Conservatives, Republicans Omitted from WaPo Obama News

The Washington Post's coverage of Barack Obama's speech on race -- and his stark refusal to disassociate himself from his bilious preacher, Jeremiah Wright -- was blatantly one-sided on Wednesday. Nowhere in the news articles addressing the speech was a conservative or a Republican allowed to speak -- unless it was a "lifelong Republican" who loves Obama and caucused for him. The Post's laborious spinning could be seen in the front page text boxes leading into other stories.

For Obama, there was "How Did It Play? Obama's speech draws praise, including a comparison to John F. Kennedy's 1960 address on Catholicism. A6."

For McCain, it was "McCain Mixes Up Iraq's Extremists: On a trip he hoped would spotlight his foreign policy expertise, John McCain confuses Sunni and Shiite groups. A7."

The lead story by Shailagh Murray and Dan Balz was headlined "Obama Urges U.S.: 'Move Beyond Our Old Racial Wounds.'" The first paragraph acknowledged that Rev. Wright's remarks "threatened to engulf" the Obama candidacy, but the headline cast Obama only as a uniter, not as the loyal devotee of a divider. Other than Obama's speech snippets, the only other people quoted in the story were Joe Biden (positive) Hillary Clinton (positive), and "one Democratic strategist" speaking anonymously that the Wright problem is "deeper than a speech." That's total Democratic unanimity.

Beneath that story on A6 was an article by Alec MacGillis and Eli Saslow headlined "Tacking a Sensitive Topic at a Sensitive Moment, for Disparate Audiences." Oh, well, could conservatives be tapped in this article? No. This is as close as it went: "The speech drew praise across the political spectrum, though some on the right questioned Obama's assertion that his liberal agenda could unite different races."

This was the article in which Obama was compared to JFK, by Baylor professor Martin Medhurst. It began with Obama supporter Kim Baylor, a retired teacher. It also included University of Pittsburgh professor Gerald Shuster (the speech was "stylistically persuasive"); Bill Hamilton of a Pennsylvania Teamsters local; Ira Foreman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who professed Jews will stay with Barack; and J. Alfred Smith, a reassured "friend of Wright's." Another total Republican freeze-out.

There were also two Obama-speech articles in the Style section. At top left was "Internet Congregation Responds in Many Voices," by Jose Antonio Vargas. This is the article featuring Eric Rech: "A lifelong Republican, he caucused for Obama on Feb. 5." He produced an anti-Wright video for YouTube, but the story had a happy ending for the Post. He is now back to loving Obama with a new video titled "Barack Obama God Bless You."

Vargas found some YouTube videos were "offensive, which, of course, depends on who's taking offense. Some of the titles include 'Obama, Wright and Hitler: The Three Stooges!' and 'GOD DAMN AMERICA: Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Farrakhan & Obama." So if conservatives have a voice in the Post, it's reduced to caricatures and snippets. That's a little odd coming from media outlets who are decrying the need for "context" around Rev. Wright.

At top right was "Obama, Trying to Bridge America's Racial Divide: Pastor's Remarks Spurred Need to Address Subject." Black reporter Kevin Merida oozed over Obama: "He sounded, at times, like a skilled seamstress with a needle and a piece of thread, trying to carefully stitch together both a deeper portrait of himself and the nation's racial chasms amid a tight presidential contest." This article was also promoted on the front page, in the Obama text box, with the headline "Carefully Threading the Needle of Race."

Those quoted in the article include liberal former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, "longtime friend and adviser" Cassandra Butts, Princeton history professor Fred Greenstein (more JFK references), and Ted Shaw, a vehement liberal and former head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Shaw implausibly told Merida that his preacher, Rev. Calvin Butts, spoke of the "prophetic tradition of black preachers, in which you can speak critically of your country and still love it." They didn't attempt to explain how a "God damn America" speech shows you still love your country. Merida and Shaw instead tried to blur Wright into the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, but the quote they used was no match for Wright's in its foam-flecked fervor.

By contrast, the Cameron Barr and Michael Shear story on John McCain mistakenly declaring that Iran was supporting al-Qaeda in Iraq had plenty of Democrats in it -- since it was Democrats who were fervently promoting it as a diversion from the Wright flap.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis