Media don't challenge false claim that Obama vacationed on a "private beach in Hawaii"

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH

Several media outlets have uncritically reported the false charge by Sen. John McCain's campaign that Sen. Barack Obama "just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii." In fact, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Resources, all beaches in Hawaii are public.

Several media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, the Associated Press, and McClatchy Newspapers, have uncritically reported the false charge by Sen. John McCain's campaign that Sen. Barack Obama "just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii," which the McCain campaign made in response to an Obama ad highlighting McCain's reported inability to answer the question, "How many houses do you and Mrs. McCain have?" NBC News correspondent Lee Cowan simply omitted the false claim from his report without noting that the McCain campaign had made it.

In fact, according to a document put out by the Hawaii Department of Land and Resources, all beaches in Hawaii are public: "The public has a right of access to and along all beaches and shorelines in the State situated below the 'upper reaches of the wash of the waves.' "

During the August 21 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, Cowan included portions of the McCain campaign response, but edited out -- with no explanation -- McCain's falsehood about Obama vacationing on a "private beach in Hawaii." Cowan reported that a McCain spokesman said: "Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year and bought his $1 million mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses?" During Cowan's report, which also aired on MSNBC's Verdict with Dan Abrams, on-screen text displayed the McCain response with an ellipsis in place of the falsehood "just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii."

By contrast to these media outlets, an August 22 Los Angeles Times article reported McCain's charge, but added that "[h]e [Obama] and his family stayed at a friend's home last week in Hawaii, where beaches, in fact, are all public."

From the August 21 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

COWAN: For Barack Obama today in Virginia, it was all too good to resist.

OBAMA [video clip]: If you don't know how many houses you have, then it's not surprising that you might think the economy was fundamentally strong. But if you're like me and you got one house, or you were like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective.

COWAN: His staff jumped into action, too, releasing a hurriedly produced TV entitled "Seven," criticizing McCain as an elitist.

NARRATOR [video clip of Obama campaign ad]: And here's one house American can't afford to let John McCain move into.

COWAN: A McCain spokesman shot back in a statement, saying, quote, "Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year and bought his $1 million mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses?"

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