FOX News Channel devoted an entire segment of the September 28 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume to an interview with the president of a conservative front group who attacked Senator John Kerry while pretending to analyze the voting preferences of "this year's crucial target voter," the so-called "security moms."
Carol A. Taber, president of Family Security Matters, presented Bush campaign attacks on Kerry as though they were nonpartisan public opinion data. Taber claimed that married women who once voted Democratic have embraced President George W. Bush for his handling of terrorism but produced no empirical evidence for her claims. In fact, Taber's harsh attacks on Kerry -- along with her total lack of credentials as a public opinion or demographics expert -- indicate that she is a partisan posing as an impartial analyst.
Hume introduced Taber simply as "Carol Taber of the group Family Security Matters, who says this year's crucial target voter really is the so-called 'security mom.'" In fact, Family Security Matters (FSM) is a front group for the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a conservative Washington think tank "committed to the time-tested philosophy of promoting international peace through American strength." (The phone number listed on the FSM website is answered by the CSP.) The FSM website features articles by, among others, right-wing syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin and CSP president Frank J. Gaffney Jr., whose lies and distortions Media Matters for America has documented. FSM's "Recommended Reading" page includes such conservative titles as Lieutenant Colonel Robert "Buzz" Patterson's Reckless Disregard: How Liberal Democrats Undercut Our Military, Endanger Our Soldiers, and Jeopardize Our Security'; David Bossie's Intelligence Failure: How Bill Clinton's National Security Policy Set the Stage for 9/11; and Jed Babbin's Inside the Asylum: Why the United Nations and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think.*
For a supposed expert, Taber's knowledge of basic "security mom" facts and figures was noticeably lacking. When Hume asked Taber, "How many security moms is it estimated that there are?" Taber answered: "We won't probably know until the votes have been cast." Taber noted, however, that "we can guess in the sense that ... in the last presidential election, Al Gore carried women by 11 points. And today, there was a Washington Post poll, which you probably saw where President Bush is leading women now by three points."
But as MMFA has pointed out, the September 27 Washington Post/ABC News poll that Taber mentioned revealed that so-called "security moms" are "no more likely than other voters to name the war on terrorism or Iraq as their top voting issue." The same poll found that "only about one in four married women with children -- 24 percent -- rated the war on terrorism as their major concern."
Next, Taber discussed some focus groups that FSM had supposedly conducted. She did not indicate whether FSM had hired a professional public opinion research firm to conduct the focus groups, and FSM's website contains no mention of any focus groups. Taber's focus group "findings" sounded like a Bush-Cheney '04 campaign spot: "What we found is very interesting, and it favors President Bush, number one. As I said before, the A-number-one concern for these women is the safety and security of their families. Now, President Bush scores very well here because they really do see him as a strong and resolute leader. But they don't see the same thing in John Kerry." But this supposed "finding" about "the A-number-one concern" for married women with children contradicts the poll that Taber herself had cited moments before, as explained above.
Taber continued with some "verbatim quotes" from the focus group, which she appeared to recite from memory:
TABER: I'll give you some verbatim quotes that we heard from the focus group to give an idea of what I'm talking about. Some women said about Mr. Kerry, "I don't trust him." Some said, "I don't know what it is about him. I just don't like him." Some women said, "He looks sneaky." We actually heard that a couple of times. Some women said, "He's too rich to be president."
[T]hey saw President Bush, as I say, very strong, very consistent, and a defender of America and American families. So it's a -- that's a very difficult poll for Mr. Kerry to get out of.
A "poll" is, of course, different from a focus group.
When Hume asked, "What kind of margins did you find by which ... Mr. Bush seemed to be favored and Mr. Kerry not?" Taber replied with a vague estimate that she apparently made up on the spot: "It was probably 70-30," she said.
When Hume asked if the "security moms" were "troubled by what they see happening in Iraq," referring to the increased violence and instability there, the sentiments that Taber attributed to her focus group precisely echoed Bush-Cheney '04 and White House spin about Iraq:
TABER: Well, what we found in our focus groups is that these security moms wanted us to win in Iraq. They hated seeing people being killed. But they wanted to see it through to victory. Now again, this is a win for President Bush because that's his position. [Cf. Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman, NBC's Meet the Press, 8/22]
They see that if we win in Iraq, it's part of the battle of the overall war on terror. [Cf. Bush, "you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," 9/22]
And they don't see Senator Kerry carrying through on that kind of thing for them. [Cf. Bush-Cheney '04 spokesman Steve Schmidt] He's had a lot of positions, as you know. [Cf. Bush-Cheney '04 anti-Kerry video] In fact, to give you an example, I had a conversation with the security mom the other day. And she was talking about -- we were both talking about how Ronald Reagan was called "The Great Communicator." And she actually said well, John Kerry should be called "The Great Equivocator." And that's the problem for him. He is perceived that way.
Finally, Hume asked Taber if it would be possible for Kerry to overcome the negative perceptions that "security moms" have about him in the upcoming debate. Taber was not optimistic about Kerry's changes. "Honestly, I think it's going to be extremely difficult for him. His problems are persona, party and policy. ... Very tough to overcome."
Correction: When this item was first published, we incorrectly wrote that Taber had "undermined her credibility ... by using the fake word 'psychographically.'" In fact, "psychography" is "The history, description, or delineation of the mind or soul, or of mind in the abstract; the descriptive branch of PSYCHOLOGY," according to the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Thanks to alert reader "Mike" for the tip.