Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jim Naureckas, FAIR, Media Coverage of Richard Blumenthal's Misspeak Evidence of Double Standard for Democrats?

Talk Nation Radio for May 27, 2010

Jim Naureckas cites double standards for Democrats versus Republicans on military service, slips of the tongue, or worse.
He cites a case involving what Ronald Reagan said about visiting Hitler’s death camps in Europe during WWII as one example. He didn't! Yet the press gave this story a pass. The press also tended to 'correct' glaring mistakes by former V.P. Dan Quayle, among many others not to mention George W. Bush.

Produced by Dori Smith
TRT: 29:00
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Jim Naureckas of the media watch group FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, joins us for a look at questions of fairness and double standards in media coverage about the military service records of Democrats versus Republicans. We discuss media coverage of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who is running for U.S. Senate. He has been under scrutiny for remarks he made about serving in Vietnam, he didn’t.

But in this, and other stories involving Republicans it has been a case of double standards, according to Jim Naureckas. The media seems happy to critique the military service records of Democrats during campaigns, yet tend to pass on stories about the service of Republicans. Jim Naureckas compares coverage when Democrats versus Republicans torture words and or the truth.

First a review of the Richard Blumenthal story. Throughout his career, the Connecticut Democrat has made it clear to voters and veterans that he didn’t serve in Vietnam, but served stateside. Was he trying to intentionally misrepresent his record? Even Rob Simmons, who has just withdrawn from the race against Blumenthal, didn’t think so. Simmons said he never thought Blumenthal was actually trying to get away with a lie. But the press quoted him on many occasions attacking Blumenthal for his “in Vietnam” comments.

Conventional political wisdom here had it that Simmons would benefit from Blumenthal’s misspeak on Vietnam, Simmons is after all someone who served in Vietnam. But it was Linda McMahon who garnered points for the Blumenthal story. The media became fixated on the story through the coverage of primary races and conventions. All other issues fell by the wayside, especially the matter of Richard Blumenthal’s long successful record, and Linda McMahon’s lack of one.

Democrats are now trying to bring the conversation back to Blumenthal’s record as an Attorney General, since 1990. He is well liked, and has not been shy at taking on big corporations on behalf of state voters: Big tobacco, utility companies, health care, Lyme Disease treatment, charity fraud, the list is long and it includes work on behalf of veterans.

FOX 61, now part of a state conglomerate with The Hartford Courant, nevertheless gave Republicans, Simmons and McMahon, endless opportunities to express outrage about a comment from Blumenthal shown on the New York Times web site alongside a damning story: “We have learned something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam. And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call Afghanistan or Iraq, we owe our military men and women unconditional support. And we owe it to them not only while they are away but when they come home. And that is why your effort is not only important for the physical comfort that you bring to those men and women who come home, whatever their condition, severely wounded or over in the battlefields now, but as a message to others”. The question of resources for wounded veterans fell by the wayside.

Using a family fortune earned through running the World Wrestling Federation, Linda McMahon bought daily spots on Fox 61 and other channels like NBC’s channel 30 here. Her name recognition as a media personality has gone a long way toward preparing voters to hear what she has to say. A chill fell over the story after this additional segment of the damning Norwich video was posted on both McMahon’s web site and the New York Times web site: “But I really want to add my words of thanks as someone who served in the military during the Vietnam era, in the Marine Corps”.

While press coverage is dying down a bit, this issue is sure to come up again during the election. McMahon has been seen in negative terms given that she was the one who gave the tape to the New York Times, and seemed to withhold the first part where Blumenthal said he didn’t serve in Vietnam, but during. She did pull ahead of other challengers just after the tape incident, pushing Rob Simmons out of the race, but she has not been able to dominate Blumenthal in the polls. He is up by 25% as of the latest Quinnipiac University Poll. The AG has enjoyed a 78% or higher approval rating.

This story may yet have a few new twists to be revealed. McMahon and her husband Vince McMahon who took over the World Wrestling Federation when she stepped down as CEO, have a history of federal investigations over violations of steroid laws. And Vince McMahon is more than colorful. An interview by Oakland sports reporter Joel Drucker, was peppered with Vince McMahon quotes where he used the F word liberally and seemed to disdain authority. As a teen, Vince McMahon was the first student ever courts martialed from his former military school, after he used threatening language to an official there. He went on to attend East Carolina University, during the 1960s, possibly on a student deferment of some kind.

Ultimately, McMahon will also likely face more questions about accusations that she tried to buy votes. The scandal was written off to her inexperience, but McMahon launched then withdrew a voter registration effort where University of Connecticut Republicans were offered $5 bonuses for registering new Republicans during an on-campus voter drive.

McMahon‘s fellow Republican candidate Peter Schiff called her tactic “ACORN-ish” this a reference to the non profit group that helps voters register, largely poor voters under served by their own voting systems. ACORN was ironically also accused by Republicans, but was cleared accusations of fraud and one set up involving a man posing as a pimp who tried to implicate them on tape. A court has completely cleared the organization, but the damage to them was severe. They are trying to regroup.

Jim Naureckas of Fair, says the coverage of Republican candidates has been highly different in general, and particularly in terms of war records. In Extra, the magazine published by Fair, he says the media tends to overlook the gross errors, even lies, of Republicans, like for example former President Ronald Reagan, who spoke emotionally about having visited Hitler’s death camps during WWII, but he didn’t.

Jim Naureckas writes: “It is commendable to hold misleading politicians to account. Our question is how universal this concern is at the New York Times”. We discuss the media’s campaign coverage of the two leading parties, in general.

HISTORICAL, Dori Smith: 'How well I remember two things in my own experience at looking into media stories, and following the lead of your group FAIR, in fact, at a workshop on the media at the Hartford Public Library, April 1st, 1989. We were following the Latin America tour of the inimitable Vice President Dan Quayle, and I’ve got the story here, the New York Times headline February 4th was: 'Quayle in San Salvador, Discusses Human Rights'. The author of the piece, Lindsey Gruson, quoted Quayle, saying of the El Salvadorean Government: 'We expect them to work toward the elimination of human rights, the elimination of human rights in accordance with the pursuit of justice'. He left out the word, violations, twice.

The Hartford Courant reported February 4, p A7 that, 'Quayle said that the United States expects the Salvadoran military to work toward the elimination of human rights violations'.

We challenged the paper, they responded by in effect saying, 'so what'? and claiming we were making a big deal out of nothing.

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