The Media’s Truth-Telling Double Standard is Penalizing Democrats

Last updated on February 9th, 2013 at 01:11 am

The double standard for truth-telling by politicians on the Left and the Right has become so ubiquitous that everyone just accepts it as standard operating procedure. Democrats may stretch the truth from time to time, and, like anybody in a debate, select facts and data that support their argument while underemphasizing those that don’t; but Republicans blatantly lie constantly. Yet while the Democrat will be hammered in the media for a slightly skewed assertion, the Republican’s outright fabrication will go unchallenged. This dynamic has again played out with some ads being pulled for “falsifying facts”, while others are allowed to continue to run, despite complaints that they distorted reality.

This week, local CBS affiliate, WCCO, in the Twin Cities decided to pull campaign ads against tea partier Chip Cravaak, freshman representative from Minnesota’s 8th district. The ads, costing $250,000, were supposed to run for two-weeks. They were purchased by the House Majority PAC, an organization dedicated to helping Democrats win control of the House of Representatives. WCCO pulled the ad after the Cravaak campaign wrote a letter and complained to the station about the ad. They said that the content of the ad “defamed” the tea partier. The ad was calling him out for charging constituents to attend one of his “town halls.” Cravaak’s rebuttal is that the money charged was for lunch that was served at the meeting. However, you couldn’t skip lunch; you had to pay for it. So, in essence, it’s true. If you wanted to attend this meeting, you had to pay. Now, if you were being completely objective, you would probably grant that Cravaak had other town hall meetings for which he charged no fee. But since when are campaign ads designed to be objective?

But, this isn’t the first time that a Republican has successfully gotten a station to pull an ad that he didn’t like. Senator Jim DeMint got NBC affiliate, WBCD, in Charleston, SC to pull an ad he didn’t like either. In this case, the ad targeted his history of opposing gay teachers in public schools. In the beginning of the ad in question, a voice asks, “What if you saw this headline [a mocked up newspaper flashes on the screen]: Senator Jim DeMint: Jews Should Not Teach Public School? You wouldn’t tolerate such blatant prejudice and persecution. Substitute the word ‘gay’ and the reality is, you do.” DeMint claimed that the headline made him seem anti-Semitic.

Conversely, Chris Murphy, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut, had asked for an inaccurate ad to be pulled from NBC-Connecticut and FOX affiliate WTIC. The ad claimed that Murphy was the recipient of more hedge fund money than any other Democrat in Congress. Even the people who put out the ad, his opponent, Republican Susan Bysiewicz, have since admitted it’s not true. But according to the Hartford-Courant, Charles J. Sennet, assistant general counsel for Tribune Co., which owns both WTIC-TV and The Hartford Courant, turned down the Murphy campaign’s request saying, “Under the Communications Act…a television station is forbidden to refuse to broadcast a candidate advertisement based on its content. This is so whether the advertisement is positive or negative and even if it contains falsehoods…Refusing to air the announcement because it is false and misleading would be clearly unlawful under applicable federal law and FCC rules.” Oh really, I guess WCCO in the Twin Cities and WBCD in Charleston didn’t get the memo.

According to the Hartford-Courant, the response to the Murphy campaign was no different from the General Manager of NBC-Connecticut, David Doebler, who said, “The federal law including statutes and [Federal Communications Commission] regulations prohibit the station [from editing] any ads sponsored by legally qualified federal candidates. As the law states, we have to run their ad [and] cannot edit the ad and because that’s the law, we do it by the book.” Not sure why he kept emphasizing editing; Murphy wanted the ad pulled entirely.

So, it seems if a Republican wants an ad pulled because they believe it contains falsehoods, the media doesn’t see any conflict with the Communications Act, federal, or FCC laws, but if a Democrat does, then by God, those laws apply. It’s part of the commonplace pattern of “what’s good for the Republican doesn’t apply for the Democrat.” Romney’s shameless lying about Obama in ads claiming that he lifted the work requirement for welfare, when in fact no such thing occurred continues unabated. On the other hand, when a Democrat PAC ran an ad linking Romney’s policies with their eventual consequences, the much-panned commercial about a man losing his wife to cancer after losing their healthcare following outsourcing-related layoffs, the media pounced. It happened to Obama before during his 2008 campaign when his connection to Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers was constantly the focus of media attention whereas John McCain’s connection to extremist pastors Hagee and Parsley, as well as relationship with G. Gordon Liddy, went largely unreported.

It’s not that uncommon to see a right winger with conservative bumper stickers. One of these states in large letters, “I don’t believe the liberal media.” Of course, liberals know that this notion of a liberal media is a myth. It’s reality that has a liberal bias.  Even if Fox News weren’t handy as a ready-made example of ubiquitous right wing media, any thinking person would immediately notice a pattern in Sunday morning political talk shows on both network and cable news where Republicans and conservative pundits dominate the airways.

Of course, it happens across every type of political situation, not just political ads. As Rachel Maddow has explained when she brought the use of IOKYIAR (It’s OK if You’re a Republican) into even broader use, Republicans simply get away with bad behavior, hypocrisy, and extensive lying, while at the same time, milder versions of the same acts by Democrats are clobbered by the media and others. Remarkably, if you Google media, double standard, and Republicans, all you get are articles that allege the bias is against them. It’s like they figure if they throw out the accusation first, people won’t notice that they’ll actually the perpetrators. Will this ridiculous double standard ever be undone? So far, it’s not looking like it.

Deborah is a former social work professor who taught social policy, mental health policy, and human diversity. Proud to be called liberal, she happily pays her taxes after being raised in a home that needed long-term welfare. Contrary to the opinion of many, she is living proof that government investment in children leads them out of poverty having received services from Head Start to Pell Grants. Deborah works with low-income, first generation, and disabled college students who are at high-risk for dropping out of college in a program designed to help them graduate. She lives with her husband, stepson, and an aging cat.

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