CBS devoted 5 minutes to "lipstick," other McCain attacks before reporting that "lipstick" attack was bogus

››› ››› LILY YAN

The CBS Evening News devoted five minutes, in two segments, to the back-and-forth between the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama over Obama's September 9 "lipstick" remark and other McCain attacks before CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante reported of the "lipstick" comments: "The facts: Obama had not mentioned Palin. He was focused on the central argument of his campaign -- that McCain's policies would be no different than President Bush's."

The September 10 edition of the CBS Evening News devoted five minutes, in two segments, to the back-and-forth between the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama over Obama's September 9 "lipstick" remark and other McCain attacks -- including a statement by Capitol Hill correspondent Chip Reid that a McCain ad about the "lipstick" comment may work whether "true or not" -- before CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante reported of the "lipstick" comments: "The facts: Obama had not mentioned [Gov. Sarah] Palin. He was focused on the central argument of his campaign -- that McCain's policies would be no different than President Bush's."

Reid reported, "In one ad aired on the Internet, the McCain campaign accuses Barack Obama of suggesting that Palin is a pig," before airing a clip of the ad. He went on to say, "The Obama campaign called the ad 'pathetic.' Obama, they said, used a common expression to criticize the McCain campaign's policies, not Palin." After airing another ad from the McCain campaign, Reid stated, "Democratic officials called that ad, and The Wall Street Journal article it was based on, a flat-out, absolute fabrication -- but true or not, the ads may work." Reid then played a clip of Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia stating, "Any day that the campaign is about Sarah Palin given her current popularity, it's a good day for John McCain and a bad day for Barack Obama." Reid then said that "another sign that both campaigns have taken a hard turn on to the low road, in Philadelphia today, McCain was all but drowned out by hecklers shouting support for Obama." He provided no evidence that the Obama campaign was in any way responsible for the "hecklers," while citing their heckling as evidence of "both campaigns hav[ing] taken a hard turn on the low road."

In the second report, correspondent Dean Reynolds began by stating that Obama "played into the hands of his rivals with a flip comment that left him open to attack." After airing comments from Obama responding to the McCain campaign's charges about the "lipstick" comment, Reynolds stated that "by responding, Obama elevated the issue."

Five minutes after Reid had first mentioned the "lipstick" comments and after both Reid and Reynolds had aired statements from both the McCain and Obama campaigns without taking a position on whose argument was correct, Plante noted, in what anchor Katie Couric called a "Reality Check," that Obama hadn't mentioned Palin and was talking about McCain's policies when he made the "lipstick" comment. Plante went on to note that "[t]he colorfully descriptive phrase is often used by politicians, including John McCain." He later added, "Even the vice president has used it."

From the September 10 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

REID: Sarah Palin is, at this moment, in the air, on her way home to Alaska to see her son as he's deployed to Iraq, and she leaves behind a campaign that seems to get uglier everyday.

[begin video clip]

REID: In Northern Virginia today, John McCain and Sarah Palin drew their biggest crowd yet, more than 23,000, and there was no doubt who many of them came to see.

CROWD: Sarah, Sarah, Sarah.

PALIN: We're going to Washington to shake things up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's amazing. She thinks the way I think.

REID: But neither Palin nor McCain even mentioned the ugly war of words swirling around Palin that has all but consumed both campaigns. In one ad aired on the Internet, the McCain campaign accuses Barack Obama of suggesting that Palin is a pig.

OBAMA: But, you know, you can -- you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig.

REID: The Obama campaign called the ad "pathetic." Obama, they said, used a common expression to criticize the McCain campaign's policies, not Palin. In the middle of that furor, the McCain campaign released another ad portraying Palin as a victim.

ANNOUNCER: Obama air-dropped a mini-army of 30 lawyers, investigators, and opposition researchers into Alaska to dig dirt on Governor Palin.

REID: Democratic officials called that ad, and The Wall Street Journal article it was based on, a flat-out, absolute fabrication -- but true or not, the ads may work.

LARRY SABATO (director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia): Any day that the campaign is about Sarah Palin, given her current popularity, it's a good day for John McCain and a bad day for Barack Obama.

REID: It's a campaign strategy focused on personality, not issues, as described by McCain's campaign manager last week.

RICK DAVIS (McCain campaign manager): This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.

REID: And in another sign that both campaigns have taken a hard turn on to the low road, in Philadelphia today, McCain was all but drowned out by hecklers shouting support for Obama.

[end video clip]

REID: Now, one question now is whether John McCain will see a drop in enthusiasm campaigning alone without Palin, and we're told when she does return from Alaska in a few days, they may well campaign more together than had been planned. Katie?

KATIE COURIC (anchor): OK, Chip Reid. Thanks a lot, Chip. If the McCain campaign was outraged over that lipstick comment, Senator Obama said today he's just as outraged over their use of it. Dean Reynolds, now, has that part of the story.

[begin video clip]

REYNOLDS: Having played into the hands of his rivals with a flip comment that left him open to attack, Obama today denounced what he called a cynical, insincere game played by the Republicans and a willing news media.

OBAMA: I mean, this whole thing about lipstick. Nobody actually believes that these folks are offended. They seize on an innocent remark, try to take it out of context, throw up an outrageous ad, because they know that it's catnip for the news media.

REYNOLDS: But by responding, Obama elevated the issue. And though he tried to laugh it off, he did not seem amused.

OBAMA: Right, I'm talking about John McCain's economic policies, I say this is more of the same -- you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig -- and suddenly they say, "Oh, you must be talking about the governor of Alaska." This is what they want to spend two out of the last 55 days talking about.

REYNOLDS: Obama, though, spent some time on it in an interview for tonight's Late Show with David Letterman.

[begin video clip]

DAVID LETTERMAN (talk show host): Have you ever actually put lipstick on a pig?

PAUL SHAFFER (musical director): Whoops.

OBAMA: You know, the --

SHAFFER: Uh-oh.

OBAMA: The answer would be no. But I think it might be fun to try. ... Had I meant it this way, she would be the lipstick, you see. The failed policies of John McCain would be the pig.

[end video clip]

REYNOLDS: Jokes aside, Obama's aides have loudly complained that his words are being twisted by the Republicans and then spread by the press.

SEAN HANNITY (Fox News host): We saw the audience got the joke, calling the vice-presidential candidate a pig.

OBAMA: This McCain campaign would much rather have the story about phony and foolish diversions than about the future.

REYNOLDS: He has spent the last two weeks addressing the economy, energy, and education, but he said episodes involving what he called "phony outrage" block a meaningful discussion.

OBAMA: You know who ends up losing at the end of the day? It's not the Democratic candidate. It's not the Republican candidate. It's you.

[end video clip]

REYNOLDS: But Obama may be more willing now to mix it up. Sources tell CBS News he will no longer stand in the way of those partisan independent groups that could do in attack ads to John McCain what those behind the Swift Boat attacks did to [Sen.] John Kerry just four years ago. Katie?

COURIC: Dean Reynolds. Thanks very much, Dean.

The McCain campaign also took aim today at Senator Obama's record on sex education, but is that attack and the lipstick uproar really on target? For that, we turn to Bill Plante with this "Reality Check."

[begin video clip]

PLANTE: The McCain campaign jumped hard on the phrase "lipstick on a pig." In addition to this Internet-only video, their truth squad quickly set up a conference call. The claim: Obama was talking about Sarah Palin.

JANE SWIFT (McCain campaign "Palin Truth Squad" member): Senator Obama uttered what I can only deem to be disgraceful comments comparing Governor Palin to a pig.

PLANTE: What connected the comment to Palin? Governor Swift said it was this line from her convention speech.

PALIN: You know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick.

PLANTE: The facts: Obama had not mentioned Palin. He was focused on the central argument of his campaign -- that McCain's policies would be no different than President Bush's.

OBAMA: That's just calling some -- the same thing -- something different. But you know, you can't -- you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig.

PLANTE: The colorfully descriptive phrase is often used by politicians, including John McCain, here talking about the health-care plan of another female politician, Hillary Clinton.

McCAIN: I think they put some lipstick on the pig, but it's still a pig.

PLANTE: Even the vice president has used it.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: You can put all the lipstick you want on a pig, but at the end of the day, it's still a pig.

PLANTE: McCain's campaign also released an ad criticizing Obama's education record, which makes this claim.

ANNOUNCER: Obama's one accomplishment? Legislation to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners.

PLANTE: The facts: The bill introduced in the Illinois legislature never became law. It called for non-mandatory sex education for grades K-through-12 that was age and developmentally appropriate. For kindergartners, that included, among other things, how to say no to unwanted sexual advances.

[end video clip]

PLANTE: Obama did vote for the bill in committee, and he says he supports similar laws in other states, but he said the point was to help parents teach their children how to deal with sexual predators. Katie?

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Chip Reid, Dean Reynolds, Sarah Palin
Show/Publication
CBS Evening News
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 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.