Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC
Kyle Drennen is the Media Research Center's Senior News Analyst and a Contributing Editor to NewsBusters. He is the co-author of the 2014 Media Reality Check study, TV News Blacks Out This Year’s Bad Election News for Democrats.
In 2009, he captured the infamous comment from then-Newsweek editor Evan Thomas comparing President Obama to God. Later that same year, he exposed for MSNBC deceptively editing video footage of a Tea Party rally to conceal the racial identity of an African American participant, forcing the liberal network to respond to criticism and explain its actions.
His media analysis has been cited by nationally syndicated radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, as well as media outlets including Fox News, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ.com, The Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Politico, National Review, among others.
Kyle joined the MRC in 2007 after graduating from Providence College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science. Prior to that, he interned at the MRC in the summer of 2005. He lives in Northern Virginia and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latest from Kyle Drennen
In a segment that seemed obnoxiously coy, on Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Bill Plante wondered: "...the president has not been out on the campaign trail for Senator McCain, something he offered to do when McCain locked up the nomination in March. So what's up?" Plante later explained: "His press secretary says Mr. Bush has had a lot on his plate the last few months." He then played a clip of himself pestering White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: "So he's been too busy to campaign?" Perino slapped down the question: "I didn't say that. You heard exactly what I said. I know what you're getting at, but I'm not going to play."
Plante finally discovered the reason for Bush’s absence on the campaign trail: "In fact, Senator McCain has gone out of his way to distance himself from the president because Mr. Bush's approval rating hovers around 24%." Plante compared that to Bill Clinton’s popularity at the end of his presidency and even seemed to brag: "Eight years ago, President Clinton, despite his impeachment, had a 61% approval rating. He campaigned for Al Gore and thought Gore should have asked him to do even more."
Wednesday’s CBS Early Show continued pressing the theme that the election is over as co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "Countdown to election day. The swing state showdown continues as Obama appears to open up an advantage in early voting." Co-host Harry Smith cited polls with wide margins to further shovel dirt on the McCain campaign: "New polls out with just 13 days to go until election day. A poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal gives Barack Obama a ten-point lead over John McCain, that's 52% to 42%. A poll by Reuters, C-Span, and Zogby shows the same ten-point spread." Correspondent Jeff Glor followed with a report: "Those poll numbers you mentioned and the math in these states makes the situation look increasingly difficult for John McCain."
Glor went on to describe how: "John McCain will campaign today in New Hampshire, Ohio, and Florida, following a big push for Pennsylvania." However, Glor immediately threw out the wet blanket: "Though registered Democrats now outnumber Republicans in the state by more than a million voters..." Glor also touted how Smith’s Tuesday interview with McCain was referenced by Joe Biden during a recent stump speech: "Joe Biden is sharply challenging John McCain over those controversial robocalls...Following Harry Smith's interview." Highlighting an Obama stump speech, Glor declared: "Obama pointing out that Florida, where he spent Tuesday, and where we've seen those long early voting lines, lost more jobs than any other state in the past year." Glor concluded the segment by observing: "In Florida, and other battleground states, officials say Democrats are early voting in greater numbers than their Republican counterparts, a good sign for Obama."
At the top of Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "The McCain campaign under fire for spending $150,000 on clothes and accessories for Sarah Palin and her family." Correspondent Jeff Glor later introduced the story: "Meanwhile, there's another story this morning that's getting a lot of attention and it's about Sarah Palin, who's gotten a lot of attention herself. It turns out that attention has come at a price." Correspondent Meg Oliver reported: "This is what she's wearing these days on the campaign trail, expensive designer clothes, apparently paid for by the Republican National Committee. Spending records filed with the Federal Election Commission showed the RNC paid for campaign accessories from upscale department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, where nearly $50,000 was spent, Neiman Marcus, $75,000, and $4700 for hair and makeup."
However, in a June 18 puff piece, the Early Show attempted to describe Barack Obama as a common man when it came to fashion: "...if you're wondering about that GQ look, don't expect stories about fancy custom tailoring." That was followed by Chicago Sun Times reporter Lynn Sweet explaining: "I interviewed him. I said where do you get your suits? And he says he bought them off the rack at Nordstrom's and Bloomingdale's." What exactly is the difference between Sarah Palin getting her clothes at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus and Obama getting his clothes at Nordstrom’s and Bloomingdale’s?
Tuesday’s CBS Early Show promoted a narrative of Barack Obama courageously suspending his campaign to visit his sick grandmother in Hawaii, while a losing John McCain runs negative attack ads. Co-host Harry Smith led the show by declaring: "Breaking news. Barack Obama set to leave the campaign trail to be with his ill grandmother. We'll assess the impact on the race, just two weeks from election night." Meanwhile, in a later report, correspondent Jeff Glor explained: "And the latest CBS News/New York Times poll is giving him a 13-point national lead, despite what the Obama campaign considers unfair attacks...The poll showed Obama's favorability rating went up ten points, while John McCain's held steady."
In a 7:30AM news brief co-host Russ Mitchell proclaimed: "...just two weeks before the election and Barack Obama is putting family before politics for two days beginning on Thursday. Obama will fly to Hawaii to visit his ailing 85-year-old grandmother." In a segment later in the 7:30AM half hour, co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked Democratic strategist Dee Dee Myers: "Barack Obama taking two days off the campaign trail, with our latest poll showing that he's 13 points ahead of John McCain. Will that make a difference?" Myers replied: "His grandmother is ailing, he wants to make sure he gets home to Hawaii to spend time with her. And, you know, consequences be damned-" Rodriguez added: "Exactly."
In the same segment, Rodriguez turned to Republican strategist Kevin Madden and asked: "...the same CBS News/New York Times post poll, shows that John McCain's strategies are not necessarily working. I'd like to show you that his favorability, since the debate, has gone down and people cite these as the reasons: His attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin, the top two reasons. Let me ask you, Kevin, is it working to be out there on the trail saying he's a socialist, to put out these robocalls?"
At the top of Tuesday’s CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith teased his interview with John McCain: "Exclusive, McCain one-on-one on Sarah Palin...everything from robocalls to his health." During the later segment, Smith declared: "A lot of Republican pundits in the last couple of weeks have said that your choice of a vice presidential candidate of Sarah Palin has been a disaster." He then asked McCain: "If, in fact, you found out that her candidacy cost you the election, would you still say it was the right choice?" McCain replied: "Harry. Look. Come to one of the rallies with me. You'll see the ignition out there and the passion and the incredible intensity out there for Sarah Palin."
Smith followed up by wondering if McCain’s health would prevent him from being president: "Can you reassure the American people right now that your health is what it needs to be in order to take office and not be concerned that it will become a factor, should you become President of the United States?" To that, McCain offered a challenge: "Have you seen me the last two years? 24/7 out there day after day in the grind. Look. I hiked the Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim a couple of summers ago with my son. Listen. I'll -- listen, I'll invite any of the people who are reporting on that to come out and stick with me and hang with me on the trail."
On Sunday’s Face the Nation on CBS, host Bob Schieffer talked to Washington Post reporter Dan Balz about Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama and Balz argued: "Well I think it's obviously significant. I don't think endorsements ultimately mean that much, but there are two, I think, important things that happened with his endorsement of Senator Obama...the criticism of McCain for picking Governor Palin as his running mate, he said explicitly he did not think she was ready. This is something that is beginning to become almost a chorus in some parts of the Republican Party."
On Monday’s CBS Early Show, Schieffer offered almost identical analysis of Powell’s endorsement: "Well, I've never thought endorsements are game-changers but this just adds to the good news that Barack Obama's been getting lately...what Colin Powell said yesterday and why it was so riveting to hear him, he was saying aloud what a lot of Republicans are saying privately, I think, or at least what I've heard some Republicans tell me. They think the pick of Sarah Palin reflects on John McCain's judgment, they think the campaign has turned too nasty and is not inclusive."
On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez discussed former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama with Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer: "To hear Colin Powell say that he's not sure John McCain can handle the economy, he's not sure if Sarah Palin is qualified, he doesn't like the nasty tone of this campaign, how significant was that, Bob?" Schieffer replied: "...this just adds to the good news that Barack Obama's been getting lately. Things seem to be breaking his way. This just adds to the momentum."
Rodriguez then followed up by wondering: "What do you think privately the McCain campaign is making of this endorsement?" At that point, Schieffer proclaimed: "Well, I'm sure they don't like it but, you know, this is -- what Colin Powell said yesterday and why it was so riveting to hear him, he was saying aloud what a lot of Republicans are saying privately, I think, or at least what I've heard some Republicans tell me. They think the pick of Sarah Palin reflects on John McCain's judgment, they think the campaign has turned too nasty and is not inclusive. I think Colin Powell said aloud yesterday what some Republicans, at least, are saying privately." [audio excerpt here]
After smearing Joe the Plumber on Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith turned to a group of his own hand selected ‘average Joes’ to defend Barack Obama’s tax plan: "I'll tell you, we have assembled a panel of 'average Joes.' Joe the plumber, the most famous person in America now. Well, we have five Joes here this morning, from various walks of life, and we're going to put their incomes to the test against the candidates' tax plans and see how it will affect them all." Financial analyst Jennifer Openshaw then proceeded to examine the personal financial situations of each "Joe" and concluded that four of them would save more money under Obama’s tax plan as promoted by his campaign.
Smith did acknowledge these projections were hypothetical: "...according to the Obama tax plan, and this, of course, is subject to passed by Congress...Talk about a pie in the sky." However, he then continued to assume it would be implemented and focused on the first guest, asking Openshaw: "He would do much better with Obama plan?" Openshaw replied: "You bet, he would do a lot better. But under McCain, what's interesting is, you know, he's got that $2,500 health care tax credit...for coverage, you know, you might not be able to cover both you and your son if you have to go find coverage someplace. So that's something to watch out for."
On Friday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Jeff Glor reported on the role of Joe the Plumber, a.k.a. Joe Wurzelbacher, in the presidential campaign: "The McCain campaign is using Wurzelbacher to say their opponent would raise taxes. Though it turns out, Wurzelbacher himself owes nearly $1,200 in back taxes and his annual tax bill would actually go down under Obama's plan." Glor then added: "Obama mocked the McCain strategy."
At the end of Glor’s report, co-host Harry Smith asked: "Yeah Jeff, we're starting to learn a little bit more about Joe/Steven, the Plumber?" Smith mistakenly referred to Wurzelbacher’s first name being Steven, when in fact it is Samuel, and he corrected himself: "Samuel." Glor responded: "A couple of more things about Joe the Plumber -- Samuel, indeed. He is registered to vote. There were some questions about that. He does not have a plumber's license, though. And it turns out his real first name is Samuel. Joe is his middle name." At that moment, an on screen Graphic appeared with the headline: "The Real Joe the Plumber" and listed the details Glor mentioned. On Thursday, co-host Maggie Rodriguez claimed that Wurzelbacher: "...feels like he is being used by the Republican Party as a pawn to make their point..." but offered no direct quote of any such comment.
At the top of Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez claimed that Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio plumber who criticized Obama’s tax policy, was upset that McCain mentioned him in Wednesday’s debate: "This is the small businessman first mentioned by John McCain, but then referenced repeatedly by both candidates. I had a chance to speak with Joe after the debate and he told me he did not like being mentioned, he feels like he is being used by the Republican Party as a pawn to make their point..." Despite that assertion, Rodriguez never offered any audio, video, or even a direct quote of Wurzelbacher saying any such thing.
However, in the same sentence, Rodriguez did admit: "...at the same time, he said since he has been thrust into this, he wants America to know that he absolutely disagrees with Senator Obama's tax plan. He says it punishes him for making more money and he even called it Marxist." In the report by correspondent Jeff Glor that followed, such criticism of Obama was backed up as audio of Wurzelbacher talking to Evening News anchor Katie Couric was played: "You know, I've always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question for once, instead of tap dancing around it. And unfortunately I asked the question but I still got a tap dance. He [Barack Obama] was almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr."
Wednesday’s CBS Early Show began to declare the presidential race over as co-host Julie Chen touted new CBS News/New York Times poll numbers and proclaimed: "Obama surge. As the candidates head to the final showdown, Barack Obama opens up a 14-point lead. Can John McCain turn his campaign around in the final debate?" Co-host Harry Smith followed up with: "A lot of people say this is John McCain's last chance to really make a difference with just what -- two weeks and several days before the election." Correspondent Jeff Glor reported: "For 90 minutes, John McCain and Barack Obama will be sitting only four feet away from each other, which is about the only thing that's close about this race right now."
Glor later pinpointed the reason for McCain’s fall in the polls: "...independents, where there's been a shocking shift in the span of just one week, Obama turned a ten-point deficit into an 18-point lead. 21% of voters say they've changed their opinion of John McCain for the worse, citing the campaign's reliance on negative attacks and the selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate." At the top of the 8AM half hour, co-host Russ Mitchell reiterated that point in a news brief: "Meanwhile, it appears McCain may have hurt himself. 21% of voters say their opinion of McCain soured over the past few weeks because of negative attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate."
As part of the promotion of his new Bush-bashing drama ‘W,’ director Oliver Stone appeared on Tuesday’s CBS Early Show and co-host Harry Smith gushed: "And there are so many interesting portrayals in this, we don't have time to go into them all...Stunning, stunning, stunning ...Phenomenal, phenomenal stuff." Smith even suggested that some people saw the movie as sympathetic to Bush, though not Smith himself: "People -- I was in a screening of this movie just yesterday. This person was walking out, 'my gosh it seemed so sympathetic.' I didn't feel that way, but your hearing that yourself I'm sure."
In response, Stone replied:
I hear it but I think there's a confusion between sympathy and empathy. Empathy means understanding, and as a dramatist it's my job to understand, to walk in the shoes of George W. Bush as best as I can...Sympathize, no. I do think he's hurt this country. I'm a Vietnam veteran. We should not have gone into the Iraq war. We were in three wars, not only Afghanistan and Iraq, but really the war on terror is a major war. You know, we've had an economic meltdown because of it, partly because of the overreach. And this country is in a very dire place and I'm not happy about it...But, you know, people voted for him.
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and asked about negative attacks in the campaign: "Alright, one of the things that's happened in the McCain campaign over the last couple of days is the personal attacks seem to have at least subsided or quieted down a little bit. Do you think, in the long run, this might actually have been a fatal wound to the McCain-Palin campaign?" Giuliani responded: "I think there's a tendency on the media to blame it more on John McCain and Sarah Palin than on Barack Obama and his campaign but, to me, it's -- you know it's been coming from both sides." To that, Smith sarcastically replied: "Yeah, it's got to be the media's fault." Giuliani laughed and added: "Don't be defensive, Harry."
This is the not the first time Smith has denied Giuliani’s charges of media bias. On September 12, Giuliani criticized the media for attacking Sarah Palin’s experience but not applying similar scrutiny to Barack Obama: "The whole issue of whether she knows world affairs or not, these are questions that were never asked of Barack Obama, never asked of him to this day." Smith angrily denied any such bias: "That's not true. That's not true...That's not true. That is absolutely not true...That is absolutely not true. Those -- all those questions have been asked over the last 19 months." However, Smith himself conducted eight interviews with Obama and only asked two foreign policy questions of the inexperienced Senator.
During the 7AM half hour of Monday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Jeff Glor reported on a couple moments at recent McCain campaign events as evidence of harsh Republican attacks against Barack Obama: "...a few recent fiery McCain campaign moments...Including one where McCain had to take the mic away from a woman who incorrectly called Obama an Arab." Glor went on to explain: "All of it led Democrat and civil rights leader John Lewis to issue a controversial statement, charging the Republicans with cultivating an atmosphere reminiscent of the days of segregation."
While referencing Lewis’s comments, Glor did not describe what made them particularly controversial: "George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights...Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama." It would seem that a Democratic member of Congress comparing John McCain to George Wallace would be a little more serious than one random woman at a campaign rally making an incorrect statement about Obama’s ethnicity.
On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith discussed the presidential campaign with former Bush speech writer David Frum and declared: "There is growing concern among some Republicans about McCain's campaign. They're calling on him to stabilize it." Later in the segment, Smith asked Frum point blank: "Was Sarah Palin a mistake?" Frum replied: "I think Sarah Palin was a huge mistake...Americans can be pretty jokey about their government when times are good, but when times are bad, they want to know do -- can you do the job? And when you have a candidate who so obviously has never thought about any of the issues that are going to be important to the next administration and whose knowledge is so shallow, it makes people -- it doesn't just make people offended, it makes them afraid."
Just prior to asking Frum about Palin, Smith asked: "We're talking about the Gallup numbers, the Post has Obama up by ten points. Three weeks to go. Is it too late for John McCain to make substantial changes and literally save his campaign?" Part of Frum’s response to that question included: "The McCain campaign right now is running a campaign aimed at getting excited the last -- the core 30% of the country that supports the Republican Party, our base, but you don't win elections on your base. You win elections, but with a broad strategy. And above all, when you run an election like this aimed at your base you risk demoralizing and offending a lot of people who are needed by a Norm Coleman or an Elizabeth Dole."
Update: Frum's appearance on the Early Show prompted a discussion between Kathryn Jean Lopez and Mark Levin on National Review Online.
In preparation for a report on the investigation into whether Sarah Palin fired Alaska’s public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, for personal reasons, on Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "Palin on the hot seat. Alaska lawmakers set to release a report today on the Troopergate investigation. We'll go live to Alaska for the latest details on the potentially explosive report." Co-host Julie Chen later introduced the segment by explaining: "The McCain-Palin ticket is bracing for what could be an embarrassing report. Lawmakers in Alaska are expected to release the results of an investigation into possible abuse of power by Governor Sarah Palin in the so-called Troopergate inquiry."
Correspondent John Blackstone reported: "Well, when the Troopergate report is released later today, it will show that since Sarah Palin became governor, her husband Todd repeatedly and frequently had conversations with government officials, all aimed at having their former brother-in-law, state trooper [Mike Wooten], thrown off the force." Blackstone never made mention of charges made against Wooten that he threatened to shoot Palin’s father, tasered his ten-year-old stepson, or was caught drinking on duty. The closest Blackstone came was to quote the man Palin fired: "Although the trooper has a disciplinary record, [former public safety commissioner Walt] Monegan said in a phone interview last night, he's not a bad cop."
At the top of Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith declared: "The McCain campaign sharpens its attacks on Barack Obama using one of its biggest guns." The "big gun" Smith was referring to was Cindy McCain, who criticized Obama on Wednesday for voting against Iraq troop funding. Smith followed by claiming: "But Obama strikes back with his own secret weapon," referencing Michelle Obama on CNN’s Larry King Live on Wednesday commenting that: "The folks out there right now are scared...They don't care about the sort of back and forth between the candidates."
Smith introduced the later segment by proclaiming: "With less than a month to go before election day, the campaign, especially McCain campaign, has turning -- has been turning up its attack on Barack Obama's character." In the report that followed, correspondent Jeff Glor described how: "John McCain's wife Cindy is usually camera shy but with polls showing the McCain campaign in rough waters it's all hands on deck. For the first time on the stump, Cindy McCain targeted Barack Obama...It's another escalation in the attacks of recent days as the McCain campaign questions Obama's commitment to country and his contacts." On Tuesday, Glor downplayed one of Obama’s "contacts," referring to domestic terrorist Bill Ayers as merely a: "once radical anti-war advocate."
On Wednesday, all three network morning shows interviewed Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and offered no Republican counterpoint, punishing the McCain campaign for Sarah Palin declining to make similar appearances. On ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host Diane Sawyer concluded her interview with Biden by declaring: "And we want you to know that we have asked Governor Palin to come on Good Morning America. And, of course, debate Senator Biden again here. And repeatedly, she has declined. Although, Senator Biden has said that he's willing to debate her again, if she wants."
On NBC’s Today, co-host Ann Curry made a similar declaration: "And we should also note that we invited Governor Sarah Palin to join us this morning, but she declined. The Governor has an open invitation to appear on Today, but so far she has not accepted our offers." On CBS’s Early Show co-host Harry Smith explained: "We also invited Governor Sarah Palin, John McCain's running mate, but the McCain campaign declined." Apparently, the mainstream media deems itself as John McCain’s communications director.
On Tuesday, an Associated Press article featured on MSNBC.com and briefly as a top headline on the popular internet homepage MSN.com was titled: "McCain linked to group in Iran-Contra case." The subtitle read: "Organization had ties to former Nazi collaborators, right-wing death squads." The article attacked a group founded by retired U.S. General John Singlaub: "The U.S. Council for World Freedom was part of an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America. The group was dedicated to stamping out communism around the globe."
The AP appears to be getting its story tips from the Obama campaign, as Boston Globe deputy national political editor, Foon Rhee, reported: "The Obama camp today is sending around reports on Singlaub, founder of the US Council for World Freedom, which was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal during the mid-1980s and was criticized for supposed links to Nazi collaborators and right-wing death squads in Central America." The AP article justified reporting on the tenuous McCain connection by explaining: "McCain's ties are facing renewed scrutiny after his campaign criticized Barack Obama for his link to a former radical who engaged in violent acts 40 years ago."
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Jeff Glor condemned the McCain campaign for "blasting" Barack Obama and playing a "guilt-by-association game" by discussing Obama’s connection to domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. Glor proclaimed: "Using a new ad to pile on adjectives, 'dangerous,' 'dishonorable,' 'liberal,' and 'risky.' And using running mate Sarah Palin to name names, trying to link Obama with controversial characters like the once radical anti-war advocate William Ayers and fiery pastor Jeremiah Wright."
While Glor referred to Ayers being "once radical," in a 2001 New York Times article, Ayers expressed no remorse for his 1970's terrorist activities, saying: "I don't regret setting bombs...I feel we didn't do enough." In addition, in October of 2006, Ayers did an interview with the Communist publication ‘Revolution’ and defended left-wing radical Ward Churchill who referred to victims of September 11th as Nazis: "He’s being pilloried for his politics, for being a leftist, for being a critic of U.S. imperialism as it relates to Native Americans. How can we as socialists or as communists or as leftists, how can we leave him in the cold and say, well I’m a good leftist because I don’t talk the way Ward talks. I find that appalling. And I would hope that when they come to get Ward, we all link arms and don’t allow it."