Times , Post , CNN left unchallenged Republican claims that Foley scandal has had little effect on voters

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

The News York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN uncritically reported Republican claims that the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley has had little effect on potential voters. None of the three noted that recent, nonpartisan, publicly available polls contradict Republican claims that voters do not appear concerned about the scandal.

While discussing the potential political fallout in the wake of the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), The New York Times and The Washington Post both uncritically reported -- despite polling data to the contrary -- Republican claims that the scandal has had little effect on potential voters. In the October 7 Times article, "In House Races, More G.O.P. Seats Seen at Risk," Times reporter Adam Nagourney left unchallenged Republican National Committee chairman Ken Melhman's claim that according to "every single bit of public and private data ... I have seen a minimal effect of this particular situation." In an October 6 Post article titled "House Republicans Move to Back [Speaker of the House Dennis] Hastert," staff writers Jim VandeHei and Michael Abramowitz reported that "[s]everal GOP lawmakers in tough races said voters are not reacting as harshly to the scandal as they first feared." Also, during the 7 p.m. ET hour of the October 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, congressional correspondent Dana Bash reported similarly that "Republicans are trying to make the case that perhaps the Foley scandal may not have the impact that some Republicans are worried about," but that Democrats "doing their own polls" disagreed. At no point did any of the three note that recent, nonpartisan, publicly available polls contradict Republican claims that voters do not appear concerned about the scandal. For instance, an Associated Press/Ipsos poll conducted October 2-4 found that 66 percent of respondents indicated that "recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress" will be at least "moderately important" in their vote; a Time magazine poll released October 5 found that 64 percent of respondents believed the Republican leadership "tried to cover ... up" the Foley situation and that "one quarter" of respondents "say the affair makes them less likely to vote for Republican candidates in their districts come November."

In an article stating that, "[a]t least five more Republican Congressional seats are now in serious contention," Nagourney reported that "analysts" said the scandal "is undercutting Republican support among elderly voters, suburbanites and women." But in the same article, Nagourney also quoted Melhman's claim that voters appear unconcerned about the scandal:

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he believed that Republicans turned a corner when Mr. Hastert accepted responsibility for the mishandling of the page scandal after days of being pressed to take action by restive Republicans.
"I'm looking at every single bit of public and private data," Mr. Mehlman said. "So far, I have seen a minimal effect of this particular situation, which is not to say that I don't take it seriously."

At no point did Nagourney note that much of the "public ... data" Mehlman purported to be "looking at" appears to contradict Mehlman's statement.

The Post, while reporting on Republicans' reaction to Hastert's handling of the Foley situation, also uncritically reported that "[s]everal GOP lawmakers in tough races said voters are not reacting as harshly to the scandal as they first feared, buying Hastert even more room to save his job."

Similarly, Bash left open the question whether the scandal will affect the outcome of the November elections, reporting during the 7 p.m. hour of The Situation Room:

BASH: Now, some Republicans are trying to make the case that perhaps the Foley scandal may not have the impact that some Republicans are worried about; for example, David Winston of The Winston Group just conducted a poll. He tells CNN that what he is seeing is that there is virtually no nationwide change in how Americans intend to vote. He also says that Mark Foley has an 87-percent ID, which is extraordinarily high. Democrats on the other hand, Wolf [Blitzer, host of The Situation Room], they are saying that they're doing their own polls and some of the closest races and they are seeing an impact.

Bash's assertion came despite the fact that when she reported Winston's comments earlier during the 5 p.m. edition of The Situation Room, Blitzer responded that publicly available polling contradicted such claims, stating that the Time poll "showed significant potential impact against the Republicans as a result of the Foley investigation." Nevertheless, Bash did not note this fact during her 7 p.m. report, and Blitzer did not make any comments following this report.

In fact, public opinion polls indicate that the Foley scandal could be hurting Republicans. The AP/Ipsos poll conducted October 2-4 found that 66 percent of respondents said that the "recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress" would be at least "moderately important" to their "vote in November," with 48 percent indicating it would be "very" or "extremely" important. The poll also found that 62 percent of respondents were either "dissatisfied" or "angry" with "the Republican leadership in Congress." The AP poll had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent. Similarly, the October 5 Time magazine poll found that a "quarter" of respondents "say the affair makes them less likely to vote for Republican candidates in their districts come November," and that "[t]wo-thirds of Americans aware of the lurid e-mails set [sic] to congressional pages by a G.O.P congressman believe Republican leaders tried to cover up the scandal." According to the poll, "[a]mong the registered voters who were polled, 54% said they would be more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress, compared with 39% who favored the Republican." The Time poll was conducted October 3-4 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

From the 5 p.m. October 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BASH: Now, some Republicans are trying to make the case that the Foley scandal may not at least immediately show a major impact when it comes to this political year. David Winston of the Winston Group did a poll that he says shows virtually no nationwide change in how Americans intend to vote. He also said though that Mark Foley now has an 87-percent name ID. On the other side, Wolf, Democrats are standing around their own polls trying to make the case that when it comes to specific races that were already very close, this Foley story is having a negative impact on Republicans.

BLITZER: That was certainly suggested, Dana, in that Time magazine poll that came out last night. Our sister publication, Time magazine, had a poll last night that showed significant potential impact against the Republicans as a result of the Foley investigation. Dana, thanks very much.

From the 7 p.m. October 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BASH: Now, some Republicans are trying to make the case that perhaps the Foley scandal may not have the impact that some Republicans are worried about; for example, David Winston of The Winston Group just conducted a poll. He tells CNN that what he is seeing is that there is virtually no nationwide change in how Americans intend to vote. He also says that Mark Foley has an 87-percent ID, which is extraordinarily high. Democrats on the other hand, Wolf, they are saying that they're doing their own polls and some of the closest races and they are seeing an impact. Wolf?

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. Dana Bash reporting from the Hill.

Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, The New York Times
Person
Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Mark Foley Scandal
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