Can the US media deal with Republican lies?


by Sunny Hundal    
11:35 am - November 24th 2011

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Both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have so far started airing ads that blatantly lie about what Barack Obama said.

This isn’t really surprising – Republicans are known for lying in politics – but the real question is how the media deals with it.

Watch this segment from MSNBC last night, where Lawrence O’Donnell slams not just Perry and Romney for the ads, but the media for letting them get away with it.

Amazingly, when called out by some journalists for lying in the ad, here’s how Mitt Romney’s team replied:

None of that bothers Romney media strategist Stuart Stevens, who needled the Obama camp for what he called an overreaction to “a small buy on one station in New Hampshire.”

“It is now my goal for every ad we make to so upset the White House that they will force Jay to go out with his light saber and do his thing,” Stevens said in an email, pointing out that Democrats have been more than willing to target his candidate in harsh terms.

There’s no doubt we’ll see more of this over the next year.

It’ll be instructive to see how journalists tear themselves apart in trying to maintain the notion of ‘balance’ to avoid pointing out one side is simply lying.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


This is nothing to what FNC will be chucking at Obama during the next months. And they’re just as shameless.

Well seeing as most of the American media is corporate owned and backs the agenda of the Republican party the answer is no the media can’t deal with right wing lies.

In a corporate state the corporate media are the state media.

3. Chaise Guevara

“It’ll be instructive to see how journalists tear themselves apart in trying to maintain the notion of ‘balance’ to avoid pointing out one side is simply lying.”

It’s a trap. Balance is for moral debates or cases where the facts are unknown, not where one side is either demonstrably lying or is incorrect with a near 100% certainty.

I liked Dara O’Brien’s take on “balance”: “Hello, we’re discussing plans for the upcoming big space station launch. We’re interviewing the head of NASA, but for balance, we’ll also be talking to Barry, who thinks that the sky is a carpet painted by God.”

4. ex-Labour voter

Last time, most of the media referred constantly to Obama’s links to Bill Ayers despite them being extremely tenuous. McCain even had the nerve to go on about it himself.

But McCain’s much closer links to Gordon Liddy were largely ignored.

Liddy, advising Branch Davidians how to defend themselves from ATF agents during a radio show:

“If the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms insists upon a firefight, give them a firefight. Just remember, they’re wearing flak jackets and you’re better off shooting for the head.”

Of course, if you are shown to be repeatedly lying, that will go down well with the electorate…

“Can the US media deal with Republican lies?”

Sunny what a fabulous question – I haven’t had such a laugh for ages.

Perhaps if the media had done their job and not bought into the Democratic spin last time people wouldn’t be so disappointed that Obama hasn’t turned out to be the embodiment of Jesus / Ghandi / Roosevelt / Dr King / Father Christmas.

In general the media should be apologising to all of us for their uncritical approach towards him last time. It was a Presidential election not a relative’s attempt to win a beauty contest.

Remember, Obama didn’t lie he just wasn’t paying attention to Rev Wright’s sermons every Sunday for 20 years. Had McCain said such a thing, or slagged off his dying grandmother for that matter, the media – including yourself – would have been all over him like a rash.

Both sides will lie – Democrats and Republicans.

7. Steven Van der Werf

In the United Kingdom, any Member of Parliament caught lying will be expected to resign immediately.

Any Member who fails to declare a conflicting interest will be expected to resign immediately.

Any member who attempted the crap Republicans are pulling daily would find their career ending within hours.

Our system is in radical need of a total, overhaul, but it makes our Politicians seem paragons of truth and virtue compared to US counterparts.

@Kojak your comment could not be any less relevant. You don’t justify rampant bullshit by saying ‘well, your guy isn’t Jesus after all’. You are, in fact, rampantly bullshitting.

@5 – It sure worked a treat in the referendum!

Steven Van der Werf re comment 7:

Thank you for your message.

You missed my obvious point, so I’ll say it another way:

This article is captioned “Can the US media deal with Republican lies”. Republican lies …… not politician’s lies, as if the Democrats are not guilty of lying whenever they can. It is naive in the extreme.

In addition to that my point focused on the woeful role the media had in challenging the ludicrous spin surrounding Barak Obama in 2007/8. They were more partisan than I have ever witnessed and having encouraged all the ‘Hope’nChange’ rhetoric they will have, in my opinion, undermined confidence in an already discredited system.

Remember all the muggins believing in Obama’s ability to implement a ‘Hope’nChange’ programme – now they are greatly disappointed.

10. So Much For Subtlety

4. ex-Labour voter

Last time, most of the media referred constantly to Obama’s links to Bill Ayers despite them being extremely tenuous. McCain even had the nerve to go on about it himself.

Let’s see – Obama and Ayers worked together, Obama launched his first political campaign in Ayer’s house, they lived down the road from each other and it appears that Ayers wrote Obama’s book. Sure, tenuous. Really tenuous.

But McCain’s much closer links to Gordon Liddy were largely ignored.

And what links were these? The point being that Liddy was not a terrorist who murdered a policeman and tried to blow up the White House.

7. Steven Van der Werf

In the United Kingdom, any Member of Parliament caught lying will be expected to resign immediately.

Sorry but on what planet does that take place? A Member of Parliament is only in trouble if they really lie in their election adverts – and it has only happened once in modern history – or if they mislead the Parliament. But Blair was able to get away with the “24 hours to save the NHS” lie for instance. No problems.

But let’s take a simple example – Blair lied about John Major tucking his vest into his underwear. It is a lovely lie. Almost impossible to rebut without looking a bigger fool. Did anyone resign? No. End of story.

Any Member who fails to declare a conflicting interest will be expected to resign immediately.

So go on, explain Peter Mandelstam’s career to me.

The Republicans do not seem to be lying to me.

11. Leon Wolfson

@10 – “The Republicans do not seem to be lying to me.”

Well of course not, they’re Ideologically Correct (TM)

Both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have so far started airing ads that blatantly lie about what Barack Obama said.

The Mitt Romney one wins double points, because it lies about what Obama said, by quoting Obama lying about what John McCain said. It’s like an endlessly recursive political bullshit video.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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