Three Media Mess-Ups That Could Help

There have been many moments of media malpractice in recent election years. One thinks of the Killian Memos from 2004 — Microsoft Word documents purported to be 1970s typewritten draft-dodging requests for Bush. Or the 2008 election, when Barack Obama and Joe Biden received over twice as many favorable media evaluations as John McCain and Sarah Palin, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs. The Killian memos got Dan rather fired — the 2008 bias helped get Obama hired.

Here are three from this campaign cycle which, if there is justice in the universe, should have consequences, too.

1. The media set up a situation where Mitt Romney himself became the Republicans’ October surprise.

Even conservative commentators are fond of saying that one of the reasons Romney won so big in the first debate is that “Obama’s ads” had so successfully painted Romney as an out-of-touch rich villain. When a halfway decent guy showed up at the debate, that story collapsed and the momentum shifted.

But that’s silly. I know all about those anti-Romney ads because I follow politics, but I don’t think I have ever seen one on television. Not during the Olympics. Not during football games.  Not in Kansas.

Obama’s ads weren’t ubiquitous enough to change the whole perception of Mitt Romney. But one thing is: The media.

If the media hadn’t boom-echoed the “Thurston Howell-Romney III” caricature (even 171 days ago), Obama’s ads wouldn’t have had that effect.

When Romney surprised everybody, it didn’t just reveal that Obama had successfully demonized him: It showed that the media had conspired in that process.

2. The media’s refusal to cover for Republicans might mean they actually have to act boldly.

Bernie Goldberg first noticed that the major media had two different ways of covering the economy. In his book Bias he points out how the enormous homeless problem covered so thoroughly  in the Reagan and Bush I years disappeared magically when the administration changed to Clinton.

The rule he noticed – that the media covers Republicans’ records with a critical eye while covering Democratic spin with a kindly twinkle – might actually do some good, if it doesn’t succeed in changing the outcome of the election.

In the run-up to 2008, story after story covered the Bush deficits and how they had wrecked the economy. Obama’s deficits are bigger, and doing worse things, but are rarely mentioned. Like the media’s biased coverage of Catholic scandals, which was unfair but helpful in forcing the Church to change its ways, the media’s coverage of Republicans’ mess-ups may also be both unfair and helpful.

If Romney wins, he will have no choice but to actually do good things economically. There will be no media safety net for his failures.

3. Could Univision’s Operation Fast and Furious scoop embarrass the media into doing their jobs?

The 2006-2011 ATF sting operations put American guns into the hands of criminals on both sides of the U.S./Mexican border, with deadly results.

ATF agent John Dodson tesitified he was ordered to watch gun-smuggling operations but not to intervene.“I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest.”

Under Bush, this would have been one of the major stories of the year. Under Obama Fast & Furious remained just a Vin Diesel movie on the $7.50 rack at Wal-Mart.

That is, until Univision, a normally reliably pro-Obama Spanish-language cable network covered it. They reported that American guns were used gun down 16 teenagers and wound 12 more. They put Obama on the spot in an interview.

In other words, they spoke truth to power the way the media used to do. ABC and others finally covered the story – albeit with a “Wow. Mexicans Really care about this thing where Mexicans died!” angle.

But at least it was a start. And if it costs Obama votes at the polls, the deaths of a border patrol agent and a party of teenagers might actually become news.



  • Jennifer Lambert

    It looks like some Catholics-in-name-only are infiltrating this website like they are the Church.

  • Katherine

    “Mitt has always been a pro-life person. He governs as a pro-choice” — Ann Romney
    Ah, the ole “I am personally opposed…”

    • Joe M

      Katherine. Usually, when you use quotation marks, you accurately write what the person said.

      Nice attempt to mislead people though!

    • pammiejean

      Mitt Romney owns stock in a company that disposes of aborted fetuses for planned parenthood. Of Course he is pro-abortion.

  • Craig Brock

    67% of people that frequent FOX news website say that President Obama won the second debate. Frankly, Mitt looked mostly like a spoiled brat that wasn’t getting his way, so he decided to get pushy and bully the moderator. In all honesty, he lost my vote because of his attitude and the fact that he’s backtracking on numerous issues.

    I totally lost it when he said he would eliminate taxes altogether for rich investors. That means that I’m going to get stuck with their share of taxes. That’s wrong.

    • Joe M

      Craig. That’s not what Romney said. Either you are making up a story as propaganda or you need to re-watch the debate more carefully.

      Anyway, polls are looking great for Romney.

      • pammie

        Actually, it’s exactly what Romney said. He said he would eliminate capital gains taxes entirely for rich people.

        • Joe M


          Actually, he said that he would eliminate capital gains taxes FOR PEOPLE MAKING LESS THAN $200k per year.

          “If you’re getting interest from a bank, if you’re getting a statement from a mutual fund or any other kind of investment you have, you don’t have to worry about filing taxes on that, because there’ll be no taxes for anybody making $200,000.00 per year and less, on your interest, dividends and capital gains.”

          Study up Rich! You’re making your side of the argument look bad.

    • Randall

      Deal with it.

  • Rich

    For Catholics, the Trinity is usually about God and not about the three wishes on a magic lamp.
    But if you want to believe that because of the media, Romney will accidently be elected President, I guess you can. No one seems to put much credence in your opinions anyway.

    • Joe M

      I think that Tom’s opinions have quite a bit of credence. Based on how often you respond to them, I think you do too.

      Looks like the polls give Tom’s opinions credence as well. Romney is up 7 according to Gallup!

      • Rich

        first you should read the paper today and not quote yesterdays.
        Since I doubt any person has chanced there mind and accepted Romney because of what Tom says, it is irrelevant anyway. I do not doubt that you would give Credence to Tom. But I am not sure that is complementary to either of you.

        • Joe M

          It certainly isn’t complementary to your baseless claim that “no one seems to put much credence in your opinions.”

          My advice: speak for yourself. Especially on a web-site where you receive multiple negative votes on every comment. Claiming that nobody agrees with your opponent when the evidence suggests everyone disagrees with you just isn’t a good look.

          • Rich

            I am always speaking for myself.
            I did not realize you were in such admiration for Tom.
            He can be your hero, and you can enjoy your popularity of those who also enjoy his crass and sophomoric bashing of Obama. If this is really what you want to defend, be my guest.

          • Joe M

            If you were speaking for yourself, who were you talking about when you wrote “no one seems to…”?



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