Five ways the mainstream media tipped the scales in favor of Obama
1. The Media’s Biased Gaffe Patrol Hammered Romney: The media unfairly jumped on inconsequential mistakes — or even invented controversies — from Romney and hyped them in to multi-day media “earthquakes.” Case in point: the GOP candidate’s trip to Europe and Israel in late July. A Media Research Center analysis of all 21 ABC, CBS and NBC evening news stories about Romney’s trip found that virtually all of them (18, or 86%) emphasized “diplomatic blunders,” “gaffes” or “missteps.”
...None of Obama’s gaffes garnered that level of coverage. After the president in a June 8 press conference declared that “the private sector is doing fine,” the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts gave it just one night’s coverage, then basically dropped the story — nothing further on ABC’s "World News" or the "CBS Evening News" in the weeks that followed, and just two passing references on the "NBC Nightly News."
And, when Obama infamously declared, “You didn’t build that,” ABC, CBS, NBC didn’t report the politically damaging remark for four days — and then only after Romney made it the centerpiece of a campaign speech.
2. Pounding Romney With Partisan Fact Checking: There’s nothing wrong with holding politicians accountable for the honesty of their TV ads and stump speeches, but this year the self-appointed media fact-checkers attacked Republicans as liars for statements that were accurate.
For example, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter writing for PolitiFact branded VP candidate Paul Ryan’s convention speech anecdote about the closing of the General Motors plant in his hometown as “false,” even though Ryan was correct in all of his details. The slanted review became TV reporters’ talking points; the next day on NBC, correspondent Chuck Todd grumped that while what Ryan said “was technically factual, by what he left out, [he] actually distorted the actual truth.” Matt Lauer greeted Ryan the following week in an interview on Today: “There are some people who are claiming that you played a little fast and loose with the truth....”
.....3. Those Biased Debate Moderators: Upset liberals scorned PBS’s Jim Lehrer for taking a hands-off approach in the first debate on October 3, with MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman slamming him as “practically useless” for not jumping into the debate on behalf of President Obama.
Such criticism may have encouraged the activist approach taken by ABC’s Martha Raddatz in the vice presidential debate October 11, and by CNN’s Candy Crowley in the October 16 town hall debate, as both of those journalists repeatedly interrupted the Republican candidate and larded the discussion with a predominantly liberal agenda.
Crowley earns extra demerits for taking the media’s penchant for faulty fact-checking to new heights when she jumped into the October 16 town hall-style debate to validate President Obama’s claim that he called the attack in Benghazi, Libya, “an act of terror” the very next morning. Crowley endorsed Obama’s story, telling Romney: “He did, in fact, sir, call it an act of terror.”
Not according to the transcript, which had Obama only speaking generically about how “no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation,” not assigning that label to the violence in Benghazi.
Wrong though she was, Crowley became a heroine to many in the liberal media; ABC's Matt Dowd, for example, cheered: “What Candy Crowley did, I actually thought, was laudable....I hope we get to do more of that in this discourse.”
Moderators are supposed to ensure both sides get a fair hearing, not pick sides. By leaping into the fray, Candy Crowley epitomized the media’s itch to tilt the scales this year — again, in Obama’s favor.
4. The Benghazi Blackout: Right after the September 11 attack in Libya, the networks proclaimed that the events would bolster President Obama — “reminding voters of his power as commander-in-chief,” as NBC’s Peter Alexander stated on the September 14 edition of "Today." But as a cascade of leaked information erased the portrait of Obama as a heroic commander, the broadcast networks shunted the Benghazi story to the sidelines.
News broke online in late September, for example, that Team Obama knew within 24 hours that the attack was likely the result of terrorism. That starkly contradicted claims from White House press secretary Jay Carney, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and President Obama himself that the attack was a “spontaneous” reaction to an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube. Yet, ABC took nearly two days to bring this story to viewers, while CBS and NBC held off for three days.
This was, shamefully, the broadcast networks’ pattern in October: New developments exposing the administration’s failure to provide adequate security, or contradictions in their public statements, were either given stingy coverage or buried completely. The puzzle pieces revealed a disturbing failure of Obama’s national security apparatus, but the networks flitted in and out of the story, never giving it any traction.
Instead of an “October Surprise,” the networks engineered an “October Suppression” — keeping a lid on the boiling Benghazi story until Election Day. Who knows how voters might have reacted if the media had covered this story as tenaciously as they did Romney’s “47% gaffe”?
5. Burying the Bad Economy: Pundits agreed that Obama’s weakness was the failure of the US economy to revive after his expensive stimulus and four years of $1 trillion deficits. But the major networks failed to offer the sustained, aggressive coverage of the economy that incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush faced in 1992, or even that George W. Bush faced in 2004 — both years when the national economy was in better shape than it is now.
According to a study conducted that year by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, from January through September of 1992, the networks ran a whopping 1,289 stories on the economy, 88% of which painted it in a dismal, negative light. That fall, the unemployment rate was 7.6%, lower than today’s 7.9%, and economic growth in the third quarter was 2.7%, better than today’s 2.0%. Yet the media coverage hammered the idea of a terrible economy, and Bush lost re-election.
In 2004, the economy under George W. Bush was far better than it is today — higher growth, lower unemployment, smaller deficits and cheaper gasoline — yet network coverage that year was twice as hostile to Bush than it was towards Obama this year, according to a study by the Media Research Center’s Business and Media Institute.
When Republican presidents have faced reelection, network reporters made sure to spotlight economic “victims” — the homeless man, the woman without health insurance, the unemployed worker, the senior citizen who had to choose between medicine and food. But this year, with an economy as bad as any since the Great Depression, those sympathetic anecdotes have vanished from the airwaves — a huge favor to Obama and the Democrats.
Given Obama’s record, the Romney campaign could have overcome much of this media favoritism and still prevailed — indeed, they almost did. But taken together, these five trends took the media’s historical bias to new levels this year, and saved Obama’s presidency in the process.
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