Obama’s ‘Honeymoon’ With MSM Just Another Republican Fantasy

There are numerous myths swirling around the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama. He’s a Muslim. He hates Jews. His wife is uppity. But one of the most enduring chestnuts — that Obama gets a pass in the media while Old Maverick Sen. John McCain has to answer the hard questions (like what’s the diff between a Shiite and a Sunni) has been demythified by the new report from the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

Major findings (based on a scientific content analysis of election news stories that aired on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and Fox Special Report) include:

Since the primaries ended, on-air evaluations of Barack Obama have been 72 percent negative (versus 28 percent positive). That’s worse than John McCain’s coverage, which has been 57 percent negative (versus 43 percent positive) during the same time period.

This is a major turnaround since McCain and Obama emerged as front-runners in the early primaries. From the New Hampshire primary on January 8 until Hillary Clinton dropped out on June 7, Obama’s coverage was 62 percent positive (38 percent negative) on the broadcast networks; by contrast, McCain’s coverage during this period was only 34 percent positive (66 percent negative).

Obama ran even farther behind McCain on Fox News Channel’s Special Report with 79 percent negative comments (21 percent positive), compared to 61 percent negative comments (39 percent positive) for McCain since June 8. During the primaries Obama had a slight lead in good press on Fox, with 52 percent favorable comments (48 percent unfavorable), compared to 48 percent favorable (52 percent unfavorable) for McCain.

Obama’s bad press has come at a time when he was much more visible than McCain. Since June 8, he has been the subject of 120 stories on the three network evening news shows, 50 percent more than John McCain’s 80 stories.

So where does this myth come from and why is it perpetuated? You guessed it — Fox News. Here are results from a recent Fox survey:

Nearly seven in 10 Americans (67 percent) say they believe most in the media want Obama to win the November election — while a scant 11 percent think the media are pulling for John McCain. Moreover, only about one in 10 (11 percent) volunteers the belief that the media is neutral on the race to become the 44th President of the United States.

When asked to rate the objectivity of media coverage of the campaigns, Americans feel Obama gets more of a positive spin by a better than seven-to-one margin (46 percent more positive toward Obama; 6 percent more positive toward McCain). Just under four Americans in 10 (36 percent) says both campaigns are being covered objectively.

Fox asked fair and balanced questions like “Have you heard any of your friends and neighbors say there is something about Barack Obama that scares them?” To which 49 percent said yes and 50 percent said no. To be fair, they asked the same question about McCain, and only 36 percent said their friends and neighbors found McCain scary.

When it gets to the media questions Fox goes off the rails: “Which presidential candidate — Barack Obama or John McCain — do you think most members of the media want to win the election?” That cockamamie question elicited a predictable range of responses: 67 percent said Obama, 11 percent said McCain and 11 percent expressed faith in the objectivity of the U.S. media.

Then Fox asked: “Do you think the national press is covering both presidential campaigns objectively or is one campaign receiving more positive coverage than the other?” The predictable answer was 36 percent said both are being covered objectively, 46 percent said Obama gets more positive coverage and only 6 percent felt McCain received more positive coverage.

Many pundits assert that it mainly comes down to a question of style over substance, something public relations pros would call “buzz.” Fact is, Obama has it, McCain don’t. Obama’s media machine is effective, McCain’s isn’t. When Obama has to abandon plans to tour an Army base in Germany because the rules don’t allow campaign staff, he issues a statement that to tour the base would have been “inappropriate.” As in, it’s inappropriate to try to break the rules. But McCain’s campaign was all over that saying that it’s never inappropriate to visit the folks in uniform and that McCain would have gone “seismic” if his visit had been disallowed.

But when the Pentagon confirmed that its rules don’t allow campaign staff to tour bases, McCain comes off looking foolish and out of touch (like the Czechoslovakia gaffe). But it doesn’t really matter because those who believe in McCain stopped listening after the condemnation and Obama supporters were there when he apologized and when the Pentagon explained.

The problem with media coverage is not so much how they cover the candidates, but what they have to report. Obama’s camp, as it did throughout the primaries, pretty much takes the high road and deals with issues messages. McCain’s campaign, on the other hand, seeks out opportunities to point out supposed character flaws and weaknesses in his opponent. And that’s what the media have to report.

There is bias in the media, just as there is in the consumers of media. But I don’t think that for the most part reporters are “pulling” for one candidate or the other and that colors their reporting. Most journalists and news rooms strive to be impartial and objective when reporting. It’s just that when all they are given is crud to report on, it sullies everybody.

One comment

  • pete
    July 30, 2008 - 7:48 pm | Permalink

    not all media just certain ones.I know they got so sicking I went back to Fox @ believe me I not found of them

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