Even though Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate without losing a single seat -- an electoral feat last accomplished in 1938 -- the media have not highlighted this achievement in the two weeks after Election Day. But when Republicans gained seats in both the House and Senate in the 2002 midterm elections, the first time since 1934 a president's party had done so during its first midterm election, news outlets praised it as "remarkable" and "historic."
Since the Democratic Party won control of both the House and the Senate, the media have focused on such issues as Pelosi's choice of attire and whether being female will affect her ability to lead. MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer wondered if Pelosi's "personal feelings [were] getting in the way of effective leadership" -- a problem she suggested would not surface in "men-run leadership posts" -- and whether men were "more capable of taking personality clashes."
Though Nancy Pelosi will not actually assume the office of House speaker until January, some members of the media, including Wolf Blitzer and Timothy Noah, have questioned her suitability for that position, asserting that she has committed "blunders" that have "underscored her inability to get the job done."
In their coverage of Sen. Trent Lott's election as minority whip, several media outlets have either failed to note Lott's 2002 comment praising Strom Thurmond's 1948 pro-segregation presidential campaign or failed to place Lott's remark in the context of his previous statements and actions that have been attacked as racially insensitive.
While discussing Sen. John McCain's potential presidential candidacy, CNN's Wolf Blitzer ignored McCain's inconsistencies on taxes and abortion and essentially contradicted himself about McCain's position on Iraq. Blitzer also noted the names and experience of other political figures with presidential exploratory or campaign committees but did not describe their positions on any issues.
Wolf Blitzer failed to challenge the assertion of Michael Steele, a losing Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Maryland, that he "did not see ... until a couple of days after the fact" a flier that misleadingly referred to "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats" and falsely suggested that certain prominent African-American Maryland Democrats endorsed Steele and Republican Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Both Blitzer and Sean Hannity praised Steele's campaign in their interviews with him without noting Steele's 10-point margin of defeat.
In a CNN report, Brian Todd stated that "after years of accusing the White House of taking its eye off the ball in Afghanistan, the Democrats are starting to feel some of the pressure that goes with hunting the world's most wanted man." In mentioning only Democrats' accusations and, without elaboration, the fact that Osama bin Laden has eluded capture, Todd left out the reported facts that give substance to those accusations.
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On CNN, the Family Research Council's Charmaine Yoest falsely claimed that "every single time" a marriage initiative has appeared on the ballot, "it's passed with over 70 percent of the popular vote." The statement is wrong for two reasons. First, a same-sex marriage ban failed in Arizona in the midterm elections. Second, all of those that did pass did not get 70-percent support -- only two did. Yoest also falsely claimed that those that passed did so "resoundingly."
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CNN's Wolf Blitzer said of Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, "many would regard them [as] a little bit of mavericks." Despite McCain's widely held reputation for being willing to diverge from President Bush, Media Matters has repeatedly documented instances in which McCain has supported President Bush or changed his position to support Bush; the same is true of Graham.
CNN's T.J. Holmes identified guest Jenny Backus as a "Democratic strategist" but introduced fellow guest Amy Holmes only as a "political analyst," ignoring her Republican ties. T.J. Holmes also failed to challenge Amy Holmes's assertion that "many of the Democrats who were just elected, especially to the House," are socially conservative" and "pro-life"; in fact, only five of the newly elected Democrats who defeated Republican incumbents or have been elected to open seats previously held by Republicans have identified themselves as "pro-life."