Disregarding U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's warning to "not cast aspersions on people for being named or being discussed" in the criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, several in the media have used the scandal as an opportunity to engage in suggestions of guilt-by-association against President-elect Barack Obama, by rehashing Obama's purportedly "questionable associations," or suggesting that Obama is a product of corrupt "Chicago politics."
Several media figures are promoting the notion of division among Obama supporters, asserting that "the left" is or should be disappointed with the president-elect's Cabinet selections. But the idea of significant disappointment with Obama runs counter to a USA Today/Gallup poll finding that 94 percent of Democrats "approve of the way Obama is handling his presidential transition."
In an article headlined "Obama skips church, heads to gym," Politico reported, "On the three Sundays since his election, Obama has instead used his free time to get in workouts at a Chicago gym," and also asserted, "Both President-elect George W. Bush and President-elect Bill Clinton managed to attend church in the weeks after they were elected." However, Politico ignored numerous reports that Bush attended church infrequently over the past eight years and did not belong to a Washington congregation. Politico's report was echoed by other media, including Fox News and the syndicated radio show The War Room with Quinn & Rose.
The CBS Evening News, Fox News' The Live Desk, and the Politico's Jonathan Martin noted Cindy McCain's attack on Sen. Barack Obama that his "vote to not fund my son when he was serving sent a cold chill through my body." However, none of their reports pointed out that Sen. John McCain himself voted against legislation to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In repeating a claim by a campaign adviser to Sen. John McCain that "McCain would continue to criticize Obama for voting against a bill that included funding for troops," Politico reporters Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin didn't note that McCain himself has voted against legislation to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as Obama pointed out during their September 26 presidential debate.
In a Politico blog post about an ad attacking Sen. Barack Obama for abortion-related votes he cast as a state senator, Jonathan Martin wrote: "As a state senator, Obama opposed legislation that proponents said would protect legal protection to babies outside the womb." But Martin did not note that the suggestion that at the time Illinois law did not already provide "legal protection to babies outside the womb" is false. Additionally, the Illinois Department of Health reportedly said that the alleged actions cited as evidence that the bill was necessary were already illegal.
Politico's Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's assertion during an "exclusive" interview: "Lobbyists don't come to my office. Because they know they're not going to be an earmark. They know they're not going to get a pork-barrel project. Senator Obama's gotten lots of 'em." Allen and Martin did not note that, to the contrary, lobbyists have reportedly received considerable benefits from McCain on behalf of their clients.
Politico writers Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin reported a claim by Tucker Bounds, McCain campaign spokesman, that "Barack Obama wants more taxes from 21 million small businesses," without noting that it is false. In fact, Obama has proposed rolling back President Bush's tax cuts only on "people who are making 250,000 dollars a year or more," and according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 481,000 small businesses fall into the tax brackets that would be affected by those increases.
Jonathan Martin uncritically quoted Regnery Publishing president Marjory Ross saying of Sen. Barack Obama, "He's the No. 1 most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, and nobody has really examined his record." Ross was apparently referring to the National Journal's 2007 Vote Ratings. Martin did not cite any criticism of the study's subjectivity -- including criticism by Obama during a February interview with Politico -- or note that a more comprehensive study reached a different result.
Ignoring its own interview with Sen. Barack Obama in which he criticized the National Journal study, the Politico uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's claim that Obama has the "most liberal voting record," without citing any criticism of the study or noting that the ranking was based on subjectively selected votes.
The Politico's Jonathan Martin asserted as "fact" that Al Gore and John Kerry "were elitists and were out of touch with average Americans." But to the extent the public perceived them in that manner, the media played a dominant role in creating and promoting that perception while largely avoiding discussion of whether President Bush was an "elitist."
Politico senior political writer Jonathan Martin reported on Republican National Committee "[i]nternal polling data" showing Sen. John McCain "with a solid lead over both his potential general election rivals," but Martin did not report -- nor did he give any indication that he had sought -- any additional information about the RNC's data, or provide any justification for treating the results of an internal partisan poll as newsworthy.
On CNN's This Week in Politics, Cliff May falsely asserted, unchallenged, that Nancy Pelosi "is not letting a vote come on" a "bipartisan bill passed by the Senate that would restore to intelligence agencies the authority they used to have to ... surveil, to bug terrorists and terrorist suspects abroad." May further claimed, falsely, that Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama "have said they're against this bill that would restore intelligence authority." In fact, the U.S. government currently has the authority to eavesdrop on the communications of suspected terrorists through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Comparing Sen. John McCain's 2008 Republican presidential campaign to his failed 2000 bid, Politico senior political writer Jonathan Martin stated: "There is another reason why McCain's fared better this time -- he reluctantly allowed his campaign to spotlight his 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton." However, numerous reports in 2000 noted the prominent role McCain's experience as a POW in Vietnam played in his first presidential campaign.
In a blog entry, Politico senior political writer Jonathan Martin wrote that Rudy Giuliani's campaign had circulated a press release titled "Romney's Taxachussetts Hypocrisy" and characterized the campaign as "[n]ot terribly thrilled about having to engage a GOP opponent -- but also recognizing the necessity of letting no dig go unanswered." However, in the blog entry, Martin did not note a relevant statement that Giuliani made two days earlier in an interview with Martin himself: "It's my intention not to attack any other Republicans, absolutely. ... The whole focus of my campaign is I'm going to run against a Democrat." On Meet the Press, David Brody claimed that Giuliani "is talking about Hillary Clinton and nobody else," adding: "I mean, it's invoking the Eleventh Commandment, as Ronald Reagan would say, you know, thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican."