MEDIA
07/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Media Scorecard: How Well Did The Media Do In Identifying McCain's 'Swift Boat' Support?

As the media fanned flames in the direction of General Wesley Clark for the egregious offense of noting that being a prisoner of war did not necessarily translate into the sort of experience and judgment necessary to serve as President (a fact borne out by the recorded history of American Presidents), one of the more interesting revelations was that the McCain campaign had fallen into the loving embrace of one Bud Day, best known for his participation in the slanderous scumbag brigade known as the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth." Strange bedfellows to say the least: during the 2004 presidential campaign, John McCain called the group's work "dishonest and dishonorable." But a lot has changed! McCain, in fact, has been taking their money for some time now. Because maybe McCain would say or do anything to get elected!

Anyway, today Sarabeth at 1115.org mused:

...maybe Media Matters will produce a scorecard today showing how many media outlets told their viewers that in response to Gen. Clark's comments, the McCain campaign rolled out a Swift Boat liar to defend McCain?

Well, let's get that ball rolling, shall we? A cursory overview of the coverage offered by the cable news networks over the past day and a half, via TVEyes, reveals that Bud Day merited twenty separate mentions. Here's how it broke down (usual disclaimer: TVEyes is not a perfect means of searching the news coverage, but one goes to war with the online tools one has):

  • The first instance of a report mentioning Bud Day came on MSNBC, when Keith Olberman identified Day as a SBVf"T" member, and called McCain out on it.
  • Campbell Brown, on CNN, identified Day as a SBVf"T" member, only to cede the floor to "Republican Strategist" Brad Blakeman who lied, calling Day a "hero" who "didn't smear anyone." Brown did push back on Blakeman's assertions vigorously over the next few minutes that followed.
  • However, later in the broadcast, Brown found it necessarily to add the addendum that Day "was also John McCain's commanding officer when they were both prisoners of war in Vietnam" and that "the McCain campaign says that's why they enlisted him for the truth [sic] squad.
  • Naturally, whoever was filling in on Hannity and Colmes last night strenuously asserted that Day was "a medal of honor winner...one of the most decorating living veterans in the country...the stuff of movies."
  • Dan Abrams pointed out Day's membership in the SBVf"T" and similarly pointed out McCain's prior condemnation. Our own Roy Sekoff beat up on Day for a few minutes before Tucker Carlson ganked out a gout of pure mularkey all over the television in an attempt to stand up for those loathsome nimrods.
  • CNN's Dana Bash, on AC 360 noted Day's Medal of Honor and his membership in the SBVf"T", in a mixed bad of simpering neutrality.
  • Rebroadcasts of Hannity and Colmes and Countdown and two reshowings of AC 360 followed.
  • CNN Headline News' Morning Express made four mentions of Bud Day during Tuesday morning, correctly identifying him as a SBVf"T" member all four times, twice alleviating his sins by noting his medal of honor.
  • Three subsequent mentions on Headline News strove for the same "balance."

The constant hyping of Day's war citations were certainly a strained attempt at "balance," considering it is his participation in the SBVf"T" that makes him notable in this case. Still, the fact that the media, in these instances, managed to correctly identify Bud Day is a good thing.

At least, if you look at it in a vacuum. See, the big problem here is that over the same span of time, Wesley Clark was mentioned by the same organizations over two hundred times, and many of those occasions featured Clark, vainly attempting to explain to the media how badly they had misconstrued his comments as an attack on McCain's war record. For a brief rundown on that, we go back to the blogger that inspired this post:

Fox: On the June 29 edition of Fox News' The Strategy Room, news correspondent Molly Henneberg asserted that "the McCain campaign is returning fire after [Sen. Barack] Obama supporter General Wesley Clark seemed to attack [Sen. John] McCain's military service."

MSNBC Live: On the June 30 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Monica Novotny falsely claimed that retired Gen. Wesley Clark "blasted [Sen. John] McCain's military record" during an appearance on the June 29 edition of CBS' Face the Nation.

ABC: ABC News correspondent David Wright asserted that McCain's experience as a prisoner of war made Clark's comments "especially provocative" without telling viewers that Clark had said -- just moments prior to the comments Wright aired -- that "I certainly honor his [McCain's] service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the Armed Forces as a prisoner of war."

CBS: CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds falsely suggested that Clark had questioned McCain's patriotism and had "critici[zed]" McCain's "service, including five years as a POW."

NBC: And Brian Williams, anchor of NBC's Nightly News, falsely suggested that Clark had impugned McCain's "war record"

So, to spell it out for the media: You guys should maybe question whether a guy best known for the toxic defamation of a military hero is well-suited to the task of defending another against similar defamation, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE "SIMILAR DEFAMATION" IS A FIGMENT OF THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN'S IMAGINATION.