Discussing Sen. Ted Stevens' conviction for lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms, Chris Matthews asked Rep. Heather Wilson, "Does it bother you personally that one of your colleagues looks like a crook?" However, after Wilson responded, in part, that "in my office and in my service, you know, I tell everyone that works with me, we stay on the white side of gray," Matthews did not ask Wilson about a Justice Department report that called for further investigation of actions Wilson and others allegedly took surrounding the firing of a former New Mexico U.S. Attorney. The report stated that the alleged conduct of Wilson and others in the case "may have been criminal."
The Washington Times' Wesley Pruden made several false claims about remarks Sen. Barack Obama made in a 2001 interview on a Chicago public radio station. ABCNews.com's The Note listed Pruden's column among the day's "Must Reads."
Tom Brokaw did not challenge Sen. John McCain's false claim that under Sen. Barack Obama's health care plan, "[S]mall-business people who have employees without health insurance, that he is going to fine them if they don't have, have the insurance policy that they want, that Senator Obama wants them to have." In fact, while Obama has proposed requiring large businesses that do not provide health coverage to pay a percentage of their payroll into a National Health Insurance Exchange, small businesses would be exempt.
Reporting on a rally Gov. Sarah Palin held in Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted an audience member saying of Sen. Barack Obama: "Tell him to go back to Indonesia. Tell him to show his birth certificate." The Post-Gazette did not note that the charge that Obama has not released a valid U.S. birth certificate has been widely debunked.
Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and Jerome Corsi suggested or asserted that the true purpose of Sen. Barack Obama's current trip to Hawaii is not to visit his ailing grandmother, as Obama claims, but rather to address rumors -- widely debunked -- that Obama has failed to produce a valid U.S. birth certificate. However, in addition to FactCheck.org and a Hawaiian Health Department official, even Corsi's employer, the right-wing website WorldNetDaily, has reportedly determined that the birth certificate provided by the Obama campaign is authentic.
In its list of "Must-Reads," ABCNews.com's The Note included a Washington Times "commentary" from W.F. Walker Johanson, in which he wrote that Sen. Barack Obama is a "true wolf in sheep's clothing" and "resembles an anti-American Marxist who believes," for example, that "[m]urdering innocent babies -- through abortion -- is an inalienable 'right.' "
On Morning Joe, Pat Buchanan misrepresented Senate votes by Democrats on the confirmations of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, saying, "Roberts probably got 25 Democrats, Alito probably got a dozen." In fact, four Democrats voted to confirm Alito, while Roberts received 22 votes from Democrats.
NBC's Amy Robach and Pete Williams reported on the FBI's investigation of ACORN but did not mention that Department of Justice regulations prohibit department personnel from discussing ongoing investigations with the general public, including the media.
While talking about Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan, Lou Dobbs falsely asserted that "just about 40 percent of all Americans -- working Americans -- don't pay taxes." In fact, all American workers are required to pay taxes on their wages for Social Security and Medicare, and people in the United States are also subject to excise taxes. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office found that the average effective federal tax rate for households in the lowest quintile of income earners in 2005 was 4.3 percent, while the second lowest quintile paid an average effective rate of 9.9 percent that year.
On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer did not ask Rep. Heather Wilson about a recent Justice Department report that called for further investigation of actions she and others allegedly took surrounding the firing of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. The report stated that their actions may have constituted an "attempt to pressure Iglesias to accelerate his charging decision" in a case and that if attempts to pressure Iglesias occurred, they could constitute obstruction of justice or wire fraud.
On his Cincinnati talk radio show, Bill Cunningham falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank "ran a house of prostitution in Washington, D.C., for gay men." In fact, the House Ethics Committee determined that Frank "did not have either prior or concomitant knowledge of prostitution activities involving third parties alleged to have taken place in his apartment," and it also did not conclusively determine that any "prostitution activities" took place there.
On Hardball, Chuck Todd falsely claimed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit "wants to get rid of the Pledge" of Allegiance. In fact, in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, a 9th Circuit panel did not decide that the entire Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional, but rather "h[e]ld that ... the 1954 Act adding the words 'under God' to the Pledge ... violate[s] the Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment.
On MSNBC Live, Andrea Mitchell followed Contessa Brewer in airing a heavily cropped version of former President Bill Clinton's remarks on Meet the Press in which Clinton seemingly declined to respond in the affirmative when asked by Meet the Press host Tom Brokaw if he would say he "admire[s]" Sen. Barack Obama and "think[s] he's a ... great man." Mitchell called Clinton's comments "hardly an endorsement" of Obama and "not as effusive as you would expect." But Mitchell did not air or otherwise note Clinton's statements moments later that he "certainly admire[s]" Obama and that Obama's "greatness will ... become apparent" when he is elected president.
Should any one be surprised by the fact that the ratings for Friday night's presidential debate, once put in historical perspective, were rather mediocre? (Eleventh best overall, to be exact.) Or why, with approximately 57 million total viewers, the debate attracted only ¾ of the audience the co-chair of Commission on Presidential Debates predicted they would, and 40 million fewer than what MSNBC's Chris Matthews confidently predicted last week?
Despite the relentless media hype about the debate, there's no big press mystery about the lackluster viewership. The debate was held on Friday night and on Friday night not as many Americans stay home and watch TV. (Nielsen has known this for approximately three decades.) And that Friday night (non) viewing pattern is even more pronounced during the fall football season.
Why the commission, whose stated mission is to expose as many viewers as possible to the candidates, chose to have the first, and usually most important, debate on Friday night always struck us as being slightly coo-coo. But almost just as odd was the fact that the Beltway press last week, busy dissecting every last angle of the debate preview story (what the topics would be, who ran the candidates' debate practice sessions, etc.) steadfastly refused to raise the issue of a Friday night debate. For most reporters and pundits, Friday night seemed like a perfectly normal time to broadcast a presidential forum.
That notion, along with the way-off predictions that 80 or 100 million people would tune in, just seemed to highlight how out of touch the political press often is with folks beyond the Beltway.