Beyond the echelon of widely known conservative radio hosts with national audiences lies a vast network of lesser-known syndicated and regional radio hosts who have become key components of an echo chamber for conservative talking points and falsehoods. Like their better-known counterparts, these syndicated and regional radio hosts have played active roles this election season in promoting falsehoods and smears in an all-out effort to foment hate and distrust among their listeners for President-elect Barack Obama. While the hosts vary in the degree of vitriol they spew and in their ratio of rebuttable falsehoods to unbridled smears, Media Matters for America and Colorado Media Matters have identified common themes that many, if not all, have promoted over the past year.
President Bush was re-elected in 2004 with 286 electoral votes, the smallest popular-vote margin since 1976 (excluding the 2000 election) and the lowest electoral vote count for an incumbent president's re-election since 1916. Nevertheless, many in the media were quick to echo Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that "the nation" gave Bush "a mandate." It remains to be seen whether the media will apply the same standard in assessing the results of the 2008 election.
Media critics have recently postulated that while Matt Drudge may have once set the media's agenda, his influence has waned and his efforts to inject himself in the media's coverage of the presidential election have largely fallen flat. This election season, Drudge has posted a long series of items that were false on their face or turned out to be false, making the strong case that, if his influence is not in fact waning, it should be.
Radio host Bill Cunningham compared Sen. Barack Obama to dictators such as Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, and Adolf Hitler, and also stated: "Obama now is poised ... to seize power in America, and I hope to be a bloodless coup."
While discussing the death of Sen. Barack Obama's grandmother, Michael Savage again revived widely debunked "rumors" about Obama's "birth certificate not being valid."
Andrea Mitchell said it was "a great irony, a sad irony, for John McCain" that Hispanic voters are "shifting to Barack Obama" even though McCain "lost his Republican base ... partly on supporting immigration reform." But Mitchell did not note that McCain reversed his position on immigration reform, aligning himself more closely with the GOP base, or that McCain stated that he would not support his own reform bill if it came up for a vote in the Senate.
Rush Limbaugh played an audio clip "montage" from Charlie Rose's interview of Tom Brokaw, in which Limbaugh asserted that Rose and Brokaw were "trying to figure out who Obama is." In fact, Limbaugh heavily edited the clip, at one point falsely suggesting that Brokaw expressed the opinion that "there's a lot about him [Obama] that we don't know," when in fact Brokaw attributed that assertion to "conservative commentators."
The Washington Post distorted a quote by Sen. Barack Obama in reporting that Sen. John McCain "ma[de] fun of something Obama had told a reporter, 'The only thing I've said with respect to coal, I haven't been some coal booster.' " In fact, Obama said during a January 2008 interview: "The only thing that I've said, with a respect to coal -- I haven't been some coal booster -- what I have said is that, for us to take coal off the table as a ideological matter, as opposed to saying, if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. You know, that I think is the right approach."
The Washington Times falsely suggested that Gov. Bill Richardson said Sen. Barack Obama would raise taxes on Americans making more than $120,000, stating that Sen. John McCain "continued to hammer the Democrat over his plan to tax Americans making more than $250,000 -- a number that has crept down, first to $200,000, then to $150,000 and finally to $120,000." In fact, the number hasn't "crept down," and during the interview to which the Times was referring, Richardson said that under Obama's plan for "those in the middle class, anybody under $250,000, there is no tax increase."
The New York Times quoted McCain spokesman Jeff Sadosky saying: "Barack Obama's plans to raise taxes on small businesses and his attacks on Midwestern family farmers have turned off rural voters." But the Times did not point out that less than 2 percent of taxpayers declaring small business income would see a tax increase in 2009 under Obama's plan, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center.
A Washington Times article stated that Sen. John McCain "drew fresh attention this week to Mr. [Barack] Obama's friendship with Rashid Khalidi" regarding "a 2003 party in Chicago honoring Mr. Khalidi where Mr. Obama gives a speech." But it did not note McCain's own reported "connection to Khalidi": His role as chairman of an organization that awarded a $448,873 grant to an organization Khalidi co-founded.
Fox News repeatedly allowed Dick Morris to solicit donations for a conservative political action committee to fund an ad attacking Sen. Barack Obama.
Since October 16, numerous media figures -- among them Jerome Corsi, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin, and Bill Cunningham -- have compared Sen. Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis.
ABC's Robin Roberts did not challenge Sen. John McCain's claim that Sen. Barack Obama "wants to raise people's taxes" -- a claim that McCain's own chief economic adviser reportedly said is inaccurate.