By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 22, 2008 4:24 PM
John McCain's campaign stepped up its assault on the media today as its chief strategist denounced the New York Times.
The broadside was prompted by a Times report saying that campaign manager Rick Davis had been paid nearly $2 million by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to protect them against stricter regulations. Davis is no longer a lobbyist.
In a conference call with reporters, chief strategist Steve Schmidt said: "Whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization. This is an organization that is completely, totally, 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate."
Schmidt also charged that the Times is not giving similar scrutiny to former lobbyists working for Barack Obama's campaign.
Hitting back at news organizations has been part of the McCain strategy. In May, Schmidt said that MSNBC is "an organ of the Democratic National Committee" that "exists for the purpose of attacking John McCain." Earlier this month, Schmidt told The Washington Post that the news media are on "a mission to destroy" Sarah Palin, calling a Times story on the vetting of the Alaska governor "an absolute work of fiction." And in February, when the Times published a widely criticized story linking the Arizona senator to a female lobbyist, McCain senior adviser Charles Black responded that "it's a shame that the New York Times has chosen to smear John McCain like this."
Bill Keller, the paper's executive editor, said today: "The New York Times is committed to covering the candidates fully, fairly and aggressively. It's our job to ask hard questions, fact-check their statements and their advertising, examine their programs, positions, biographies and advisers."
While campaigns "are not always comfortable with that level of scrutiny," he said, "it's what our readers expect and deserve."