Media outlets noted McCain's efforts to woo Clinton supporters, but not prior distortions and personal attacks challenging his sincerity now

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

Reuters, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NBC's Today reported Sen. John McCain's praise of Sen. Hillary Clinton in a June 3 speech, but none of those outlets noted that McCain has previously distorted Clinton's record on issues such as health care, taxes, the environment, and housing, nor did they note that McCain has a history of personal attacks against Clinton and her family.

In reporting on Sen. John McCain's June 3 speech in Kenner, Louisiana, several media outlets -- Reuters, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NBC's Today -- reported McCain's praise of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who McCain said "deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received," and reported that McCain was trying to win over Clinton supporters for the general election. On the June 4 edition of NBC's Today, chief White House correspondent David Gregory said that McCain "spoke directly to Clinton supporters: women, independents, and working-class voters," while Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Holmes wrote in a June 4 article that "McCain has gone out of his way to be complimentary of Sen. Clinton and her campaign, hoping it will endear him to her supporters likely bruised by the defeat." Reuters reported in a June 3 article that McCain "tipped his hat to Clinton with comments aimed to appeal to the New York senator's women supporters, some of whom have said they would support McCain rather than [Sen. Barack] Obama," while The New York Times reported in a June 4 article that "McCain, whose aides have been heartened by reports that some supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton say they would not vote for Mr. Obama, began his speech with praise of Mrs. Clinton -- and what could be read as a pitch to her supporters." But in noting McCain's current efforts to "endear" himself to Clinton supporters, none of these reports noted that McCain has previously distorted Clinton's record on issues such as health care, taxes, the environment, and housing; nor did they note that McCain has a history of personal attacks against Clinton and her family.

For example:

  • Health care. McCain has repeatedly falsely attacked Clinton's health-care plan. In recent months, McCain has mischaracterized Clinton's health-care plan as a "nationalized health-care system," a "one-size-fits-all, big-government takeover of health care," a "government monopoly" on insurance coverage, and "a health-care system run by the federal government." In fact, a Clinton campaign summary of her health-care program says: "In addition to the broad array of private options that Americans can choose from, they will be offered the choice of a public plan option similar to Medicare." As New York Times reporters Michael Cooper and Julie Bosman noted in a May 3 article, "McCain has been repeatedly suggesting that his Democratic rivals are proposing a single-payer, or even a nationalized health-care system along the lines of those in countries like Canada and Britain. The suggestion is incorrect."
  • Taxes. McCain has misleadingly claimed that Clinton is "going to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars a year." In fact, Clinton's campaign website says that she would "[l]ower taxes for middle class families by: extending the middle class tax cuts including child tax credit and marriage penalty relief, offering new tax cuts for healthcare, college and retirement, and expanding the EITC [earned income tax credit] and the child care tax credit." Clinton has expressed support for rolling back the Bush tax cuts on those making more than $250,000.
  • Environment. On May 13, during a "tour" touting his environmental record, McCain said of his Democratic opponents: "They have never, to my knowledge, been involved in legislation nor hearings nor engagement on this issue. I have a long history. I've traveled around the world and seen the impacts of climate change." In concluding that McCain's statement was "false," PolitiFact.com wrote: "Perhaps McCain should check the co-sponsors of emissions-reducing legislation he introduced with Sen. Joseph Lieberman last year. Both Clinton and Obama were among those who signed on to the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act ... Last year, Clinton and Obama co-sponsored an even more ambitious plan called the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. If passed, it would require an 80 percent reduction to 2000 levels over the same time frame. Clinton, who sits on the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works, has consistently supported legislation to combat global warming since joining the Senate in 2000." PolitiFact further wrote that it's "also curious that McCain mentioned his travels to see the impacts of climate change firsthand. In August 2004, Clinton was on the same trip as McCain to the fjords of Svalbard, a remote Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean, where they took a mini-cruise to view the retreat of melted glaciers."
  • Housing. On March 27, McCain released a statement regarding possible responses to the home mortgage crisis that stated: "[W]hat is not necessary is a multibillion-dollar bailout for big banks and speculators, as Sen. Clinton ... [has] proposed." In fact, Clinton -- who had days before made a speech about the housing crisis -- did not propose "a multibillion-dollar bailout" for "speculators." Clinton expressed support for proposals put forward by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) -- which respectively passed the House on May 8 and the Senate Banking Committee on May 20 -- that would authorize the Federal Housing Administration to insure up to $300 billion in homeownership retention loans for qualified homeowners. Both Frank's and Dodd's bills specifically limit access to retention loans to owner-occupied homes, not "speculators."

Additionally, McCain has a history of personal attacks against Hillary Clinton and her family. As Media Matters for America documented, during a November 2007 campaign event in South Carolina, when a questioner asked McCain, "How do we beat the bitch?" -- presumably referring to Hillary Clinton -- McCain called the question "excellent" and then pointed to a Rasmussen poll that he said showed him beating Clinton in a head-to-head matchup before saying, "I respect Senator Clinton." Media Matters has also documented several of McCain's personal shots at Clinton, including naming a nursing school's training dummy "Hillary" during an October 2007 campaign appearance in South Carolina. Further, in 1998, while appearing at a Republican fundraiser, McCain reportedly made what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called "his disgusting jape": "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." McCain reportedly apologized to President Bill Clinton for the comment.

From the June 3 Reuters article:

He also tipped his hat to Clinton with comments aimed to appeal to the New York senator's women supporters, some of whom have said they would support McCain rather than Obama.

"She deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received," McCain said of the former first lady.

"As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there is no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach. I am proud to call her my friend."

From the June 4 New York Times article:

Mr. McCain, whose aides have been heartened by reports that some supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton say they would not vote for Mr. Obama, began his speech with praise of Mrs. Clinton -- and what could be read as a pitch to her supporters.

"The media often overlooked how compassionately she spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans, and she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received," Mr. McCain said.

From the June 4 Wall Street Journal article:

As Hillary Clinton's primary campaign winds down, Barack Obama will be waiting with open arms for the support of her ardent backers.

So will John McCain.

The likely Republican nominee has set his sights on at least three groups of voters who have favored Sen. Clinton and claim large numbers in key battleground states: working-class Democrats, Jews and Hispanics.

Political strategists say Sen. McCain stands a chance at attracting supporters from these traditionally Democratic cohorts. "These are people who had a chance to vote for Obama once already and declined," said Todd Harris, a Republican consultant not affiliated with the McCain campaign.

However, the onus for getting voters to cross party lines falls on Sen. McCain. "Things [Clinton supporters] don't like about Obama will put them on the market," Mr. Harris said. "But McCain himself is going to have to close the deal."

[...]

As a safeguard, Sen. McCain has gone out of his way to be complimentary of Sen. Clinton and her campaign, hoping it will endear him to her supporters likely bruised by the defeat.

In his speech in Louisiana mapping the general election Tuesday evening, Sen. McCain offered praise: "She deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received," he said. "I am proud to call her my friend."

One of the largest voting groups up for grabs if Sen. Clinton leaves the race are the so-called Reagan Democrats, who tend to lean more conservative on social issues.

From the June 4 edition of NBC's Today:

MEREDITH VIEIRA (co-host): And so how will things shape up as November approaches? NBC's David Gregory has more on that.

GREGORY: Well, we know that it's still three candidates --

VIEIRA: Yeah.

GREGORY: -- in this general election race. But there's really no time to take a breath. A heated general election debate is already under way.

[begin video clip]

McCAIN: Thank you.

GREGORY: It was Republican John McCain seeking to spoil Obama's big night. He took the stage first in prime time and spoke directly to Clinton supporters: women, independents, and working-class voters.

McCAIN: The media often overlooked how compassionately she [Hillary Clinton] spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans, and she deserves a lot more appreciation than she sometimes received.

GREGORY: He also took aim at Obama.

McCAIN: But the old, tired, big-government policies he seeks to dust off and call new won't work in a world that has changed dramatically since they were last tried and failed. That's not change we can believe in.

Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, NBC, The New York Times, Reuters
Person
David Gregory
Show/Publication
Today Show
Stories/Interests
John McCain, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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