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Entire FOX News Panel Defends John McCain Over Confrontation With NY Times While Ignoring The Underlying Issue Of McCain’s Lack Of Candor

Reported by Ellen - March 9, 2008 -

Here’s a perfect example of FOX News bias: Hannity & Colmes discussed John McCain’s confrontation with New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller on Friday, March 7, 2008. But the sole guest was Republican pollster Frank Luntz, offered as usual as simply an expert on “words that work.” Luntz and both hosts defended McCain. Meanwhile, the clip of McCain’s confrontation, along with the parameters of the discussion, neatly avoided the underlying issue behind Bumiller’s questions: that McCain had been caught contradicting himself about being approached by John Kerry as a running mate in 2004. With video.

As The New York Times lays out the story, John Kerry had approached McCain in 2004 about being his running mate. But in a 2004 interview with the Times, McCain had flatly denied even a casual discussion with Kerry about being on the ticket. On Friday, during a public forum, McCain answered a question about whether he would consider Kerry as a running mate now by saying, “He is, as he describes himself, a liberal Democrat… When I was approached, when we had that conversation back in 2004, that’s why I never even considered such a thing.”

Later, Bumiller asked McCain about the contradiction. That’s when McCain lost his cool and a testy exchange followed.

Hannity & Colmes opened the discussion about the incident by playing an excerpt of McCain’s response. But somehow, “real journalism, fair and balanced” FOX News left off the part that prompted McCain: when Bumiller asked, “Senator can I ask you about Senator Kerry? I just went back and looked at our story, the Times story, and you told Sheryl Stolberg that you had never had a conversation with Kerry about being, about Vice President –”

Sean Hannity disingenuously introduced the segment with a scripted introduction. “That was Senator John McCain abruptly responding to a New York Times reporter after he was asked if Senator John Kerry had contacted him in 2004 to be his running mate.” In fact, the question was not whether Kerry had contacted McCain in 2004 but about McCain's contradictory statements about it.

As Hannity saw it, the only issue was why McCain was speaking to the Times at all. With his fingers jabbing away, Hannity said, “He didn’t seem angry to me… I’d be angry at talking about anybody with that newspaper after the despicable, disgraceful way they treated him and his wife and his family. And the only question is, why were they even allowed on the plane?”

If Bullyboy Sean Hannity feels that lack of fairness is a reason to avoid talking to a news outlet, perhaps he’ll stop whining about Barack Obama not accepting an invitation to come on Hannity & Colmes, given the baseless smears perpetuated there. But I doubt it.

Luntz took it a step further by accusing the Times of having some conspiracy to provoke McCain into an outburst. “The New York Times is actually building a case for John McCain based on how they’re treating him. The reporters are not behaving in a way that reporters are supposed to. (by asking questions about McCain’s inconsistency? An inconsistency that FOX News didn’t even bother to include in its discussion?) …(Bumiller) wanted to work her way to get that word into the discussion so then they could write about John McCain getting so angry.”

And Luntz knows this how? His professional bio (which, interestingly, talks about his work on other networks but not FOX News) includes no reference to a background in journalism or psychology.

Even Alan Colmes (whom I like and respect) avoided the issue of McCain getting caught in a contradiction. Instead, Colmes compared the situation to Bill Clinton getting angry at the press. “I don’t see McCain acting any differently, in terms of tone, than Bill Clinton who got passionate in answering a question in New Hampshire and they accused Clinton of being angry.”

True enough, but the fact of the matter is that FOX News also reported on the issue that supposedly caused Clinton to lash out – playing the race card in the primary campaign – whereas the "we report, you decide" network seems to have deliberately avoided the root issue with McCain.

Furthermore, McCain's temper is an issue relevant to the campaign at hand, whereas Bill Clinton’s is not. The incident also speaks to McCain's reputation for "straight talk."

Luntz, perhaps in an effort to prove his independence, went on to offer some other concerns about McCain’s candidacy: his “conservative vote challenge” and his “youth vote challenge.” But when Hannity broke in to say that McCain will be on the show next week for a full hour with Hannity, alone, Luntz said, “And I want you to make peace with him, Sean.” That's quite a statement for an independent pollster to make.