by Bruce Yurgil
One of the dominant themes in media coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign was that Al Gore was a liar. That theme was itself a lie; media outlets invented quotes Gore never said in order to accuse him of dishonesty, all while virtually ignoring actual lies from George W. Bush. Inaccurate and imbalanced as that media coverage was, it reflected at least one assumption that seems inarguably true: It is significant, and newsworthy, when a presidential candidate and his campaign repeatedly make false claims.
But it seems reporters throw that assumption out the window when the presidential candidate making the false claims is one the media have long praised for his "straight talk" and his opponent is one the media have begun accusing of being "arrogant" or "presumptuous."
Over the past few weeks, and especially the past week, numerous news organizations and other neutral observers have debunked a series of false claims made by John McCain and his campaign.
FactCheck.org, for example, has called one McCain attack ad "false," said another contains a "false" insinuation, described another as misleading, called another "ridiculous" and added, "That's absurd, and McCain knows it." FactCheck said the attacks in yet another McCain ad are "oversimplified to the point of being seriously misleading," noting that by the standards of evidence the McCain campaign used in the ad, the Arizona senator himself could be criticized precisely the same way. FactCheck called criticisms McCain has leveled against Obama's tax plans "bunk," adding, "He's wrong," and stating that McCain is using a "false and preposterously inflated figure" to attack Obama. They called another McCain attack "simply wrong" and "not true." They said yet another McCain ad "gets nearly all its facts wrong. ... [E]very number in the ad is wrong, except one. ... And even that number is rounded upward so generously as to flunk third-grade arithmetic." And FactCheck called yet another McCain attack "trickery" based on an "inflated and misleading" number that was the result of "Double, Triple and Quadruple Counting."
And that's just in the past month.