CNN's Bash and Snow omitted McCain "shift" on immigration when airing McCain quote that Romney "flip-flopped"

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

In separate reports, Dana Bash and Mary Snow aired a clip of Sen. John McCain saying of Mitt Romney, "He's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue." However, neither noted that McCain himself has changed his position on immigration.

On the January 28 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, congressional correspondent Dana Bash said that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney "highlight[ed] [Sen. John] McCain [R-AZ] legislation that's infuriated conservatives -- immigration, campaign finance reform, climate change." After airing a clip of Romney claiming, "Those three pieces of legislation, those aren't conservative," Bash said: "McCain was quick to point out that as Massachusetts governor, Romney embraced the same policy positions he now calls unacceptable." Bash then uncritically played a quote from McCain about Romney -- "He's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue" -- without noting that McCain has changed his position on immigration. As a November 3, 2007, Associated Press article about McCain's "approach" to immigration noted, McCain now "emphasizes securing the borders first" after previously "arguing that the United States must combine border security efforts with a temporary worker program and an eventual path to citizenship" and quoted McCain as saying he "understand[s] why you would call it a, quote, shift."

Bash's report was also re-aired later on the January 28 Situation Room, as well as on the January 28 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight.

On the January 28 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, during an interview with Romney, host Anderson Cooper played a clip of McCain saying, "He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue." Moments later, Romney said of McCain: "He was for McCain-Kennedy. Now he's for a new program for immigration."

However, on the January 29 edition of CNN's American Morning, correspondent Mary Snow aired McCain's "consistently flip-flopped" quote without noting that Romney had said in a CNN interview that McCain changed his position on immigration or that McCain had, in fact, shifted his position on the issue. Snow introduced the clip of McCain's quote by saying: "Romney took aim at McCain's support of legislation on illegal immigration, campaign finance reform, and climate change. McCain fired back, saying as Massachusetts governor, Romney supported the same policies he's now criticizing."

As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted (here, here, here, and here), the media often falsely report that McCain has been consistent in his stance on immigration.

From the November 3, 2007, Associated Press article:

John McCain spent months earlier this year arguing that the United States must combine border security efforts with a temporary worker program and an eventual path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants.

Now, the Republican presidential candidate emphasizes securing the borders first. The rest, he says, is still needed but will have to come later.

"I understand why you would call it a, quote, shift," McCain told reporters Saturday after voters questioned him on his position during back-to-back appearances in this early voting state. "I say it is a lesson learned about what the American people's priorities are. And their priority is to secure the borders."

The shift in approach is likely to draw criticism from McCain's GOP opponents. Immigration has been a flash point in the race, with rivals Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson all seizing on it.

McCain, who has led on the issue in the Senate with Democrat Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, got a wake-up call of sorts in June when Congress again failed to enact a broad immigration proposal that he championed and that split the country.

The measure also exposed deep divisions within the Republican Party, and McCain's high-profile support for it hurt him politically. During debate on the issue as spring turned into summer, the Arizona senator saw his poll numbers in some early primary states slip and his fundraising wane.

Early in the year, McCain told Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina voters the country must take a comprehensive approach strengthening the borders as well as creating a temporary worker program and providing millions of illegal immigrants the opportunity to earn citizenship if they meet certain criteria.

Over the past few months, he has stressed border security first and said border-state governors should certify their borders are secure before making other needed immigration changes.

McCain said he listened to what the public was saying when the legislation failed -- and responded accordingly.

"I said, OK. We'll secure the borders, but after we secure the borders, we'll have a temporary worker program, we'll have to address the 12 million people here illegally, and I think the best way is the proposal that we had," McCain said.

"It's not a switch in position. I support the same solution. But we've got to secure the borders first," he added.

From the January 28 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BASH: Dawn had barely broken as Mitt Romney used the dirtiest word in the Republican lexicon to describe John McCain: "liberal."

ROMNEY: If you want that kind of a liberal Democratic course as president, then you can vote for him.

BASH: Two can play at that GOP game, and they did.

McCAIN: As the liberal governor of the state of Massachusetts, he raised taxes by $730 million.

BASH: Romney's closer is a twofer: hit McCain as a creature of the Washington he calls broken and highlight McCain legislation that's infuriated conservatives -- immigration, campaign finance reform, climate change.

ROMNEY: Those three pieces of legislation, those aren't conservative. Those aren't Republican.

BASH: McCain was quick to point out that as Massachusetts governor, Romney embraced the same policy positions he now calls unacceptable.

McCAIN: He's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue.

BASH: There, with not-by-accident echoes of GOP attacks on Democrat [Sen.] John Kerry [MA] four years ago.

Beyond all that, Romney and McCain are competing in Florida's crucial Republican primary as very different candidates on very different core GOP issues. Romney on the economy, as the multimillionaire businessman who says he knows how to fix it and Senator McCain doesn't get it.

ROMNEY: And I frankly can't imagine how you could have a president of the United States who doesn't understand how the economy works.

BASH: McCain is playing the war hero, digging away at Romney's lack of national security experience.

From the January 28 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

COOPER: In terms of politics, on the campaign trail, things have gotten very heated, obviously, between you and Senator McCain. I want to listen to a little bit about what Senator McCain said to you on the -- said about you on the campaign trail in Jacksonville, Florida. Let's listen.

McCAIN [video clip]: You know, I really -- one thing I think we should really give Governor Romney credit for, he is consistent. He's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue.

COOPER: That is the issue which many of your critics comment about you. I mean, they say that that is the biggest problem they have with you, that you have changed your position. Have you ever changed your position in a way that did not help you at the polls?

ROMNEY: Well, absolutely. And of course, anybody who doesn't learn from their life experience should be fired. They'd be too stubborn to possibly consider for a position of leadership.

For instance, in the past, I was in favor of getting rid of the Department of Education. And that's the way most conservatives feel. But I frankly concluded that it makes sense to have a Department of Education.

And there are other issues, as well, that are not terribly helpful to me. One is my health-care plan. I know a lot of conservatives don't like it, but I think it's the ultimate conservative answer, and I'm happy to campaign on that. I think it's too bad that Senator McCain is obviously so desperate in this last moment. He's campaigned for so long to be president that he levels these kind of personal attacks. It's been an interesting week as he's gone after me personally on one thing after the other.

And of course, Senator McCain, you know he was against the Bush tax cuts. Now he's for making them permanent. He was for McCain- Kennedy. Now he's for a new program for immigration. He's changed his view on issue after issue. He was against ethanol, then for it, then against it again.

From the 6 a.m. ET hour of the January 29 edition CNN's American Morning:

SNOW: Locked in a tight fight, Republican presidential hopefuls Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney duked it out as they made their final pitches in Florida.

ROMNEY: Senator McCain is noted for three major pieces of legislation. I think all of them were badly flawed.

SNOW: Romney took aim at McCain's support of legislation on illegal immigration, campaign finance reform, and climate change. McCain fired back, saying as Massachusetts governor, Romney supported the same policies he's now criticizing.

McCAIN: You know, I really -- one thing I think we should really give Governor Romney credit for, he is consistent. He's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue.

SNOW: Romney's made the economy his driving issue, touting his own business experience while trying to portray McCain as not having the know-how on the economy.

ROMNEY: I frankly can't imagine how you could have a president of the United States who doesn't understand how the economy works.

SNOW: Senator McCain has made national security his big issue, touting his military experience.

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Dana Bash, Mary Snow
Show/Publication
Lou Dobbs Tonight, American Morning, The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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