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On the January 29 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper said that "[t]he question is whether anti-war Democrats will find" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) rhetoric against the war in Iraq "authentic." However, Tapper previously called Republican Sen. John McCain's (AZ) efforts to "build bridges ... with conservative Christians" "smart" when McCain delivered the 2006 commencement address at Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University despite McCain having called Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson "the forces of evil" six years earlier. In a segment about McCain's criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq rhetoric, Tapper suggested McCain was part of a pattern of "once-supportive Republicans now distancing themselves from President Bush and the war in Iraq" without questioning whether McCain's criticism would be perceived as "authentic." Moreover, Tapper's question fits a pattern in his reporting of questioning the authenticity of Democrats but not Republicans.
As Media Matters for America noted, discussing Clinton's then-possible presidential run on the May 31, 2006, broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight, Tapper cited an ABC News/Washington Post poll claiming that "a daunting 42 percent of all Americans say they will never vote for her," adding that "[s]ome think she's too liberal. Others think she's untrustworthy." However, the poll actually found that a majority of those polled said Clinton was "honest and trustworthy." While a minority thought she is "too liberal," a majority said her views are "about right."
On October 28, 1999, Tapper wrote in an article for Salon.com -- where he was Washington correspondent before joining ABC in 2003 -- that then-Vice President Al Gore "too often, to too many voters, seems insincere." On November 17, 1999, Tapper wrote that then-Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-VA) "is stiff and awkward ... His robotics make Al Gore look like Robin Williams," but he described Robb's Republican opponent, George Allen, as "folksy, authentic, 'good ol' George,' as [former Washington Post Richmond, Virginia, bureau chief Don] Baker calls him." On November 1, 2000, Tapper wrote that Gore "is almost always incapable of communicating deep and sincere emotion in settings like this without coming across as a phony."
By contrast, on the May 15, 2006, edition of World News Tonight, Tapper noted that McCain had called Falwell an "agent of intolerance" and then spoke at Liberty University, but he added that "for a possible presidential candidate in 2008, building bridges is smart, especially bridges to conservative Christians who vote in large numbers in Republican primaries." On the August 22, 2006, edition of World News, Tapper noted that McCain expressed disagreement with Bush administration rhetoric on Iraq as "underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifice that would be required." But Tapper did not question whether McCain's criticism was "authentic," despite McCain's previous defense of Bush's rhetoric on Iraq.
From the May 15, 2006, edition of ABC's World News Tonight:
TAPPER: Six years ago, when McCain was running against George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, Jerry Falwell was part of a team of evangelicals who attacked McCain as insufficiently conservative. And there were more personal smears. McCain responded, calling Falwell an "agent of intolerance" and "force of evil."
McCAIN: I reject individuals such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who take our party in the wrong direction.
TAPPER: But in the last few months, the two have buried the hatchet.
McCAIN: One of the lessons that I've learned in life, and I have to relearn it all the time: Don't hold a grudge and don't get personal.
TAPPER: For a possible presidential candidate in 2008, building bridges is smart, especially bridges to conservative Christians who vote in large numbers in Republican primaries.
FALWELL: He could, in fact, I believe, become the champion, the hero of religious conservatives.
TAPPER: McCain says he's reaching out. Critics say he's selling out.
From the August 22, 2006, edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
TAPPER: In Ohio today, Senator John McCain, an ardent supporter of the Iraq war, accused the Bush administration of failing to adequately prepare the American public for war.
McCAIN: We were led to believe that this would be some kind of a day at the beach.
TAPPER: The likely 2008 presidential candidate specifically singled out for criticism President Bush's 2003 "Mission Accomplished" event.
McCAIN: The biggest mistakes we've made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifice that would be required. "Stuff happens," "mission accomplished," "last throes."
TAPPER: McCain's remarks come amidst a number of once-supportive Republicans now distancing themselves from President Bush and the war in Iraq.
From the January 29 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
TAPPER: With the anti-war march in Washington, D.C. this weekend underlying how unpopular the war has become, the woman who voted to go to war in Iraq just over four years ago was sharply critical of President Bush.
CLINTON: If we had known then what we know now, there never would have been a vote, and I never would have voted to give this president that authority.
TAPPER: Using language she's never used before, seeming to take personal offense.
CLINTON: The president has said this is going to be left to his successor. I think it's the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it.
TAPPER: The question is whether anti-war Democrats will find this authentic.
TAPPER: For fellow New Yorker Rudy Giuliani campaigning in New Hampshire, the question is the exact opposite. Can a man who is authentically liberal on social issues, such as abortion, win the Republican nomination?