Bad Press

03 March 2008

This past week has seen some poor journalism going after Barack Obama. From Brendan Nyhan:

-The AP ran a story with the headline "No hand over his heart: Obama patriotism questioned" quoting GOP consultant Roger Stone saying Obama is "part of the blame America first crowd." Obama was asked about the attacks on his patriotism during a press conference and CNN ran an online poll asking "Does [Sen.] Barack Obama show the proper patriotism for someone who wants to be president of the United States?" (via Media Matters).

-The Washington Times published a story with the headline "Military Fears 'Unknown Quantity'" which claims that "[m]embers of Washington's military and defense establishment are expressing trepidation about Sen. Barack Obama" (though, as Greg Sargent pointed out, only one person -- a retired general who now serves as a Fox News analyst -- is quoted expressing this sentiment). The piece also quotes a Pentagon official saying that Obama's victory would "give the Arab street the final victory, the best optics, and the ultimate in bragging rights. They win. We lose."

-The radio talk show host Bill Cunningham referred to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama" at a John McCain rally at least three times and then seven more times on "Hannity & Colmes". (McCain repudiated his attacks.)

-A picture was circulated of Obama in Somali dress that was attributed to Clinton staffers by Matt Drudge. Rush Limbaugh referred to it this way: "Obama dresses up like Bin Laden, and if you mention it, it's a scurrilous attack" (via Andrew Sullivan).

-Time Magazine's Mark Halperin offered a list of "[t]hings McCain can do when running against Obama that Clinton has been unable to do well or at all" that included "Allow some supporters to risk being accused of using the race card when criticizing Obama" and "Emphasize Barack Hussein Obama's unusual name and exotic background through a Manchurian Candidate prism" (via Brad DeLong).

-The Tennessee Republican Party issued a press release titled "Anti-Semites for Obama" that referred to him as "Barack Hussein Obama," linked him to Louis Farrakhan and other anti-Semitic figures, and showed the picture of him in African clothing.

-Jonah Goldberg falsely claimed that Obama's "campaign headquarters in Houston had a Che Guevara-emblazoned Cuban flag hanging on the wall."

Just to add to the list, Tim Russert dogged Obama at the debate about a Farrakhan endorsement he did not seek (and specifically "renounced and rejected"), yet did not give similar treatment to the Hagee endorsement McCain had been seeking out for the previous year, and which he was "honored" to receive.

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