McCain's "So-Called" Straight Talk Express

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