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Obama on Vacation, Yet Earns More and Better Coverage than McCain --8/12/2008


1. Obama on Vacation, Yet Earns More and Better Coverage than McCain
So much for John McCain's hope that remaining on the campaign trail this week while Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii would lead to more or friendlier coverage. At least not on Monday night when Katie Couric highlighted how "Obama put out a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad" and she helpfully pointed out: "The ad also features six different shots of Senator McCain next to President Bush." Later, CBS allocated more than three minutes to a "CBS News Exclusive" interview and profile by Couric of "Barack Obama's brain," Valerie Jarrett, who "just may be the most powerful woman in Chicago besides Oprah." ABC centered an entire piece around revelations Hillary Clinton campaign operatives planned to "question Obama's authenticity as an American. She rejected that strategy," yet ABC managed to twist the story into Obama victimization as anchor Charles Gibson fretted: "There are indications that John McCain may be adopting it now." Reporter Jake Tapper warned "some say that John McCain has tried to subtly portray Obama as not quite American enough, playing up Obama's popularity abroad." Tapper ominously concluded: "ABC News has learned that an independent conservative group has been filming in Indonesia where Obama spent a few years during his childhood. So even if Senator McCain does not draw attention to that unusual quality of Obama's youth, someone will."

2. Olbermann: Hannity & Limbaugh 'Not Called [Obama] N Word -- Yet'
On Monday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann attacked Sean Hannity for his recent declaration on FNC's Hannity's America that Obama "can't point to a single instance in which President Bush or McCain or Karl Rove or Sean Hannity or talk radio or any other major Republican has made an issue of Obama's race." Missing Hannity's point that conservatives are not attacking Obama for being black or suggesting voters should be afraid to vote for him because he is black, Olbermann cited quotes from Hannity and Rush Limbaugh which, in the MSNBC host's mind, proved Hannity wrong, and that "short-term memory is often the first thing to go right after ethics." Olbermann mocked Hannity and Limbaugh by concluding that, "What Hannity means when he says nobody has made an issue of Obama's race is: He and Limbaugh haven't called him the 'N' word." After a brief pause, Olbermann added: "Yet."

3. CBS Doubts: 'Does America Care' About Edwards Affair?
On CBS's Sunday Morning, correspondent Tracy Smith reported on the news that John Edwards had cheated on his wife, but wondered: "I guess my question is, okay, sure, so it's going to be reported...But does America care at this point?" After political analyst Jeff Greenfield replied to her question with "sometimes," Smith cited poll numbers on the issue: "Yes, only sometimes. In a 2007 poll, 56 percent said it wouldn't matter to them if a presidential candidate had an extramarital affair." Earlier in the discussion with Greenfield, Smith explained how "In a statement Friday, Edwards said that running for office made him feel special, egocentric; in effect, that the campaign made him do it." Greenfield then described: "If you're running for President, you get -- you get on a pedestal. You know, they -- motorcades happen for you and you get the adulation of crowds." However, he also asserted: "The one thing you probably can't do is to cheat." Following that statement, Smith looked back at history and seemed to lament the coverage of politician's infidelities: "It wasn't always this way. Grover Cleveland served two terms after a scandal in which he was said to have fathered a child. Much has been made of Franklin Roosevelt's romance with Lucy Mercer and others..."

4. Excuses for Not Covering Edwards Refuted by NYT's Own Reporting
In his Sunday column, "Sometimes, There's News in the Gutter," New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt takes his paper, and the media at large, to task for not treating the John Edwards affair story more seriously before Edwards admitted to it on ABC's Nightline August 8. Top Times editors gave Hoyt two excuses for not covering allegations of the Edwards' affair: 1) they were anonymously sourced and 2) Edwards was not in contention as Obama's running mate and thus out of the news. Yet both excuses are refuted by the Times' own reporting.

5. CBS Trumpets: China Gaining Prosperity 'The Communist Way'
On Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen introduced a segment on China hosting the Olympics: "Well, the Olympic games are more than a chance for the world's athletes to excel, they also give the host nation an opportunity to shine. For China and it's 1.3 billion people, the Beijing games are feeding a groundswell of pride." Chen then went to correspondent Barry Petersen who declared: "From designer clothes to new cars, China is getting rich. Democracies once bragged that theirs was the only way to economic success. China is doing it the communist way."


Obama on Vacation, Yet Earns More and
Better Coverage than McCain

So much for John McCain's hope that remaining on the campaign trail this week while Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii would lead to more or friendlier coverage. At least not on Monday night when Katie Couric highlighted how "Obama put out a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad" and she helpfully pointed out: "The ad also features six different shots of Senator McCain next to President Bush." Later, CBS allocated more than three minutes to a "CBS News Exclusive" interview and profile by Couric of "Barack Obama's brain," Valerie Jarrett, who "just may be the most powerful woman in Chicago besides Oprah."

ABC centered an entire piece around revelations Hillary Clinton campaign operatives planned to "question Obama's authenticity as an American. She rejected that strategy," yet ABC managed to twist the story into Obama victimization as anchor Charles Gibson fretted: "There are indications that John McCain may be adopting it now."

Reporter Jake Tapper warned "some say that John McCain has tried to subtly portray Obama as not quite American enough, playing up Obama's popularity abroad." The proof? This from McCain at a South Dakota motorcycle rally last week: "Not long ago, a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day!" Tapper moved on to how McCain's ad narrator saying "John McCain: The American President Americans have been waiting for" is "a line many saw as implying something not American about Obama." Tapper ominously concluded: "ABC News has learned that an independent conservative group has been filming in Indonesia where Obama spent a few years during his childhood. So even if Senator McCain does not draw attention to that unusual quality of Obama's youth, someone will."

I didn't see anything on Tapper's "Political Punch" blog naming the group: blogs.abcnews.com

In the fawning segment with Jarrett, Couric hailed her "pioneering parents," wondered "how have you been shaped by the accomplishments of your parents?", prompted Jarrett to recollect how Michelle Obama wanted Jarrett to meet her fiancee, cued Jarrett up with how "I understand you were critical when it came to the controversy over Reverend Wright. What did you advise him to do?" and got in Couric's favorite topic, anti-Hillary Clinton sexism: "You've also said it's always going to be harder as a woman. I'm just curious if you saw any of that in the primary process and your thoughts on how Hillary Clinton was treated?" CBSNews.com version: www.cbsnews.com

As noted above, Couric described Obama's ad as "a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad." But back on the July 31 CBS Evening News, Couric characterized the McCain ad as "infamous," citing "the now-infamous McCain ad that likens his Democratic opponent to celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton." See: www.mrc.org

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

NBC Nightly News did not run a campaign story, but was the only broadcast network evening newscast to mention John Edwards on Monday night, with a full report from Andrea Mitchell on how "John Edwards now faces more questions about his confession, many involving money," such as how a friend of Edwards paid the mistress "to move to a $3 million rental in California" and also "helped relocate another close Edwards' aide who claims to be the father of the child."

Only the CBS Evening News relayed the comments from the two candidates about Russia's invasion of Georgia.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide these transcripts of the CBS and ABC campaign coverage on Monday night, August 11:

# CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Meanwhile, the presidential candidates jumped right into the Georgia crisis today with some strong words for Russia's leaders. That tops our CBS News Campaign '08 Notebook. John McCain warned Russia it faces severe long-term consequences if it doesn't pull its troops out of Georgia.
JOHN MCCAIN: Russian actions in clear violation of international law have no place in 21st century Europe.
COURIC: During a campaign stop in Erie, Pennsylvania, Senator McCain called on NATO to convene an emergency meeting on the situation. Barack Obama on vacation in Hawaii also blamed Russia for the violence saying: "No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and invaded another country."
Meanwhile, the campaign ad wars continue. Senator Obama put out a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad.
CLIP OF AD: For decades, he's been Washington's biggest celebrity.
COURIC, OVER AD VIDEO OF BUSH HUGGING McCAIN: The ad also features six different shots of Senator McCain next to President Bush.


# ABC's World News:

CHARLES GIBSON: Next, we're going to turn to presidential politics, and a campaign strategy that was once suggested to Hillary Clinton by a top advisor in her primary campaign against Barack Obama. The idea was to question Obama's authenticity as an American. She rejected that strategy. But there are indications that John McCain may be adopting it now. So we turn to our senior political correspondent, Jake Tapper. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, Charlie. Well, Senator Barack Obama this week is on vacation with his family in Hawaii, the state where he was born and where the grandmother who largely raised him still lives. Some of Obama's opponents have debated how much they want to draw attention to his unusual background, his unusual roots -- a Kenyan father, a childhood spent largely in Hawaii and Indonesia. As Senator Barack Obama vacations with his family in Hawaii, a controversial memo has surfaced about his roots there.
In a March 2007 memo obtained by the Atlantic magazine, Mark Penn, the top strategist for Obama's then rival Senator Hillary Clinton, wrote that the campaign should draw attention to Obama's heritage. Obama's, quote, "boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii exposes a very strong weakness for him '€" his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a President during a time of war who is not at the center fundamentally American in his thinking and values. Let's explicitly own '€˜American' in our programs, the speeches, and the values. He doesn't."
Many Democrats are disgusted.
BOB SHRUM, FORMER DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's an appeal to stereotypes, it's an appeal to prejudice. I think it's ugly. And I think if Hillary Clinton had done that, she would permanently besmirch her reputation, her legacy, and her place in American politics.
TAPPER: Some say that John McCain has tried to subtly portray Obama as not quite American enough, playing up Obama's popularity abroad.
JOHN MCCAIN, AUGUST 4: Not long ago, a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day.
TAPPER: And then there was this.
MCCAIN AD NARRATOR: John McCain: The American President Americans have been waiting for.
TAPPER: A line many saw as implying something not American about Obama.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Is it fair to say that this kind of an appeal would resonate with some voters? Absolutely.
TAPPER: But underlining Obama's "otherness" carries with it great risks.
ORNSTEIN: It's going to be seen as below the belt. It's not quite the same as going after race, but it's getting pretty close.
TAPPER: Charlie, ABC News has learned that an independent conservative group has been filming in Indonesia where Obama spent a few years during his childhood. So even if Senator McCain does not draw attention to that unusual quality of Obama's youth, someone will.

Olbermann: Hannity & Limbaugh 'Not Called
[Obama] N Word -- Yet'

On Monday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann attacked Sean Hannity for his recent declaration on FNC's Hannity's America that Obama "can't point to a single instance in which President Bush or McCain or Karl Rove or Sean Hannity or talk radio or any other major Republican has made an issue of Obama's race." Missing Hannity's point that conservatives are not attacking Obama for being black or suggesting voters should be afraid to vote for him because he is black, Olbermann cited quotes from Hannity and Rush Limbaugh which, in the MSNBC host's mind, proved Hannity wrong, and that "short-term memory is often the first thing to go right after ethics." Olbermann mocked Hannity and Limbaugh by concluding that, "What Hannity means when he says nobody has made an issue of Obama's race is: He and Limbaugh haven't called him the 'N' word." After a brief pause, Olbermann added: "Yet."

Olbermann also read past quotes from Hannity about Obama and the race issue without conveying the context that Hannity was referring to Obama's links to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan, who are known for espousing racist views.

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Presumably picking up on an article from the liberal Media Matters for America, Olbermann went after Hannity and Limbaugh during his Countdown show's regular "Worst Person in the World" segment, dishonoring Hannity with the third place "bronze" distinction. Imitating the FNC host's voice, Olbermann read Hannity's recent contention that Obama "can't point to a single instance in which President Bush or McCain or Karl Rove or Sean Hannity or talk radio or any other major Republican has made an issue of Obama's race."

After suggesting that Hannity was lacking "short-term memory" and "ethics," Olbermann read portions of quotes from the FNC host, which can be found in the Media Matters article, without conveying to viewers that Hannity was talking about Obama's links to Wright and Farrakhan: "March 2nd of this year, Hannity said: 'It seems that the change candidate has all the same problems with race as those before him.' And then he said, 'It's only fair to ask do the Obama's have a race problem of their own?'" Media Matters post: mediamatters.org

Olbermann did not read the below comments, from the March 2 Hannity's America on FNC, that would have clarified Hannity's meaning:

HANNITY: For both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, this has been one of the ugliest primary seasons in recent memory. Both sides have been accused of using the race card, turning what could have been a season of coming together for the Democrats into a nasty free-for-all. And while much of the attention for racial politics has been focused on the Clinton campaign, Barack Obama has waded into his own problems.

As more is learned about Barack Obama's positions, his past, and his affiliations, it seems that the "change" candidate has all the same problems with race as those before him. Let's start off with the recent endorsement given to Barack Obama by the Nation of Islam's head, Louis Farrakhan. Now, while Obama has refused Farrakhan's support and has condemned his past anti-Semitic statements, it wasn't until Tuesday night's debate that he went as far as some would have liked in distancing himself from the man who once referred to Judaism as a gutter religion.

BARACK OBAMA: I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support.

HANNITY: And, of course, we can't forget the connection that Farrakhan has to Obama's own Trinity United Church of Christ. Their minister and Obama's spiritual adviser, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, honored Farrakhan for lifetime achievement saying, quote, "He truly epitomized greatness." Now, that's in reference to the same Louis Farrakhan who once referred to the white man as the skunk of the planet Earth. So how can someone who has verbally expressed such hate for others receive such an honor? Now, this wasn't a problem created by a nasty campaign ad. Barack Obama did this to himself."

After reading a few short quotes from Limbaugh, Olbermann concluded: "What Hannity means when he says nobody has made an issue of Obama's race is: He and Limbaugh haven't called him the 'N' word -- yet."

Below is a complete transcript of Olbermann's comments from the Monday, August 11 Countdown on MSNBC:

KEITH OLBERMANN: But first, time for Countdown's number two story, tonight's "Worst Persons in the World." The bronze, to radio's Sean Hannity. Says Barack Obama, quote, "can't point to a single instance in which President Bush or McCain or Karl Rove or Sean Hannity or talk radio or any other major Republican has made an issue of Obama's race."
Short-term memory is often the first thing to go right after the ethics. March 2nd of this year, Hannity said: "It seems that the change candidate has all the same problems with race as those before him." And then he said, "It's only fair to ask do the Obama's have a race problem of their own?"
And this skips comedian Rush Limbaugh's June description of Obama, quote, "His only chance of winning is that he's black." His May description began, "If he were Caucasian-" And a year ago in January, started calling him a "Halfrican-American."
What Hannity means when he says nobody has made an issue of Obama's race is: He and Limbaugh haven't called him the 'N' word -- yet.

CBS Doubts: 'Does America Care' About
Edwards Affair?

On CBS's Sunday Morning, correspondent Tracy Smith reported on the news that John Edwards had cheated on his wife, but wondered: "I guess my question is, okay, sure, so it's going to be reported...But does America care at this point?" After political analyst Jeff Greenfield replied to her question with "sometimes," Smith cited poll numbers on the issue: "Yes, only sometimes. In a 2007 poll, 56 percent said it wouldn't matter to them if a presidential candidate had an extramarital affair." Earlier in the discussion with Greenfield, Smith explained how "In a statement Friday, Edwards said that running for office made him feel special, egocentric; in effect, that the campaign made him do it." Greenfield then described: "If you're running for President, you get -- you get on a pedestal. You know, they -- motorcades happen for you and you get the adulation of crowds." However, he also asserted: "The one thing you probably can't do is to cheat."

Following that statement, Smith looked back at history and seemed to lament the coverage of politician's infidelities: "It wasn't always this way. Grover Cleveland served two terms after a scandal in which he was said to have fathered a child. Much has been made of Franklin Roosevelt's romance with Lucy Mercer and others. And JFK -- well, we all know that song" [Clip of Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to JFK]. Greenfield explained: "...the rules have changed is that the press, which never used to cover private matters, does." Smith added: "...reporters knew but said nothing...these indiscretions weren't talked about...But somewhere between Kennedy and Clinton, cheating politicians became fair game."

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Monday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Smith did acknowledge that Elizabeth Edwards having cancer might be one reason why John Edwards' cheating is "fair game": "Of course, it might matter more if the candidate's wife was well liked and very sick...In her statement, Elizabeth Edwards said that dealing with the affair was 'a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007.'"

Here is the full transcript of the August 10 segment:

ANTHONY MASON: In this election year, the political world has been shaken by scandal once again. John Edwards is the man at the center of this storm, after publicly admitting to an extramarital affair; a confession that is, as we have come to know, hardly unique. Along with Kelly Cobiella, Tracy Smith will report our cover story.
TRACY SMITH: It's the same old story: the politician, the press, and the sex scandal.
JOHN EDWARDS: I made a very serious mistake.
SMITH: It's been a weekend of new details and new disclosures. I guess my question is, OK, sure, so it's going to be reported.
JEFF GREENFIELD: Yeah.
SMITH: But does America care at this point?
GREENFIELD: The answer is -- I can give you a definite answer to does America care: sometimes.
SMITH: Later on Sunday Morning, a look at yet another fall from grace.

....

ANTHONY MASON: Once Again, a prominent American politician has been caught in a marital infidelity. This time it's former presidential hopeful John Edwards. As we've come to know all too well in recent times, he has plenty of company. Kelly Cobiella and Tracy Smith share our cover story this morning. We begin with Kelly in North Carolina.

KELLY COBIELLA: In his hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from serene sidewalks to bustling diners, the talk is the same: John Edwards, the favorite son, has become John Edwards, the disappointment.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I was disappointed. Very disappointed.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, I'm disappointed but I'm not surprised.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: You know, someone in that high regard and in politics, you think, you know, you want to trust them and believe them, and it just makes it kind of hard to believe anything that he says.
COBIELLA: After months of public denials-
JOHN EDWARDS: I have no idea what you're asking about.
COBIELLA: -the former presidential candidate admitted Friday he strayed from his wife, Elizabeth, two years ago, and into the arms of campaign videographer Rielle Hunter.
EDWARDS: I made a very serious mistake, a mistake that I am responsible for and no one else. I, in 2006, told Elizabeth about the mistake, asked her for her forgiveness.
COBIELLA: The admission stirred up even more questions: When did Edwards end the affair? Who is the father of Hunter's five-month-old daughter? And how did mother and daughter end up out of North Carolina and into a $3 million California home? A longtime Edwards campaign financial backer, Fred Barron, said in a statement Saturday he helped pay for Hunter's move because of harassment by supermarket tabloids. He did not give a dollar amount, but said John Edwards was not aware of the deal. As for Hunter's child, Edwards insists he is not the father and offered to take a paternity test to prove it. Through her attorney late yesterday, Hunter said she's not interested in any paternity tests. And that recent tabloid photograph claiming to show Edwards holding Hunter's daughter?
EDWARDS: I don't know anything about that photograph, don't know who -- I don't know who that baby is. I don't know if the picture has been altered, manufactured, it's a picture that was taken of me some other time holding another baby. I have no idea.
COBIELLA: Edwards' supporters are at best skeptical.
WOMAN B: Just looking in his face, it's like, 'He's not telling the whole truth.'
COBIELLA: At worst, crushed. David Bonior ran Edwards' most recent run for the presidency.
DAVID BONIOR: They feel deceived, betrayed. They put their faith and confidence into Senator Edwards and it was not reciprocated. And so they feel terrible about this.
COBIELLA: His most strident support has come at home, in the woods outside Chapel Hill. Elizabeth Edwards stood by her husband, saying in a statement: "I am proud of the courage John showed by his honesty in the face of shame." Even with a wife's forgiveness, former aides are saying forget about a possible return to public life and focus on family.
BONIOR: The confidence that people have had in him has been shaken, and I hope this story is over with, but I don't think it is. And we'll see.
EDWARDS: I made a very serious mistake.

TRACY SMITH: And so, Once Again. This is Tracy Smith. Another sex scandal, another contrite politician delivering, on national TV, what sounds like different parts of the same speech.
JIM MCGREEVEY: It was wrong, it was foolish, it was inexcusable.
ELIOT SPITZER: The remorse I feel will always be with me.
EDWARDS: The truth is, you can't possibly beat me up more than I've already beaten myself up.
SMITH: Politics is a tough business, but being a politician seems to be, well, emboldening. In a statement Friday, Edwards said that running for office made him feel special, egocentric; in effect, that the campaign made him do it. It's a common affliction says CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield.
JEFF GREENFIELD: If you're running for President, you get -- you get on a pedestal. You know, they -- motorcades happen for you and you get the adulation of crowds. And if you get to be president, you know, all the planes stop when your plane takes off and when you die you're on a stamp. The one thing you probably can't do is to cheat.
SMITH: It wasn't always this way. Grover Cleveland served two terms after a scandal in which he was said to have fathered a child. Much has been made of Franklin Roosevelt's romance with Lucy Mercer and others. And JFK -- well, we all know that song.
MARILYN MONROE: Happy birthday, Mr. President.
SMITH: You've heard it before: reporters knew but said nothing.
GREENFIELD: The reason why the John Edwards thing, I think, is so striking is the other way the rules have changed is that the press, which never used to cover private matters, does.
SMITH: FDR, JFK-
GREENFIELD: Right.
SMITH: -these indiscretions weren't talked about.
GREENFIELD: Right. It was what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
SMITH: But somewhere between Kennedy and Clinton, cheating politicians became fair game. I guess my question is, okay, sure, so it's going to be reported.
GREENFIELD: Yeah.
SMITH: But does America care at this point?
GREENFIELD: The answer is -- I can give you a definite answer to does America care: sometimes.
SMITH: Yes, only sometimes. In a 2007 poll, 56 percent said it wouldn't matter to them if a presidential candidate had an extramarital affair. Of course, it might matter more if the candidate's wife was well liked and very sick. Amy Walter is editor in chief of The Hotline.
AMY WALTER: I think that a lot of the focus of the affair, actually, has been about its impact on Elizabeth Edwards. Obviously, Elizabeth Edwards' story, her fight with cancer, the fact that she's very well liked and has very high regard, I think, is what has really made this story stick a little bit more than maybe it would for somebody else.
SMITH: In her statement, Elizabeth Edwards said that dealing with the affair was 'a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007.' And in an interview last summer, she spoke frankly about facing her own death. This idea that you're getting things in order?
ELIZABETH EDWARDS: You know that when you die, any of us when we die, are going to leave a bunch of headaches for the people behind us in addition to the fact that they'll miss us, of course. And so I'm trying to minimize that to the extent that I can. Got to do something with your day, and that's what I choose to do.
SMITH: Now she's chosen to stand by her husband. Whether or not the American public will is still very much an open question.
GREENFIELD: There'll be sympathy. There'll certainly be sympathy for her. You know, he's got a family, he's got kids of various ages, and you feel for them. We -- I mean, you do. But the other part of it is I think you feel an enormous sense of -- as Jay Leno said to Hugh Grant -- "What the hell were you thinking?" And, of course, thinking is probably the last element in a story like this.

Excuses for Not Covering Edwards Refuted
by NYT's Own Reporting

In his Sunday column, "Sometimes, There's News in the Gutter," New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt takes his paper, and the media at large, to task for not treating the John Edwards affair story more seriously before Edwards admitted to it on ABC's Nightline August 8. Top Times editors gave Hoyt two excuses for not covering allegations of the Edwards' affair: 1) they were anonymously sourced and 2) Edwards was not in contention as Obama's running mate and thus out of the news. Yet both excuses are refuted by the Times' own reporting.

[This item, by Clay Waters, was posted Monday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: timeswatch.org ]

Saturday's front page featured a Katharine Seelye story on former Democratic Sen. Edwards' public confession of a 2006 affair with campaign filmmaker Rielle Hunter. That admission was prodded by a July 22 National Enquirer story about Edwards' late-night, Keystone Cops-attempt to escape photographers at a Beverly Hills hotel where he was meeting Hunter in secret.

Hoyt denied liberal bias played a role in the paper's omission, even though the Times ran anonymous allegations about a John McCain affair on the front page in February:

I do not think liberal bias had anything to do with it. But I think The Times -- like The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, major networks and wire services -- was far too squeamish about tackling the story. The Times did not want to regurgitate the Enquirer's reporting without verifying it, which is responsible. But The Times did not try to verify it, beyond a few perfunctory efforts, which I think was wrong. Until the ABC report, only one mainstream news organization, McClatchy newspapers, seemed to be making headway with the story.

Hoyt forwarded excuses from the Times for not running with (or even checking out) the Edwards' affair story:

Times editors said that when the first Enquirer story appeared [in October 2007] and they could not verify it after fairly cursory inquiries, they left it alone. "I'm not going to recycle a supermarket tabloid's anonymously sourced story," said Bill Keller, the executive editor. By the time the Enquirer reported on its hotel stakeout, Edwards was no longer a presidential candidate and, according to Times reporting, not even under serious consideration as a running mate to Barack Obama.

"Edwards isn't a player at the moment," said Richard Stevenson, who directs the newspaper's campaign coverage. "There are a lot of big issues facing the country. The two candidates are compelling figures, and we have finite resources." He said he agreed that Edwards was "fair game for journalism of this sort, but this hasn't seemed to me to be a high priority for us at this moment." I spoke with Stevenson and Keller last week before Edwards's ABC interview.

END of Excerpt

For the Sunday column in full: www.nytimes.com

But those two excuses don't match the Times' record of reporting. On February 21, the Times blared rumors of a John McCain affair with lobbyist Vicki Iseman on its front page -- rumors by two anonymous former staffers. Bill Keller may be too proud to run with a tabloid's anonymous story, but he's more than happy for his paper to do it itself. TimesWatch's look at the McCain story: timeswatch.org

As for Edwards not being in the game as a potential running mate for Obama, tell that to Times reports Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, who featured Edwards as one of 11 possible Democratic choices on its "Potential Running Mates" online page posted July 7, just two weeks before the Enquirer's bombshell on Edwards. The section on Edwards was removed sometime before August 7 (the affair story broke August 8). See: timeswatch.org

Check TimesWatch for the latest on bias in the New York Times: timeswatch.org

CBS Trumpets: China Gaining Prosperity
'The Communist Way'

On Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen introduced a segment on China hosting the Olympics: "Well, the Olympic games are more than a chance for the world's athletes to excel, they also give the host nation an opportunity to shine. For China and it's 1.3 billion people, the Beijing games are feeding a groundswell of pride." Chen then went to correspondent Barry Petersen who declared: "From designer clothes to new cars, China is getting rich. Democracies once bragged that theirs was the only way to economic success. China is doing it the communist way."

Petersen began his report by observing: "Well, China wants to throw a successful Olympics party and so far they're doing just fine. With plenty of enthusiasm spreading from Beijing pretty much around the world." Of course that ignored the heavy pollution in Beijing, constant protests, President Bush's criticism of China's human rights record and the fatal stabbing of the father-in-law of a U.S. coach. Petersen went on to describe how: "Beijing has the welcome banners out to a half million visitors. More foreigners at one time than the country has seen since the Mongol invasion a thousand years ago." So Olympic visitors are like barbarian hordes?

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

One such foreign visitor was an American tourist who remarked: "I think the thing that really struck me more than anything is just how vast the city is, you know. Our big cities, New York and L.A. and Atlanta, you know, they pale in comparison." It was at that point that Petersen spoke of the Chinese gaining economic prosperity "the Communist way." A clip was also played of one Chinese citizen explaining: "The younger generation are being channeled. Their energy has been channeled into making money, getting rich."

Petersen did make brief mention of Chinese government repression: "Rich, but not free. Religious activist Qua Wei Chi told us last week the police warned him to remain quiet or he might disappear. Sunday, on his way to the church that President Bush attended, he was arrested."

However, Petersen followed that one sentence by going on to tout poll numbers suggesting that the Chinese people are happier than Americans: "And here are some numbers that are not about gold medals. An American polling company asked Americans and Chinese what they thought about the direction of their country. About 23% of Americans said they were satisfied, but an astonishing 86% of Chinese said they're happy with where their country is going. Julie." Chen replied: "Wow, that's quite a number."

The same Pew Global Attitudes Project poll was cited by Matt Lauer on NBC's August 5 Today, but unlike Petersen, Lauer failed tgo note the number was for the "direction" of their nation, not current happiness: "There's a recent poll that said some very high percentage of the people in China are happy with their lot in life. Something around 80 percent. You compare that to polls in the United States that say only about 25 percent of Americans are, what's the root of their happiness here?" Check the August 6 CyberAlert for Lauer's take: www.mrc.org

The Pew Global Attitudes Project poll released July 22: pewglobal.org

Chen concluded the segment by bragging about how well CBS was covering the games: "Well, we take pride in the great job our team is doing covering the games. And to read their own accounts of their experiences, visit our website at earlyshow.cbsnews.com."

Here is the full transcript of the August 11 segment in the 8am half hour:

JULIE CHEN: Well, the Olympic games are more than a chance for the world's athletes to excel, they also give the host nation an opportunity to shine. For China and it's 1.3 billion people, the Beijing games are feeding a groundswell of pride. CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen is in Beijing with the story. Good morning to you, Barry.

BARRY PETERSEN: Good morning, Julie. Well, China wants to throw a successful Olympics party and so far they're doing just fine. With plenty of enthusiasm spreading from Beijing pretty much around the world. The wow factor started with that $100 million opening ceremony. And Beijing has the welcome banners out to a half million visitors. More foreigners at one time than the country has seen since the Mongol invasion a thousand years ago. And $40 billion spent on Beijing is impressing first-time American visitors.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think the thing that really struck me more than anything is just how vast the city is, you know. Our big cities, New York and L.A. and Atlanta, you know, they pale in comparison.
PETERSEN: From designer clothes to new cars, China is getting rich. Democracies once bragged that theirs was the only way to economic success. China is doing it the communist way.
[No Audio, Footage of Tiananmen Square protests]
Petersen: Today, the ambitions of most students are not about changing their country, but changing their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The younger generation are being channeled. Their energy has been channeled into making money, getting rich.
PETERSEN: Rich, but not free. Religious activist Qua Wei Chi told us last week the police warned him to remain quiet or he might disappear. Sunday, on his way to the church that President Bush attended, he was arrested. As for the games, China has one ambition, win more gold than its athletic and super power arch rival, the United States. And here are some numbers that are not about gold medals. An American polling company asked Americans and Chinese what they thought about the direction of their country. About 23% of Americans said they were satisfied, but an astonishing 86% of Chinese said they're happy with where their country is going. Julie. CHEN: Wow, that's quite a number. Barry Petersen in Beijing for us. Thanks, Barry. Well, we take pride in the great job our team is doing covering the games. And to read their own accounts of their experiences, visit our website at earlyshow.cbsnews.com.

-- Brent Baker