Accuracy in Media

Many mainstream media outlets delivered more-or-less balanced coverage of former President Barack Obama’s return to the campaign trail this week. But the Washington Post and HuffPost could not resist turning their accounts into partisan attack pieces.

With the Washington Post, it started with the subhead.

Under “Midterms becoming all about president,” the subhead read: “Trump’s rash behavior, more than policies, taking center stage.”

The story, by its White House correspondents, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, begins with bias.

“The striking split screen as this week wound down – former president Barack Obama made his campaign-trail debut mourning the departure of decency and lawfulness from the White House just as President Trump called on the Justice Department to hunt down a nameless personal enemy – neatly framed the midterm dynamic.”

Apparently unaware President Obama had directed most of his eulogy at Sen. John McCain’s funeral at criticisms of Trump, Huffington Post headlined its story: “Barack Obama Rebukes Donald Trump Publicly for First Time.”

Later, it explained that “while Obama has in the past blasted Trump and his policies, this was the first speech in which he used his successor’s name.” That bit of trivia would have more significance if Obama and his allies had not previously made a point of not saying Trump’s name out of disrespect.

It then ticked through Obama’s remarks, managing to mischaracterize both sides of one recent incident.

“Obama also addressed Trump’s tone-deaf comments last year, when the president claimed that there were ‘some very fine people on both sides’ during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that saw white supremacists squaring off against anti-racism protestors,” HuffPo’s Sebastian Murdock wrote.

It then attempted to downplay the strong Trump economy. “For all his bloviating about a strong economy, Trump got a reminder Friday about just who started the country’s upswing,”

Murdock wrote before quoting Obama trying to take credit for the economic expansion, which began the day Trump took office.

The Washington Post tried to make the case midterms are usually about issues – the Iraq War brought down Bush; Obamacare destroyed Democrat majorities in both houses – but this time it’s about the president.

“The Nov. 6 election that will determine control of Congress is likely to hinge on the president – the man and his rash actions, more so than his policies – to a remarkable degree.”

It then states, “The spike in Democratic enthusiasm that has Republicans fearful of losing their House majority is driven largely by opposition to Trump personally – his attacks on civic institutions, his impetuousness and the chaos that tornadoes around him – strategists on both sides say.”

There’s a spike in enthusiasm, but it’s not all on the Democratic side. In the Florida gubernatorial race, for instance, the second-place finisher on the Republican side got more votes in the Aug. 27 primary than the winner on the Democratic side. Ron DeSantis, who won the Republican nomination, had 913,997 votes to 591,550 for Putnam. Andrew Gillum, who won the Democratic nomination, had 517,863 votes.

In total, 1,509,960 voted for Democrat candidates; 1,618,473 voted for Republicans.

In Arizona, Doug Ducey, the Republican gubernatorial primary winner, got more votes than the top two Democrats combined – 352,213, compared to 320,661 for Democrats David Garcia and Steve Farley. In total, Republicans received 499,480, and Democrats got 386,954.

But it’s Trump who is dragging down Republican turnout. “The funeral for John McCain was as much a commemoration of the Vietnam War hero and senator-statesman as it was a rumination by official Washington on the existential threat of Trump,” Rucker and Parker wrote.

Yet the Washington Post admitted the president’s pull is strong – his candidates won in Florida, and his silence allowed the strongest candidate to emerge in the Arizona Senate race. He hasn’t handed over the “policy cudgel” Obama did with the Affordable Care Act and Bush did with the Iraq War. Fifty-nine percent say they’ll vote for the candidate who shares their opinion on Trump.

But the paper insists “Two months ahead of the election, Democrats hold a clear advantage over Republicans.”

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