Recalling the worst of Judith Miller’s reporting on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the New York Time ran one of its “fair and balanced” stories on the presidential race Monday.
The piece, which purported to assess similarities and differences between unpopular Republican President George Bush and hoping-to-be-popular Republican presidential candidate John McCain, was another example of how major media in the US seek to portray a relatively predictable conservative as a free-thinking political “maverick.”
The folks at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the media watchdog group created in the tradition of pioneering media critic–and brilliant reporter–I.F. Stone, are appropriately upset with the Times.
FAIR’S analysis illustrates the group’s take-no-prisoners approach to major media in this era of apologia.
Manufacturing Difference Between McCain and BushNYT exaggerates areas where GOP leaders “mostly disagree”
In a front-page article headlined “Is McCain Like Bush? It Depends on the Issue,” the New York Times (6/17/08) managed to locate “striking differences” between Sen. John McCain and George W. Bush on several issues–in spite of contradictory evidence reported in the very same article about the two politicians’ overwhelming similarities on these very issues.
In the article, reporter Elisabeth Bumiller writes that “on the environment, American diplomacy and nuclear proliferation, Mr. McCain has strikingly different views from Mr. Bush.” Yet Bumiller offers little evidence for these supposedly striking differences. In fact, on the environment, she points out that while McCain has called for limits on greenhouse gas emissions, he “has a mixed record on the environment in the Senate — he has missed votes on toughening fuel economy standards and has opposed tax breaks meant to encourage alternative energy.”
Meanwhile, despite Bumiller’s claim about McCain and Bush’s “strikingly different views” on diplomacy, an accompanying chart includes “Diplomacy with Iran and Syria” as an area where Bush and McCain “mostly agree. ” As the chart observed, “Like the president, Mr. McCain has ruled out direct talks with Iran and Syria for now. Mr. McCain supported Mr. Bush when he likened those who would negotiate with ‘terrorists and radicals’ to appeasers of the Nazis, a remark widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator Barack Obama.”