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McCain's "So-Called" Straight Talk Express

Media Favor McCain's Sloganeering Bus Title, But Dan Rather Chokes on "Christian Coalition"

One measure of the media's uncritical acceptance of the McCain campaign spin is its unattributed use of the name of his famous press-schmoozing bus, the "Straight Talk Express."

A Nexis search of national news outlets found only one news story which preceded the "Straight Talk Express" with the word "so-called" - reporter Julie Kirtz on the Fox News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume (December 8, 1999). No reports used distancing words like "self-described," "self-titled," "purported," or "alleged." The Nexis search included ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, PBS, NPR, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Associated Press, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today.

A handful of the hundreds of reports took the baby step of noting McCain calls it the "Straight Talk Express." Last December, Dan Rather did note in a puff piece on 60 Minutes II: "McCain calls his campaign bus the Straight Talk Express, and he says his number one mission is to clean the special-interest money out of Washington." More often, on at least ten occasions, Rather denied the Christian Coalition the right to name itself:

2/28/2000 CBS Evening News. "So what's behind Bush's sudden reversal from cozying up to the political groups that are in or aligned with those who call themselves the Christian Coalition?"

2/20/2000 Sunday Morning. Rather cited Bush's "terrific and exceptionally well-financed organization run by former Governor Carroll Campbell, also including Ralph Reed of what used to be called the Christian Coalition..."

6/10/1999 Evening News. "The IRS notified the power-ful lobbying group calling itself the Christian Coalition that it is not entitled to the tax-exempt status of a religious group."

9/18/98 Evening News. "[S]peaker after speaker addressing the political lobbying group that calls itself, quote, the 'Christian Coalition,' laced into President Clinton."

4/23/97 Evening News. "The head of the Republican political lobbying group that calls itself, quote, the 'Christian Coalition,' said today he's leaving to start a political consulting business."

7/30/96 Evening News. "The Federal Election Commission today sued the group calling itself, quote, the 'Christian Coalition.'"

2/11/96 Sunday Morning. Steve Forbes "has been campaigning around with his family because he has so much trouble with the so-called Christian Coalition on his right."

9/8/95 Evening News. "Senator Phil Gramm's response to the Packwood diaries today came at an awkward moment. He was at a gathering of preacher Pat Robertson's political group, the one calling itself the Christian Coalition."

5/17/95 Evening News. "The hard-right lobbying group and political movement calling itself, quote, 'the Christian Coalition' got a political payback and photo-op today."

5/15/95 Evening News. "The group calling itself the Christian Coalition is aligned with hard-right stands on issues ranging from gay rights to school prayer, and it's demanding its due for its help in getting Republicans elected." They call this "news reporting." - Tim Graham