating for in the ad. That would be [Rep.] Benjamin Cardin." However, as Media Matters noted when Fox News host Sean Hannity made a similar baseless claim, Cardin voted in favor of H.R. 810, the embryonic stem cell research bill that Fox endorsed, and voted to override President Bush's veto of the bill. Cardin did vote against an alternative bill that the two lead sponsors of H.R. 810 claimed would impede embryonic stem cell research. Read more

E.D. Hill paired Michael J. Fox's stem cell ad, RNC ad called "overtly racist" by Republican William Cohen as "negative ads ... one from each side"; let Card claim only "Democrats have a message of negativity"
On the October 26 edition of Fox News Live, host E.D. Hill compared two "negative ads ... one from each side" -- one by Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill in which actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, endorsed McCaskill due to her support for supporting embryonic stem cell research, the other an ad funded by the Republican National Committee (RNC) that attacks Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. by depicting a scantily clad white woman who "met" Ford "at the Playboy party." As Media Matters for America noted, former Republican senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen has called the ad attacking Ford "overtly racist." As the two ads aired on-screen, Hill interviewed former Bush White House chief of staff Andrew Card, leaving unchallenged Card's claim that "Democrats have a message of negativity" after earlier stating: "Republicans have a message that has some specifics to it about the future." Read more

On Good Morning America, Hannity offered a host of misinformation to attack Michael J. Fox
On Good Morning America, Sean Hannity accused Michael J. Fox of, as host Diane Sawyer put it, "shilling" for Democrats, claimed without elaboration that Fox's campaign ad in support of Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill contained "factual inaccuracies," and baselessly defended Rush Limbaugh's accusation that Fox was "exaggerating the effects of the disease" in the ad. Similarly, on The O'Reilly Factor, Culture Campaign president Sandy Rios falsely claimed that Fox was "lying" in his advertisement. Read more

CNN's Blitzer twice falsely asserted Limbaugh "apologized" for Michael J. Fox attacks
On the October 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer falsely asserted that nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh "apologized" for recent comments he made about actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease. Moments later, Blitzer again claimed Limbaugh "apologized," adding that Limbaugh "said he wasn't aware that he had that serious of a problem from the Parkinson's disease." In fact, Limbaugh has stood by his comments, stating that "I was right" and that "I wouldn't rephrase it any differently." Read more

Echoing Limbaugh, Halperin greeted Beck to discuss Michael J. Fox by stating: "[M]egadittos. And I just need you to know, I'm not doing this segment on my meds, so watch out"
Appearing on the October 25 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck to discuss conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's accusation that actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, was "exaggerating the effects of the disease" in a recent campaign advertisement for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, ABC News political director Mark Halperin told Beck: "I just need you to know, I'm not doing this segment on my meds, so watch out." Halperin began the interview by saying: "Glenn, first of all, megadittos." "Megadittos" is a term used by Limbaugh's callers and fans to express strong support for Limbaugh and agreement with his views. Read more

Media uncritically reported Bush's statement that he is "accountable" for Iraq war, even as he continues to pass the buck
Numerous media outlets reported without challenge President Bush's assertion that the "ultimate accountability" for the Iraq war "rests with me" -- some even asserting that he "took full responsibility for the war." But these reports ignored Bush's consistent pattern of deflecting questions regarding his judgments on Iraq by stating that he defers to others, including top generals, the intelligence community, and the Iraqi government, in making such decisions. Read more

CNN's King baselessly asserted GOP Congress has started to challenge Bush administration
In a article previewing the October 26 edition of CNN's "Broken Government" series, CNN national correspondent John King asserted that, after being primarily deferential to the Bush administration in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "[t]he Republican-controlled Congress ... is now beginning to challenge the administration about the expanding role of the executive branch." The only example King cited of congressional Republicans' newfound willingness to stand up to the White House was a supposed "compromise" on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, reached after a well-publicized fight between the administration and three Republican senators. However, as Media Matters for America has explained, far from challenging presidential authority, the bill expands it, among other things effectively authorizing the president to detain any noncitizen within the United States or outside its borders, for any reason and for as long as the campaign against terrorism continues. Read more

Lauer on Limbaugh's Michael J. Fox attacks: "Didn't Rush Limbaugh just say what a lot of people were privately thinking?"
NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer suggested that when Rush Limbaugh "said perhaps Michael J. Fox was exaggerating or faking these effects of Parkinson's disease" in a recent campaign ad, Limbaugh was "just say[ing] what a lot of people were privately thinking." Also on Today, radio host Laura Ingraham baselessly claimed that just because people are "unhappy with the current situation" in Iraq "doesn't mean you redeploy as John Murtha says or John Kerry or most of the Democrats"; in fact, polls have shown that Americans overwhelmingly favor withdrawing from Iraq. Read more

Why was O'Reilly speaking at a fundraising event for an organization whose PAC is dedicated to electing "conservative, pro-business" and primarily Republican candidates?
If Bill O'Reilly is "not a partisan," as he consistently claims, Media Matters asks: Why was he in Birmingham, Alabama, appearing at an event with the state's Republican governor, helping raise money for an organization whose goal is to elect "conservative," mainly Republican candidates? Read more

Saddam Hussein verdict postponed until two days before U.S. election: Will the media turn a skeptical eye?
While it cannot definitively be said that the reason the senior Iraqi court in charge of Saddam Hussein's trial postponed its verdict in the case until two days before the November elections so that it would influence the midterms, the postponement suggests several obvious questions, including, most importantly: Given the Bush administration's history of timing national security-related actions to the political calendar, has the date for the verdict's release been set to provide maximum political benefit for the administration and congressional Republicans? Read more

Hume reported Bush "has stopped using the phrase 'stay the course,' " ignored Rumsfeld's denial earlier that day, administration's previous flip-flops
On the October 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume stated that "President Bush has stopped using the phrase 'stay the course' after his critics successfully equated it in many people's minds with military inflexibility" and that "today, the top military brass, both in Iraq at the Pentagon" were "insist[ing] that U.S. forces are constantly adapting their approach." However, Hume did not note that the same day, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stated on ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show that "of course" Bush is not backing away from "staying the course," as the weblog Think Progress documented. Hume also ignored previous reports that the White House was rejecting "stay the course" as a characterization of the administration's strategy in Iraq, even as Bush continued to use it, as Media Matters for America documented. Read more

O'Reilly: "[T]en years ago, nobody [had] even heard" of Iraq
Despite widespread reports of the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan, Bill O'Reilly baselessly claimed that it is a "myth" that "Afghanistan's going backwards" and declared that "the Bush administration has won a victory in Afghanistan." O'Reilly also asserted that "10 years ago, nobody [had] even heard of" Iraq; in fact, the United States led a coalition against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Read more

To back up claims of a "liberal media," ABC's Halperin said liberal 527s "spent millions" attacking Bush, but falsely suggested there were no similar groups on the right
ABC News political director Mark Halperin falsely suggested that while progressive 527 organizations with ties to the Democratic Party attacked President Bush during the 2004 election, there were no comparable groups on the right. But one of the most prominent 527 groups in the 2004 election cycle was the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a group with ties to both the GOP and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign whose attacks on Democratic candidate John Kerry -- which included numerous false and discredited allegations -- received broad coverage in the media. Read more

Blitzer: "[C]orrect me if I'm wrong" that controversial Playboy party ad "has now gone away"; in fact, ad still reportedly airing
On The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer said, "[C]orrect me if I'm wrong," but a controversial Playboy party ad against Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Harold Ford Jr., "has now gone away." Ken Mehlman, whom Blitzer was interviewing, concurred, saying, "my understanding is the same thing." In fact, The Tennessean reported on the same day that the ad "will continue airing ... as agreed to by the RNC." Read more

MSNBC's O'Donnell cherry-picked poll to suggest public divided over likely outcomes of Democratic Congress
On MSNBC News Live, Norah O'Donnell cherry-picked the findings of a new Gallup poll to suggest that the American public is divided over the prospect of a Democratic Congress, pointing to the fact that 82 percent of respondents believed that a Democratic Congress would set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, which, she said, "two-thirds of people" support, and contrasting it with the fact that a majority of respondents also believed Democrats would raise taxes, which, she said, "three-quarters of the American people disapprove of." Read more

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