DANIEL VAUGHAN: The media whitewashed its own legacy of demonizing John McCain

September 3, 2018

I hope you had an opportunity over the long Labor Day weekend to take in some of the beautiful eulogies for former Arizona Sen. John McCain. But don’t just place your focus on the content of these speeches, or even the number of people giving them — focus on who these individuals are.

It’s a broad spectrum of people, left and right, all declaring how much respect and admiration they had for Sen. McCain. Meanwhile, the media spent considerable time elevating McCain while highlighting his clashes with President Donald Trump.

It’s ironic that in death the truth of a man is revealed. All of McCain’s enemies in past campaigns effectively acknowledged that they falsely slandered the man.

Now, they won’t say that outright. But in effect, watching the coverage of McCain’s funeral made the final capstone lesson in how media bias works.

In 2008, all the people who are now showering McCain with praise were busy running nonstop character assassinations on him.

And I don’t mean just in opinion columns and comments sections. I mean the people were claiming to be unbiased journalists.

Take, for instance, the New York Times. In February of 2008, they ran a story on McCain’s history with campaign finance. It was nothing short of a smear job straight from the DNC.

The Times later admitted to multiple factual falsehoods in the article, and they were forced to run a series of corrections. My favorite correction on that story was one they ran an entire year later that said in part that they didn’t mean to insinuate that McCain had had an affair with a lobbyist.

By the time the NYT got around to issuing their correction telling everyone to stop using their inflammatory reporting, which had insinuated an affair, Barack Obama was already sworn into office.

Everyone on the left and in the media finds new respect for McCain after he reprimanded a woman in a town hall calling Obama an Arab. Liberal media sites like Vox practically fell over themselves using that event to paint McCain as a paragon of truth and integrity for the GOP.

But all you have to do is roll back the clock to 2008, and the left is playing a radically different tune. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) even went out of his way to accuse McCain and Sarah Palin of “stoking” openly racist sentiments, according to Politico, “likening the atmosphere at Republican campaign events to those featuring George Wallace, the segregationist former governor of Alabama and presidential candidate.”

In that same Politico article, the Obama campaign’s response to Lewis’ assertions was to say that McCain wasn’t George Wallace. But — and there’s always a but — they went on to say: “But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night…”

In other words, the Obama campaign said, the claims of McCain’s racism had a point.

And it wasn’t just racism. It was everything.

The mainstream media set out to destroy McCain, his character, and any legacy he had in America. And they admitted it during the election.

In the closing weeks of the 2008 campaign, when journalists were getting blasted for their unfair treatment of McCain, Politico reported:

The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s researchers found that John McCain, over the six weeks since the Republican convention, got four times as many negative stories as positive ones. The study found six out of 10 McCain stories were negative.

What’s more, Obama had more than twice as many positive stories (36 percent) as McCain — and just half the percentage of negative (29 percent).

You call that balanced?

OK, let’s just get this over with: Yes, in the closing weeks of this election, John McCain and Sarah Palin are getting hosed in the press, and at Politico.

And here’s the kicker to that story. Politico’s stated reaction to their report:

“So what?”

Are you kidding me?

And now they want to spend time talking about how great McCain was for the country, and how we should all look up to him?

It’s utterly disgusting to watching liberals throw themselves over McCain’s legacy after they set out to demonize him. If you go back and read the coverage of McCain during the 2008 election, you’d come away thinking: “They treated John McCain exactly how they’re treating Donald Trump right now.”

And it’s not just McCain. The media has done the same thing to conservative Republican presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. Every single president (or nominee) from Reagan, to George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all faced the same attack playbook.

Here’s something else you can mark down with complete certainty: After Donald Trump leaves the White House and eventually passes away and a nation mourns the loss of a president, the media will do the same thing. They’ll talk about how great Trump was on various points, and use that to attack whoever the current Republican president is at the time, or any potential candidates.

Wait for it. You’ll see the media give Trump “strange new respect.”

It’s the same repetitive cycle. If you want the real people politicizing McCain’s death, look no further than the American media.


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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.