I have an aversion to whining about press coverage in primaries. That doesn’t mean I don’t do it, it’s just that the candidate usually shares a heavy load of responsibility for the coverage that they get. Cultivating a decent relationship with the press and getting them to cover your campaign’s message is part of your job as a candidate. This is an area where both Bill Bradley and Howard Dean did not excel, and it cost them dearly.
At the same time, neither Bradley or Dean received fair or even neutral coverage, while John McCain is the poster-boy for successful wooing of the press. So, I don’t like to whine, but I have to point out what I see as a particularly egregious example of press bias in favor of Hillary Clinton.
We’ve all witnessed the extensive coverage and video footage of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and we’ve seen the polls move in a negative direction for Obama (although they seem to be bouncing back) as a result. And while I do have a problem with the way this issue has been handled by the media, it is a fair issue to bring up and debate.
The Wright controversy is an example of a ‘testing moment’ that all prominent campaigns must go through. And, by all rights, the media should be moving on to another testing moment, this time for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The Tuzla controversy, which is also accompanied by damning video, involves the exposure of some rather blatant lies that Clinton has been telling on the campaign trail. The Washington Post has already awarded Clinton four Pinocchios over her deceitful self-aggrandizement. Yet, look at how they decided to cover the issue in today’s Washington Post. In an article appearing on the front page, they choose the headline: Both Obama And Clinton Embellish Their Roles. Even though the Tuzla video has not yet gone viral and appeared endlessly on cable news (as the Wright video has) and the Clinton story is therefore new, the headline chooses to emphasize that both candidates have a problem with self-embellishment. Having neutered any advantage Obama might gain out of Clinton’s lying, the paper then decided to lead with Obama’s embellishment. Of course, the goods they have on Obama are fairly minor. Essentially, they are nailing him for taking too much credit for bills he co-sponsored because he didn’t actually put much work into those bills. They then go on for 17 straight paragraphs questioning Obama’s credibility over two bills. By the time they get to Clinton, in the 18th paragraph, they are off the front-page (and on page 2 of the web-based article). And, even then, they hardly touch on Tuzla. Have a look.
Clinton also has her share of colleagues only too willing scrutinize her claims. Her campaign Web site describes Clinton’s “successful effort to create” the popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program during her husband’s tenure in the White House, and she has placed herself in the middle of major international events, including the Northern Ireland peace process and the Balkan conflict.
But prominent Democratic senators, Irish historians and even Sinbad the comedian, who accompanied Clinton to Kosovo, are challenging some of her assertions.
The article has nothing further to say about Tuzla (and Tuzla is in Bosnia, not Kosovo). Instead it focuses on her exaggerated role in creating the S-CHIP program. The authors of this piece, Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman, have managed to take a breaking story about Hillary Clinton’s honesty and credibility and turn it into a hit piece on Obama.
And that is not neutral reporting. Clinton should face at least as much scrutiny over Tuzla as Obama did over Wright. But, to turn Tuzla into another excuse to bash Obama? That’s indicative of a transparent media bias.