Two segments on CNN’s Election Center program on Monday and Tuesday evenings which aimed to fact-check political ads by the McCain and Obama campaigns were followed by panel discussions in which contributor Roland Martin (on Monday) and senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin (on Tuesday) took active roles in denouncing the McCain ads as being filled with "lies" and "falsehoods." Martin accused McCain of "playing in the gutter" and repeating "constant lie after lie." The next day, Toobin stated that "John McCain has told outright falsehoods about Obama and sex education, about the 'Bridge to Nowhere,' about earmarks, about taxes, and the examples we cited in those Obama ads are not even close to the falsehoods that have been said about Obama by the McCain campaign.
On Monday’s program, correspondent Randi Kaye examined some of the McCain campaign’s ads. During her report, she tried to clarify a claim made by a McCain ad which slammed Obama for a bill that would reportedly "teach sex education to kindergartners:" "Did Obama really want to teach sex education to kindergartners? Not exactly. The program in question was intended to teach kids how to avoid sexual predators, says the non-partisan group, FactCheck.org."
However, as CNN contributor Alex Castellanos pointed out in the panel discussion which followed Kaye’s report, "the draft bill which Obama supported when you look at the actually legislation.... [i]t had strong provisions against sexual predators, but it also had the SIECUS standards in there, which were 5 to 8-year-olds should be, you know, talking about body parts, lifestyles, and what feels good, and a lot of Americans think that that's going too far. Now, you know, whether he intended it or not, that's what he voted for and that's fair game." SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., was founded by Mary Calderone, a former medial director of Planned Parenthood, in 1964, and has teamed up with the ACLU to oppose abstinence education in public schools and advocates "comprehensive" sex education which includes advocacy of masturbation for teenagers and tolerance of homosexual practices.
After Castellanos mentioned this detail, which was omitted from Kaye’s report, Martin went on the offensive against the McCain campaign:
MARTIN: The bottom line is when you lie, you lie.... What John McCain is doing is doing exactly what he said he did not like in 2000, and what he is saying is I'm going to sell my soul in order to win. And at one point he said he would never do that. But he knows he is playing in the gutter, and you can sit and talk about, you know, one issue about four million. But look, when you lie to say she went to Ireland -- it was a refueling deal, it's called a lie, not a fudge. Going to Iraq -- lie. This whole issue of sex education -- lie. When you talk about any -- it's constant lie after lie. And when you get called on it -- and I'm telling you something, Karl Rove there is smart. I think the reason Karl Rove made the comment yesterday, because he sees how this tide is turning. He knows, and if all of a sudden, if more members of the media begin to say lie, lie, lie, lie, it can backfire on McCain -- very smart by him to try to send a message.
Martin continued to use the "lie" term as he sparred with Castellanos until the end of the segment. In a move of honesty, host Campbell Brown stated at the end of the segment that "just in case anyone was unclear on this, Obama -- Roland is supporting Obama now. Alex Castellanos, obviously, a McCain supporter."
On Tuesday’s Election Center program, senior correspondent Joe Johns fact-checked some of the Obama campaign’s recent ads and followed Kaye’s lead in giving an overall neutral examination. After his report concluded and a commercial break, Brown turned to Toobin for his take: "Jeff, I've got to start with you here because -- start with you here because I know that you think John McCain's exaggerations, falsehoods, whatever you want to call it, are far more extreme than Obama's." Wow, Toobin has that viewpoint? The senior legal analyst replied:
TOOBIN: We do a lot of parity here at CNN, and we match things up, but there is no comparison. John McCain has told outright falsehoods about Obama and sex education, about the 'Bridge to Nowhere,' about earmarks, about taxes, and the examples we cited in those Obama ads are not even close to the falsehoods that have been said about Obama by the McCain campaign.
Later in the segment, former Mitt Romney presidential campaign spokesman Kevin Madden brought up the issue of the specifics in Obama’s sex education proposals just as Castellanos had, after senior political analyst Gloria Borger repeated the claim that the "legislation was about teaching children to recognize sexual predators:"
MADDEN: Well, the first thing you have to remember about that charge is that I think it even came up during the Democrat primary, and secondly, Byron York had a very lengthy examination of that charge today in the National Review that documents entirely what is in that bill, and it would be troubling to a lot of Americans to see that Barack Obama supported that.
Toobin brushed off the charge in response: "It was a bi-partisan, non-controversial program."