NY Times uncritically quoted McCain supporter falsely asserting that McCain "spent all those years in a P.O.W. camp and he doesn't talk about it"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

The New York Times quoted a woman who "said she would vote for Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, 'because he spent all those years in a P.O.W. camp and he doesn't talk about it,' an indicator of a reserve that she sees as a sign of the character and good manners she admires in her neighbors." In fact, in his campaign ads, McCain has repeatedly touted his experience as a prisoner of war.

A March 20 New York Times article reported that Fern Yarnick, identified as a "sometime columnist for the Jonestown Tribune-Democrat," "said she would vote for Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, 'because he spent all those years in a P.O.W. camp and he doesn't talk about it,' an indicator of a reserve that she sees as a sign of the character and good manners she admires in her neighbors." In fact, McCain has repeatedly touted his experience as a prisoner of war in campaign advertisements on television and the Internet, even as he and the media have promoted the notion that he is reluctant to do so.

One ad, a 60-second spot titled "One Man," begins with 27 seconds of footage of McCain being interrogated during his captivity. A voiceover follows: "One man sacrificed for his country. One man opposed a flawed strategy in Iraq. One man had the courage to call for change." Additional footage of McCain in captivity appears while the narrator reads this statement. Five other McCain campaign ads released between September 2007 and February 2008 include footage of McCain in captivity, including one ad titled "Tied Up," which showed footage of McCain in captivity while audio played of McCain referring to his captivity while attacking Sen. Hillary Clinton during an October 21, 2007, Republican presidential debate.

Additionally, an 11-minute video titled "Courageous Service" and posted on McCain's campaign website also begins with the 27-second clip of McCain being interrogated while being held captive. Later in the video, McCain discussed the circumstances of his capture and subsequent captivity in North Vietnam. The video also includes footage of McCain discussing his captivity during a campaign event. Several minutes later, McCain says "I think that the transcendent issue of the 21st century is the struggle against radical Islamic extremism. And I, with considerable ego, say that I'm the best prepared and qualified to meet this challenge."

As Media Matters for America has documented, McCain's experience as a POW in Vietnam played a prominent role in his failed 2000 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and was used in his campaign advertisements and stump speeches.

In the next paragraph of the Times article, reporter Paul Vitello simply quoted, without challenge, a local business owner saying: "I will not vote for Senator Barack Obama, 'because his name is Barack Hussein Obama -- case closed.' Mr. Contacos, an avid hunter who proudly displays pictures of himself with a magnificently maned lion he killed in Botswana, said he considered Mr. Obama 'a terrorist.' " As Media Matters for America has noted conservative media figures have repeatedly highlighted Obama's middle name, and false rumors have persisted that Obama is a Muslim.

From the March 20 New York Times article headlined "In the Heart of Pennsylvania, a Weary Electorate":

The minutiae of an election campaign as long as this one -- debates on the comparative meaning of ''reject'' and ''denounce''; the measure of how conservative is conservative, how antiwar is antiwar -- seem to disappear quickly in the mist of personal and local history through which most people take the measure of a politician.

Mrs. Yarnick, for instance, said she would vote for Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, ''because he spent all those years in a P.O.W. camp and he doesn't talk about it,'' an indicator of a reserve that she sees as a sign of the character and good manners she admires in her neighbors.

Peter Contacos, 42, the fourth generation of his family to own and operate Coney Island Lunch, a downtown Johnstown business that survived two floods and the loss of thousands of regular customers when Bethlehem Steel eliminated 15,000 jobs in the 1970s and '80s, will not vote for Senator Barack Obama, "because his name is Barack Hussein Obama -- case closed." Mr. Contacos, an avid hunter who proudly displays pictures of himself with a magnificently maned lion he killed in Botswana, said he considered Mr. Obama "a terrorist."

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Person
Paul Vitello
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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