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Refusing to Swallow the Spin | The Nation

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Refusing to Swallow the Spin

No one is going to suggest that the mainstream media that spent much of the last week of a critical national election campaign focusing on a non-candidate's failed attempt to tell a joke distinguished itself by offering citizens the information they need to cast informed votes. The absurd amount of attention that was devoted to a flap surrounding U.S. Senator John Kerry's attempt to poke fun at George Bush's ignorance of international affairs served as a reminder of how easily most broadcast journalists and talk-show hosts can be spun. It is much easier to note the exceptions to the rule -- such as CNN's "Broken Government" series and Jack Cafferty's commendable "throw-them-all-out" commentaries, and syndicated radio host Stephanie Miller's daily dissection of Republican talking points and the right-wing media's repetition of them -- than it is to count all the examples of tangled truths and mangled realities.

But the campaign season did close with one remarkable example of a prominent television personality using his program to challenge a particular politician's penchant for peddling sleaze. The politician in question is U.S. Senator Mike DeWine, the Ohio Republican who, like several other members of the GOP caucus, has fallen behind in his bid for a new term.

Ohio political observers know that DeWine has a long history of engaging in dirty and deceptive tactics in the final stages of his campaigns -- especially when the Republican is trailing. DeWine once accused former Senator John Glenn of being soft on communism, as part of a campaign that led the Dayton Daily News newspaper to accuse "mud-loving Mike DeWine" of running "a thoroughly negative campaign." That was a rare example of the media calling the Republican to account.

For the most part, however, DeWine has gotten away with smearing his opponents because fewin the media have challenged him on his tactics. In fact, as the media has become increasing lax in recent years, the senator has come to count on journalists to swallow his spin without challenge or complaint.

So when DeWine went on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" a few days before this year's election, the senator expected to be able to use the national "free-media" exposure to attack his Democratic challenger, U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown, without any facing any consequences.

DeWine appeared on "Hardball" to amplify charges made in a campaign commercial that was airing on television stations around Ohio. The ad dredged up a discredited claim that, when Brown served in the 198Os as Ohio Secretary of State, the Democrat failed to address charges that a low-level employee of the office sold marijuana. The DeWine ad failed to note that, when Republicans first raised this "issue" in 199O, the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper reported that that there was "no evidence of impropriety" by Brown, while the Dayton Daily News described the Republican attacks on the Democrat as "trumped-up charges" that had been "officially discredited."

DeWine wasn't betting on Matthews to question the validity of the attack ad?

He bet wrong.

After the senator repeated allegations from the ad, Matthews asked, "What was the person's name? What's the person's name who was selling drugs, you say, illegally? Who was that person?"

DeWine mumbled, "I don't know the person's name..."

"Well, did this person ever get arrested?" asked Matthews. "Was this person ever arrested or convicted?"

"There was no charges filed," admitted DeWine.

Matthews pressed the senator: "O.K., what year was this?"

DeWine: "We're talking now, uh, er, the buy itself was made in 1986..."

Matthews: "You're talking about what your opponent's office did twenty years ago. You can't give me the name of the person involved. You've admitted that the person was never charged or convicted..."

DeWine tried to interrupt Matthews with another recitation of Brown's supposed sins. But Matthews was not going to let the senator get away with it.

"Isn't it kind of embarrassing having been a good Senator from Ohio without a mark on you to have to go back and dig up this scum?" Matthews asked. "Don't you feel embarrassed you're doing this, Senator? You wouldn't be talking about this if you weren't well behind in this race."

Truth may be a precious commodity in contemporary politics. But, sometimes, a ray of light shines through the spin. And Chris Matthews deserves credit for using that light to expose the scum on Mike DeWine's reelection campaign.

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COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE: MOVED FROM ONLINE BEAT SECTION

What would really be refreshing to me is a MSM that that stops catering to the whims of their corporate sponsers and instead truly imforms people as to what is really going on in this country. Legitimate news networks like CNN and mSNBC know full well that the Faux News Channel is full of crap and lies but they get away with it because the other networks don't hammer them.

Here's a good tag line for CNN. CNN, the real news, not Faux News.

What would happen to Alan Colmbs if he said on air, this news channel is phony. Think he would get headlines and a good job at CNN or MSNBC? I think so. He just needs to grow a set of balls.

Posted by FRANKGRITS 11/07/2006 @ 01:25am | ignore this person

I wish I knew how confident and confrontational Chris Matthews would have been if DeWine weren't so far down in the polls. Is he being a courageous investigative journalist, or is he kicking a guy that he's pretty sure is going to be voted out of office tomorrow?

Posted by CYRANO 11/07/2006 @ 01:29am | ignore this person

Posted by FRANKGRITS 11/07/2006 @ 01:25am

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. You think Alan Colmes is going to speak against the people who pay him? You think Fox News (or CNN or any news channel) is going to speak against their sponsors?

You think KVH or Peter Rothberg or John Nichols will speak against the Nation?

Posted by URMYGYRO 11/07/2006 @ 01:40am | ignore this person

I wonder if Matthews would ask Sherrod Brown about his vote FOR the "torture bill"?

Posted by MASK 11/07/2006 @ 07:00am | ignore this person

FRANKGITS

As always, your outrage is selective as is Mathews' tough questioning of certain political opponents, he is loathe to answer for his own hypocrisey ie the Plame debacle. On his own deceptions, he is eerily silent.

Posted by CPT 11/07/2006 @ 07:07am | ignore this person

The real spin is in! Based on past tax tables the Demoncrat party defines the RICH as any family or person making OVER $50,000.!!!!! So, is it any wonder that;

Appearing on Fox News Monday morning with Bill Hemmer, DNC Chairman Howard Dean refused to give the Democrats' definition of the middle class, with respect to the Democrat plan to raise taxes. Dean said that should the Democrats regain the House, Senate or both, taxes will be raised but, not on the middle class.

When Hemmer asked Dean to define the middle class, with respect to salary range, Dean refused to answer. Instead, he said: "If you ‘think you're middle class', we won't raise your taxes." Dean went on to say that Democrats will substantially raise taxes on oil companies, insurance companies and "the wealthy".

Get ready to get SOAKED for more entitlement programs and socialistic government programs giving away YOUR income and taking back tax cuts!!!

Posted by RIO BRAVO 11/07/2006 @ 07:22am | ignore this person

I make about 50K. I'd be happy to give up my $100/year tax break from Herr Bush if it would help return some sanity to our fiscal policy.

The last time a Republican balanced the budget was - er - 1969? 1929?

You write good fiction, Rio Bravo . . .

Posted by SDELEVE 11/07/2006 @ 07:43am | ignore this person

Posted by SDELEVE 11/07/2006 @ 07:43am

He is the James Frey of the blog.

How many jobs did you create with your hundred bucks? We spent our $300 bribe (everybody remember that?) on gasoline.

So, one journalist grew some cojones? Small victory. Although, Chris was pretty hard on "Thanks for apologizing, Harry" Cheney on Sunday. He actually asked him some questions. Birdshot, of course, was detached from reality and there was no follow up.

Lib media my lilly white ass!!

Posted by CRABWALK 11/07/2006 @ 08:15am | ignore this person

Worthless prediction:

Dems pick up 18 in The House, 4 in Senate. Chimp blames The House, and the "lib media", for all ills in his last two lame duck years.

Posted by CRABWALK 11/07/2006 @ 08:17am | ignore this person

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