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As a Matter of Fact

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 16, 2008; 11:18 AM

The anchor was giving the McCain spokesman a hard time.

"Has your candidate gone too far? Has he stretched the truth with the voters?" spokesman Tucker Bounds was asked. In reply, Bounds repeated McCain's claim that Barack Obama would raise taxes.

The anchor fired back: "But you guys have suggested that he'll raise taxes on the middle class, and virtually every independent analyst who took a look at that claim says that's not true. . . . And if that's false, why would John McCain do that?"

Some hopelessly biased agent of the liberal media? No, it was Megyn Kelly of Fox News.

As the media increasingly push back against falsehoods in McCain's statements and advertising -- yes, there have been some Obama falsehoods as well, but of lesser frequency and magnitude -- the Arizonan's campaign and its allies are trying to discredit such criticism. Never mind that Karl Rove says McCain's ads have gone too far. Journalists must have a partisan agenda!

The Weekly Standard, in the person of Bill Kristol, cited my blog in its lead editorial about the press vs. McCain.

I wrote last week: "The media are getting mad. News outlets are increasingly challenging false or questionable claims by the McCain campaign, whether it's the ad accusing Obama of supporting sex-ed for kindergartners (the Illinois legislation clearly describes 'age-appropriate' programs) or Palin's repeated boast that she stopped the Bridge to Nowhere (after she had supported it, and after Congress had effectively killed the specific earmark)." The maddest of all, I wrote, were liberal columnists, such as Joe Klein, who once admired John McCain and are now infuriated by his tactics.

Kristol, lumping together the mainstream press and the liberal pundits, writes: "Of course, politicians are always trying to manipulate the media. And the liberal media are always allowing themselves to be manipulated by liberal politicians. So why the foot-stamping snit by liberal journalists? Not because 'the press is being manipulated.' Rather, because the American people are resisting manipulation by the media."

When I say the media are going after false or questionable claims by the McCain camp, Kristol retorts: "In other words, the media are going after McCain. . . .'Why? Because McCain is doing well. And because Sarah Palin is surviving -- even flourishing -- in the midst of the liberal media onslaught. When the media get mad, they don't just pout. They pounce."

Kristol takes issue with some of my examples, which is fine, and then says Obama also distorts, noting his accusation that McCain wants a 100-year war in Iraq. But here's the difference: When the press called him on that, Obama stopped saying it. Sarah Palin said again yesterday that she'd said thanks but no thanks to the Bridge to Nowhere -- after every major news organization showed that she originally supported the project. (It's even on videotape.) You'd think she would at least modify her language. But no.

And again yesterday Palin said flatly that Obama wants to raise taxes, prompting a clarification from a CNN correspondent.

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers told Politico: "We're running a campaign to win. And we're not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it." That's their privilege. But it doesn't mean that journalists shouldn't do their jobs.


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