Five ways the mainstream media tipped the scales in favor of Obama

Candy Crowley of CNN, moderator of the Presidential debate, jumped in to defend Obama.

By Rich Noyes

Research director for the Media Research Center

Fox News and other media outlets have projected that President Obama has been reelected to a second term. If, in celebrating his victory Obama wanted to give credit where credit is due, he might want to think about calling some of America’s top journalists, since their favorable approach almost certainly made the difference between victory and defeat.

Reviewing the 2012 presidential campaign, here are five ways the media elite tipped the public relations scales in favor of the liberal Obama and against the conservative challenger Mitt Romney:

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.”

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer blasted the news coverage in an August 2 column, calling the trip “a major substantive success” that was wrapped “in a media narrative of surpassing triviality.”

Similarly, when the left-wing Mother Jones magazine in September put out a secretly-recorded video of Romney talking to donors about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, the networks hyped it like a sensational sex scandal. Over three days, the broadcast network morning and evening shows churned out 42 stories on the tape, nearly 90 minutes of coverage. The tone was hyperbolic; ABC’s “Good Morning America” called it a “bombshell rocking the Mitt Romney campaign,” while ABC “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer declared it a “political earthquake.”

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….”

The same thing happened when Mitt Romney talked about Obama’s “apology tour” during the final presidential debate. While in 2009 Obama had, in fact, criticized the United States as “arrogant,” “derisive” and having “too often… set [our] principles aside,” the networks said to call it an “apology tour” was “false” because, as CNN’s John Berman tenuously insisted, “even if he was critical of past U.S. foreign policy, he issued no apologies.”

Writing in the New York Times August 31, correspondent Jackie Calmes scolded that “the number of falsehoods and misleading statements from the Romney campaign coming in for independent criticism has reached a level not typically seen.” That’s not true, either; Romney’s team was, at worst, guilty of highlighting those facts that best illustrated their points (something done by all politicians), and the Obama campaign certainly put out their share of tawdry TV ads and dubious campaign claims.

But with “truth cops” who mainly policed just the GOP side of the street, the media used “fact-checking” as another club to tilt the playing field in favor of the Democrats.

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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  1. Hi!

    Can the american people think for themselves for the most part? I think not as most of them have been “dumbed down” in our schools.

    We deserve exactly the kind of government that we vote for. More tragedies will highly occur.

    I am expecting a huge disaster during this administration. Have no idea what it is going to be, but I am expecting it.

    Lise from Maine.

    Can the american people thing for themselves for the most part? I think not.

    We deserve exactly the kind of government that we vote for.


  2. All too true, and the only thing the media listen to are advertising dollars not spent on them.

    Remember this was an election characterized by exceptional RACIST charges made by Obama’s Black campaign staff, and the images they used increased the turnout…and some say without it he would have lost in several battleground states. I wonder if there were any Black precincts which cast 100% of their votes for Obama…talk about a racist political machine!

    Indeed, even WAPO and NYTIMES are opining about the new racial divide opened up by Obama’s war machine; and it is resonating among Hispanic and Asian voters, esp. those like Korean Americans and Cambodian-Immigrants who’ve been victimized by Blacks.

    Too bad the Republicans won’t resort to Race/Class/Sex campaign themes; because the MSM love to promote their populist appeal.

    Too bad the Republicans don’t learn from the history of FDR’s Presidential victory that started out as a classic ‘rich guy’ story to one of adopting a Southern Populist’s (Huey, the kingfish, Long) ‘chicken in every pot’ campaign strategy.

    You can’t win when the other guy is giving away mortgages you can’t ever repay, and then preventing banks and other lenders from forclosing and evicting you..hey, a free new house; and a new car from G.M. and a cell phone…..

  3. the American Voter retained Obama’s’ leash’ in returning a much stronger House of Representatives to control his socialist tendencies to confiscate and redistribute our remaining wealth.

    Anyone note the sharp drop in the value of the stock market and wonder whether this was the curse of OBAMA THE FIRST at work? I wonder how many of us are liquidating our assets and hiding it far, far away from the Obamacrats? MMM…..MMM….MMMMMM

  4. This election was covered from more angles than game of snookers.

    That the Media Research Center and the Maine Heritage Policy Center would reduce what was an indisputable approval of President Obama’s vision for our country to a snide suggestion that “We The People” were duped by the media is ridiculous.

    The Republican Party (both in Maine and nationally) should step into a quite pub, have a beer or two, and re-examine those “core principals” that it once could be proud of.

  5. For four years the central theme of the RNC has been to defeat Barak Obama, to block any and all tax increases (the Norquist Pledge) and to prevent any legislation coming from the Democratic side of the aisle from passing. This, in my opinion, was a tragic mistake for conservatives.

  6. Cris Edward Johnson.. What a crock…I’m looking at Angus King’s book of principles, the ones he would follow as governor. I voted for them, and he didn’t do a damn thing out of that book.

  7. What in the world does Angus King have to do with the disintegration of Maine Republican Party’s (or the National Republican Party’s) ability to advance positive energy into the political mix?

  8. Voter turnout was so low that McCain’s popular vote in 2008 would have beaten Obama’s in 2012. Missing were the large numbers of millennial voters 18-28, many of whom are unemployed/underemployed, under crushing debt from student loans, disillusioned, and most of whom are registered as INDEPENDENTS.

    They sat it out, and the winning edge were the racist appeals to Black voters in swing states; an edge that is easily erased when you consider there are twice as many Hispanic voters and a fast growing Asian population many segments of which have been victimized by Blacks, i.e. Korean Grocers in NYC, Cambodian HMONG in California, etc.

  9. Hi there blk_oak: PLEEEEEEEEEASE take a deep breath, close your eyes, and take a break for a day or two. The world is not coming to an end, it was just an election—sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Get over it !

  10. Bob Wehmeyer GROW UP KID…we just got notification that provider reimbursements would be cut back…we have to live with this S**T, you obviously don’t, it’s our income getting cut, and health getting strangled…every week there’s some cutback in MEDICARE benefits.

    Get outside your ‘adams state college’ wherever that is, and join the real world, you apparently don’t have clue about.

  11. I have the courage to use my real name at least, and fyi I am a 68 year old medicare recipient, and a proud graduate of Adams State College, and a retired social worker living on an inadequate pension and SS check. I also feel no need to resort to angry diatribes, and crude language, to make my views known. Despite your misplaced assumptions about me, I seem to have more of a clue than you do, and I am far from a kid who needs to grow up. Take your meds, and try to have a nice day.

  12. Cris Edward Johnson For two decades there have been grassroots efforts to craft a relevant Party Platform to be passed up to the Party Hierarchy. There was consensus and a lot of energy that this is ‘what we want’.

    And what do the plutocrats do?

    They shred/ignore/disregard/etc. it and substitute some moronic irrelevant garbage from Party headquarters, like we’re mindless sheep who like to salute and kiss Olympia’s A**.

    This is the end. We’re taking our marbles and becoming independent, joining Ron Paul or anything but trying to reform the Republican party of Maine into an organization that is responsive to the activist core of Maine voters.

  13. Bob Wehmeyer Unfortunately, I live w/ an ACSW still in private practice who is faced severe cutbacks in reimbursements and ever mounting Strang-ulation from CMS…more and more assinine regulations taking up more and more time and cutbacks in reimbursements looming …..and all under OBAMACARE.

    Either you’re an idealistic idiot who doesn’t vote in their self interest; or you’re a moonbat who doesn’t have a clue how ACA works or what cuts are pending, or you are wealthy enough to believe your income can cover supplementals, or…..

    I only take one med; and I buy that from Canada since it’s too expensive at RiteAid. Taking it doesn’t affect my analytic abilities, but shoot away with your snarkcascm, they are ineffectual anyway.

    I see ADAMS STATE COLLEGE is unranked in the US News& World rankings, but listed behind #89, Montana State U. Did you get your MSW there too?


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