Media uncritically report McCain's claim that overseas trip is not campaign-related, ignoring London fundraiser

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, and Reuters reported Sen. John McCain's claim that his trip overseas is unrelated to his presidential campaign without noting that McCain's trip includes a fundraiser in London or that McCain campaign representatives have reportedly acknowledged the political strategy behind the trip.

In articles noting Sen. John McCain's weeklong trip to the Middle East and Europe, The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, and Reuters reported McCain's claim that the trip is unrelated to his presidential campaign without noting that McCain's trip includes a fundraiser in London or that McCain campaign representatives have reportedly acknowledged the political strategy behind the trip. By contrast, reports by the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post juxtaposed McCain's claim that his trip was not a campaign event with the fact that he will be holding the London fundraiser.

In a March 15 "The Week Ahead" article, The Wall Street Journal reported that McCain is "tak[ing] an overseas detour from the campaign trail this weekend to the Middle East and Europe. The Arizona senator says he is doing it as a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He insists this isn't a campaign trip." While the article then asked, "How could it not be?" it went on to state: "Sen. McCain is adamant that he will keep the focus on national security and won't talk politics but 'understands the charge' that some people will still see this as a campaign trip."

Similarly, a March 16 Reuters report stated that McCain is visiting Iraq "as a member of a fact-finding mission for the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee" and noted that "McCain, who will be the Republican choice in November's presidential election, and Senate allies Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham will also visit Israel, Britain and France." The report also stated: "While acknowledging that leaders like British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy might see the trip as a chance to size him up as a potential president, McCain has said he is not travelling as a candidate."

A March 16 AP report on McCain's arrival in Baghdad likewise uncritically reported McCain's denial that his weeklong trip was campaign-related: "Before leaving, McCain said the trip to the Middle East and Europe was a fact-finding venture, not a campaign photo opportunity."

By contrast, in a March 15 article, the Los Angeles Times noted McCain's plans to hold a fundraiser:

McCain has stressed that it will be a routine Senate trip focused on military and security issues and that he will not discuss presidential politics during his travels.

The campaign, however, will hold a luncheon fundraiser for McCain at London's Spencer House on Thursday.

The Washington Post also reported March 15 that "McCain plans to hold a fundraiser in London on Thursday, and costs associated with it will be paid for by the campaign, a spokeswoman said."

Also, on the March 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, congressional correspondent Dana Bash reported that McCain "advisers tell CNN" that the purpose of McCain's overseas trip is to "stay[] in the headlines" and promote the "imagery of a leader comfortable on the world stage":

BASH: McCain's biggest challenge now is staying in the headlines. Knowing that, his advisers tell CNN they have a series of events planned to try.

First, travel abroad. Later this month, McCain will go to Europe and meet with key allies and also go to the Middle East.

McCAIN: I've spent my entire life addressing national security issues.

BASH: The goal: not just words, but imagery of a leader comfortable on the world stage, hoping it provides a contrast to the Democrats' political brawl.

From the March 15 Wall Street Journal article, headlined "McCain Trip May Enhance Perceived Foreign-Policy Edge":

John McCain takes an overseas detour from the campaign trail this weekend to the Middle East and Europe. The Arizona senator says he is doing it as a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He insists this isn't a campaign trip.

How could it not be?

With the Democratic nomination still hotly contested, most of the media attention these days goes to Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Sen. McCain's trip, including a stop in Iraq, puts him back in the limelight. And in precisely the mode he wants.

[...]

Sen. McCain is adamant that he will keep the focus on national security and won't talk politics but "understands the charge" that some people will still see this as a campaign trip. He points to his regular trips overseas, including seven other visits to Iraq, as proof that this is only more of the same. Even so, this will be Sen. McCain's first trip as a general-election contender and will likely be received differently by world leaders and U.S. allies.

From the March 16 Reuters report:

McCain, who will be the Republican choice in November's presidential election, and Senate allies Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham will also visit Israel, Britain and France.

Analysts see the trip as a chance for McCain to show off his knowledge of foreign policy and military affairs while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fight out a bitter Democratic nomination process at home.

While acknowledging that leaders like British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy might see the trip as a chance to size him up as a potential president, McCain has said he is not travelling as a candidate.

From the March 16 AP report:

McCain, a strong supporter of the U.S. military mission in Iraq, is believed to be staying in the country for about 24 hours.

"Senator McCain is in Iraq and will be meeting with Iraqi and U.S. officials," said Mirembe Nantongo, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

This is the senator's eighth visit to Iraq. He's accompanied by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Before leaving, McCain said the trip to the Middle East and Europe was a fact-finding venture, not a campaign photo opportunity.

The senator last met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during the Thanksgiving holiday.

[...]

McCain's weeklong trip also includes stops in Israel, Jordan, Britain and France.

He is expected to meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the first time, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the third time. He met and corresponded with Sarkozy both before and after the French president was elected. They last saw each other last summer.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Reuters
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.