Contrary to Karl Rove's pre-election assertions -- which the media accorded significance despited his presumable responsibility to express optimism -- Democrats won control of both houses of Congress. This raises the question of whether the media were wrong in treating Rove's optimistic predictions as anything more than a job requirement.
The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel baselessly asserted that if the Democrats "actually want to accomplish anything," should they gain control of one or both houses of Congress on November 7, they will "have to decide what they want to do." "Do they what they want to spend the next two years investigating and overseeing the Bush administration? Or do they want to govern and try to show that they can get something done?" He stated that "it is an either/or" question.
Although Rev. Ted Haggard was the pastor of a 14,000-member church and president of "the largest evangelical group in America," as well as a regular member of weekly conference calls with the Bush administration, National Public Radio's Mara Liasson, Slate's John Dickerson, and Time's Ana Marie Cox all downplayed the political impact of recent allegations that he solicited sex and drugs from a male prostitute.
NPR uncritically aired portions of an ad in which Rep. Thomas Reynolds took credit for "forc[ing]" former Rep. Mark Foley to resign after learning of alleged explicit Internet communications between Foley and a former congressional page. In fact, Foley resigned after ABC News informed Foley that it was going to make the explicit messages public, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert has previously denied that the House leadership was responsible for Foley's resignation.
CNN's Joe Johns and National Public Radio's Ken Rudin declared that portions of a political ad by Minnesota Democratic congressional candidate Patty Wetterling, claiming that "[c]ongressional leaders have admitted covering up the predatory behavior of a congressman who used the Internet to molest children," were false. But neither Rudin nor Johns noted that admitted actions by members of the House Republican leadership arguably had the result of a "cover-up."
Reports on National Public Radio and NBC's Today uncritically repeated House Speaker Dennis Hastert's false claims that Democrats generated the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley. Similarly, an October 6 Washington Post article also failed to note reports that directly contradict Hastert's claims.
Following House Speaker Dennis Hastert's press conference, numerous media outlets trumpeted the news that Hastert took "responsibility" for the Mark Foley scandal but ignored his later statement, during that same press conference, that "I haven't done anything wrong."
Conservative commentator Paul Weyrich and 700 Club host Pat Robertson baselessly asserted that former Rep. Mark Foley's alleged misconduct is typical of gay men. As Media Matters for America has documented, studies that link homosexuality and child sex abuse are flawed and have been thoroughly debunked by numerous experts.
In an interview with former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo, National Public Radio's Steve Inskeep failed to challenge Yoo's many assertions on the recently passed terror detainee bill, including the claim that a U.S. citizen captured in the United States and detained as an "enemy combatant" would have the "right," under this law, to challenge his or her detention in federal court.
Numerous news outlets have continued to uncritically report House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's description of the emails Rep. Mark Foley allegedly sent to a 16-year-old former congressional page as "over friendly" and, in some cases, have themselves adopted his characterization.
Discussing negative campaign ads on The Big Story, John Gibson aired a clip by Sen. Rick Santorum's campaign attacking his Democratic opponent, Bob Casey Jr., without including an ad or even a response from the Casey campaign.
Mara Liasson uncritically aired an ad from Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) that falsely claimed Johnson's opponent, Democratic state Sen. Chris Murphy, would require the government to "apply for a court warrant" before intercepting a call to a "known terrorist," "even if valuable time is lost." In fact, Murphy said he supports the current law on domestic wiretapping for foreign intelligence purposes, which allows the government to conduct surveillance for up to 72 hours before obtaining a warrant.
In recent reports, the Associated Press claimed that Republicans in Congress will use "their strength" by highlighting national security issues, and National Public Radio asserted that they will hold a vote on the Bush administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program to "embarrass" Democrats. However, the AP's most recent poll found that respondents trust Democrats more than Republicans to do a better job protecting the United States.
Various media outlets ignored President Bush's statement during an August 21 press conference that the United States will not withdraw its forces from Iraq as long as he is president. Those outlets simply reported that Bush pledged to keep U.S. forces in Iraq until "the mission is complete," and offered no indication that Bush pledged to keep troops there for the remainder of his term.