In an article regarding Sen. Barack Obama's recent comment about Sen. John McCain's policies -- "[Y]ou can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig" -- AP's Nedra Pickler baselessly asserted that Obama's audience "clearly dr[ew] a connection to [Gov. Sarah] Palin's joke even if it's not what Obama meant." However, Pickler provided no evidence for her assessment of the audience's reaction, and, indeed, the interpretation by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny of the audience's reaction was completely different.
Behold, our Fourth Estate.
Tom Tomorrow seems to have anticipated today's news coverage.
In related matters: MSNBC's Contessa Brewer just asked McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer about the McCain camp's lipstick-on-a-pig nonsense: "If it's so important, Nancy, then why aren't we hearing from John McCain and Sarah Palin? They just got finished giving the same stump speeches we've seen over and over again, and did not address this at all. So if it's so important, why aren't we seeing them address it?"
That's a pretty good question for Pfotenhauer.
Here's a better question for MSNBC: If it isn't important enough for McCain and Palin to mention it, why is MSNBC treating it as the most important story in the world right now?
MSNBC.com conducted a poll September 9 asking readers "Do you think Sen. Barack Obama went too far with his 'lipstick on a pig' remark?" Not only did the poll frame the question in a way that baselessly presumed Obama was referring to Gov. Sarah Palin, but MSNBC did not offer readers the opportunity to respond that Obama did not go "too far" or to criticize the McCain campaign's reaction to the comments.
On Hannity & Colmes, Mike Huckabee and Howard Wolfson both disagreed with Sean Hannity's claim that Sen. Barack Obama was "talking about [Gov.] Sarah Palin" when he made his "lipstick on a pig" comment. Wolfson asserted: "[T]here's no question that he was referring to [Sen.] John McCain, not Sarah Palin, and I think anything to the contrary is ridiculous."
Jill Zuckman, on MSNBC, about the McCain campaign's "lipstick on a pig" lie: "Even if we all think the charge may be a little bit flimsy, they have got all of us talking about it."
First, the charge isn't "a little bit flimsy," it's a lie.
Second: Reporters don't have to play along with this nonsense. They can refuse to report the McCain camp's false attacks. Or they can use their coverage to make clear that this is the latest in a long line of false smears from McCain, and indicative of the kind of campaign he is running, rather than pretending there is some open question about whether Obama called Sarah Palin a pig, or behaving as though the important question is "will the attack work" rather than "what does the lie say about the person telling the lie."
On CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Time's Mark Halperin characterized the recent media attention to Sen. Barack Obama's comment that "[y]ou can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig" as "a low point in the day ... and one of the low days of our collective coverage of this campaign." Halperin went on to say, "I think this is the press just absolutely playing into the McCain campaign's crocodile tears."
And we link to their excellent campaign media analysis all the time, but we think they got this one wrong. In its item, "Tongue Tied on Religion," CJR criticizes a recent CNN report on Palin's religious beliefs (i.e. as a member of the Wasilla Assembly of God Pentecostal Church) because CNN treats members as odd because they "believe in the end times, a violent upheaval in the world that will bring the second coming of Jesus."
CJR, suggesting CNN went astray, writes, "Hmmm, don't most Christians believe that? Isn't that the Book of Revelations?"
The point regarding Palin is, as she tells people in Alaska, she believe the Second Coming will occur in her lifetime. That not only puts her outside the American mainstream in terms of religious beliefs, but it raises all kinds of questions about how her faith might affect her public policy. Meaning, does she not care about drilling all the oil out of Alaska because energy policy isn't going to matter after Christ's return? Would she not shy away from engaging in military conflict in the Middle East since for some, that's a pre-determined sign that Jesus is returning?
These are legitimate news questions that many reporter have shied away from, we think, precisely because if they raise them they will be criticized for being anti-religion, or condescending toward faith, which is what CJR suggests CNN did in its Palin report.
MSNBC's David Shuster to NBC deputy political director Mark Murray:
Sarah Palin again repeating that line about 'thanks but no thanks' on the bridge to nowhere, despite all the media reports that said she actually supported the bridge. She's claiming again about the plane being on eBay although in fact it wasn't sold on eBay. Explain what the political benefit could be for Republicans to essentially say "you know what, we don't care what the media thinks, or says, we're just going to have her repeat these lines anyway."
Seems like it's about time for the media to start asking if there is a political danger for Republicans if they keep lying, doesn't it?
This time from an update posted at washingtonpost.com, headlined, "Palin Defends 'Bridge to Nowhere' Claims."
If only that were the case. Rather than Palin defending her Bridge claim by actually engaging with reporters about the issue, readers discover that Palin on Tuesday simply repeated, yet again, that she opposed Alaska's infamous Bridge to Nowhere. In truth, she did not.
But you know what? She's going to make that claim on Wednesday and Thursday, too. That's not going to be a case of Palin defending her Bridge claim, that will be Palin simply regurgitating her Bridge claim. The press ought to distinguish between the two.
On NPR, Renee Montagne asked Juan Williams of Gov. Sarah Palin's claims about the "bridge to nowhere": "Is it surprising that she keeps saying that, or repeating that she told Congress, 'No thanks,' on that bridge?" Rather than note that Palin's assertion is false, Williams responded in part by saying: "Well, what they're [the McCain campaign] emphasizing is that she, you know, did eventually turn down the idea without disclosing that early on she was, as you said, campaigning for it back in 2006. ... So, it's a matter of, you know, omission in their view."
FDL offers a glimpse of the Palin interview:
Questions that will NOT be asked:
(1) Why are you refusing to testify in an investigation of abuse of power now when you promised to testify before?
(2) Why did you inquire into your ability to ban books when you were Mayor?
(3) What books did you want to ban?
(4) Do you believe in the Theory of Evolution? Why or why not?
Yglesias says narratives, not one-off factchecks, are what matters -- and that the media hasn't assigned negative narratives to McCain as readily as they have to Democrats. He's right.
"Serious caveats." That's what the Journal news team claims must be attached to Palin's suggestion that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere. For us, that still seems like weak language given the facts of Palin's support for the infamous bridge.
America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer failed to challenge Republican strategist Andrea Tantaros' false claims that "[Sen.] Barack Obama has not authored a single piece of legislation" and that "Barack Obama has dealt with zero foreign policy." In fact, Obama has sponsored or been a key co-sponsor of numerous bills, including an initiative to secure unguarded weapons stockpiles in foreign countries.