Even though Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate without losing a single seat -- an electoral feat last accomplished in 1938 -- the media have not highlighted this achievement in the two weeks after Election Day. But when Republicans gained seats in both the House and Senate in the 2002 midterm elections, the first time since 1934 a president's party had done so during its first midterm election, news outlets praised it as "remarkable" and "historic."
In articles reporting Sen. John McCain's renewal of his call for more U.S. troops to be sent to Iraq, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post did not mention that Gen. John Abizaid said McCain's plan is unlikely to "add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq."
In attributing Republican losses in the midterm elections on a "six-year curse" that has "plagued every president, Republican and Democrat alike, since Ulysses S. Grant," Glenn Beck ignored that Democrats gained seats in Congress in 1998, the sixth year of Bill Clinton's presidency. Beck also mischaracterized a study making the "six-year curse" claim, ignoring the author's statement that "[n]ot all presidents experience difficulties in every category."
While discussing Sen. John McCain's potential presidential candidacy, CNN's Wolf Blitzer ignored McCain's inconsistencies on taxes and abortion and essentially contradicted himself about McCain's position on Iraq. Blitzer also noted the names and experience of other political figures with presidential exploratory or campaign committees but did not describe their positions on any issues.
In reporting on recent speeches by Sen. John McCain, National Public Radio's Mara Liasson uncritically reported his argument that "his brand of maverick conservatism ... is what voters are looking for now" and asserted that the "role of independent and moderate voters" in the midterm elections "reinforces McCain's appeal as a general election candidate." She did not mention that McCain is at odds with a majority of voters on Iraq -- including most independents -- who disapprove of the war and favor some type of U.S. troop withdrawal.
Wolf Blitzer failed to challenge the assertion of Michael Steele, a losing Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Maryland, that he "did not see ... until a couple of days after the fact" a flier that misleadingly referred to "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats" and falsely suggested that certain prominent African-American Maryland Democrats endorsed Steele and Republican Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Both Blitzer and Sean Hannity praised Steele's campaign in their interviews with him without noting Steele's 10-point margin of defeat.
Several discussions on Fox News about Sen. Trent Lott's candidacy for Senate minority whip have glossed over or omitted any explanation of exactly why Lott stepped down from his Senate leadership post in 2002 -- specifically, that Lott was forced to resign after praising Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1948 pro-segregationist presidential campaign.
On Fox News Watch, Jim Pinkerton claimed that Nancy Pelosi "is being presented to the American people as this moderate grandmother ... from Baltimore" rather than someone "from San Francisco [who] represents the left wing." In fact, a Media Matters survey showed that Pelosi has been portrayed in the media as a San Francisco liberal much more often than as a grandmother from Baltimore.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer said of Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, "many would regard them [as] a little bit of mavericks." Despite McCain's widely held reputation for being willing to diverge from President Bush, Media Matters has repeatedly documented instances in which McCain has supported President Bush or changed his position to support Bush; the same is true of Graham.
A New York Times article on Sen. John McCain's proposal to send 20,000 more troops to Iraq ignored a key question: whether the strategy is even feasible, given that McCain has asserted that the fate of the U.S. effort in Iraq will be decided in a matter of months and yet acknowledged that sending 20,000 more soldiers into the region would require increasing active forces by 100,000. CNN's Wolf Blitzer similarly ignored the question of whether the plan is achievable.
In their reports on Sen. Mel Martinez's decision to take over as chairman of the Republican National Committee, The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Fox News' Jim Angle made no reference to Martinez's admission that his office authored a controversial memo in the Terri Schiavo case and also did not mention the controversy surrounding Martinez's campaign tactics in 2004.
Meet the Press host Tim Russert failed to challenge Sen. John McCain on the feasibility of his call for sending more U.S. troops to Iraq and his statement that "[w]e're either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months." Russert also failed to note that at the time McCain made a 2005 statement that ethanol mandates are "harmful" and "will result in higher gasoline costs for states," the price of oil had risen past the threshold at which McCain had previously claimed that ethanol mandates "make sense."