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McCain vs. the Media: Round Two

by Cally Carswell 

Tags: Media, Election 2008, campaign coverage, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Rick Davis, New York Times, Politico,

John McCainNow that Sarah Palin’s meet-and-greet with the media is almost a distant memory, McCain aides are taking their turn in the ring, and the gloves are off. In the second big McCain-media tussle of the fall campaign, McCain strategist Steve Schmidt unleashed fiery attacks against the New York Times, calling the venerable paper “a pro-Obama advocacy organization” and claiming that “it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization.”

Schmidt's fury was sparked by a story about McCain campaign manager Rick Davis’s ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Times reported" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/us/politics/22mccain.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=politics&pagewanted=print" target="_blank">The Times reported that Fannie and Freddie paid Davis almost $2 million while he served as president of an advocacy group the companies formed to fight increased regulation, and that Davis held the position primarily because of his close relationship with John McCain.

Bill Keller, the Times' executive editor, responded to the campaign’s accusations in an email to Politico:

It's our job to ask hard questions, fact-check their statements and their advertising, examine their programs, positions, biographies and advisors. Candidates and their campaign operatives are not always comfortable with that level of scrutiny, but it's what our readers expect and deserve.   

According to Politico, McCain aides also held a conference call encouraging reporters to hit Obama harder. “But,” writes Ben Smith, “the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.” (Are we sensing a pattern here?)

When Politico pressed the campaign about the inaccuracies, they got this response:

One McCain aide, Michael Goldfarb, said Politico was “quibbling with ridiculously small details when the basic things are completely right.”

Another, Brian Rogers, responded more directly:

“You are in the tank,” he e-mailed.

Of course, it is a reporter's job to identify such "small" falsehoods. But, no matter, the media-bashing continues. Until next time. . .

Image by soggydan, licensed under Creative Commons.