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In the absence of any allegations of wrongdoing by President-elect Barack Obama or his staff in connection with the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich, media figures continue to warn that a "cloud" hangs over Obama or assert that the scandal threatens to cast a "cloud" over Obama's presidency.
Since initial reporting that President-elect Barack Obama was considering naming Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, many in the media have raised the specter of personal and political "drama" -- which they claim follows Hillary and Bill Clinton wherever they go -- negatively affecting the Obama administration. The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page acknowledged that the media are hoping for "drama" resulting from a Clinton appointment; Page responded to the question of how Obama is "going to keep the drama at bay" by saying: "Well, do we want that? We're journalists."
On Reliable Sources, the Houston Chronicle's Julie Mason said of Sen. John McCain's statement that his "greatest moral failing" was "the failure of my first marriage": "I think McCain really did something extraordinary when -- the way he answered that question. ... So he put it out there, he acknowledged it. And he sort of inoculated himself against it." Howard Kurtz similarly said: "McCain has acknowledged that he was not faithful in his first marriage, but not necessarily before a national television audience." In fact, McCain has repeatedly "acknowledged" his responsibility for the breakup of his first marriage in his memoir, in interviews, and "before a national television audience."
On Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz again falsely claimed that, as Kurtz worded it this time, Sen. John McCain got "strafed by [retired Gen.] Wes Clark over his Vietnam service" during Clark's appearance on Face the Nation, and also said: "I would have bet a sizable sum of money that of all the possible attacks against John McCain, the Democrats would not have gone after his Vietnam War record, which, of course, includes his capture and torture in Hanoi. Well, I was wrong." But Clark neither "strafed" McCain's Vietnam service, nor went "after his Vietnam War record."
On CNN's Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz asserted that "the press is cutting" Sen. Barack Obama "a break" on his decision to forgo public financing for the general election. But at no point during the show did Kurtz question whether Sen. John McCain has received "a break" from the press regarding the loan agreement McCain signed during the primary, which could have forced him to remain in the race -- even if he had no chance of winning -- in order to be eligible for public matching funds to repay the loan. Further, a Media Matters for America review found that Kurtz has never mentioned McCain's loan on Reliable Sources.
On CNN's Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz has devoted a total of approximately 18 minutes to the controversy surrounding remarks made by Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In contrast, Kurtz has led only brief discussions on two religious figures who have endorsed Sen. John McCain and who have made controversial comments -- a single two-minute discussion on Rev. John Hagee and only seven seconds on Rev. Rod Parsley.
On Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz claimed that in a 2004 Chicago Tribune article, Sen. Barack Obama "said there wasn't much difference between his position and George Bush's position on the [Iraq] war." But Kurtz left out three key words from Obama's quote in the Tribune -- "at this stage" -- as well as the context of the remarks, both of which indicate that Obama was discussing how best to stabilize Iraq from mid-2004 onward, not claiming agreement with Bush on the war itself.
On CNN's Reliable Sources, The Washington Post's Dana Milbank said of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that "[t]he press will savage her no matter what." Indeed, Milbank himself has smeared Clinton or propagated misinformation about her.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz asserted that Obama's "fundraising receives far less press attention than Clinton's," citing as evidence a November 30 Post article claiming that "Obama's Hopefund Inc. distributed more than $180,000 in donations to political groups and candidates in the early presidential voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina." But Kurtz did not note that the retired Federal Election Commission chief counsel quoted in the article said he was quoted "out of context" and that the "facts as played out in the Washington Post piece are not exactly what I was told. ... I was assuming there was more."
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On CNN's Reliable Sources, while discussing the November 15 Democratic presidential debate, Howard Kurtz did not challenge university professor Steve Roberts' dismissal of criticism of Tim Russert's questions to Sen. Hillary Clinton at the October 30 debate, even though at least two of the questions Russert posed included falsehoods.
On CNN, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders claimed that former CIA operative Valerie Plame "was not outed as part of a vendetta," adding: "It was gossip. We know where this came from, from Richard Armitage." However, Armitage was just one of several administration officials who disclosed Plame's identity to the press, and special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who investigated the leak, asserted that "multiple people in the White House" engaged in a "concerted action" to "discredit, punish, or seek revenge against" Wilson.