In a little more than two weeks, Californians will decide whether to oust liberal Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and install the winning candidate among the more than 40 hopefuls on the ballot. Right now, the leader of the pack to replace Newsom is conservative talk show host Larry Elder, so he’s currently the main target of the liberal media’s venom (see here, here and here).
Back in 2003, when Californians were asked to recall another Democratic Governor, Gray Davis, the media aimed their last-minute artillery at Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, then leading the race to replace. MRC tracked the coverage and offered this analysis on the eve of the vote under the headline: “Smearing Arnold So Democrats Don’t Have To; Brokaw Questions Schwarzenegger’s “Criminal” Conduct, While ABC Has Yet to Fix Hitler Misquote.”
As we wrote 18 years ago (October 6, 2003):
Arnold Schwarzenegger is no conservative, but the liberal media are smearing him as if he were. The same broadcast networks that flinched when faced with credible charges that Democratic darling Bill Clinton actually raped a woman during his 1978 Arkansas gubernatorial campaign are scrambling to give free airtime to women who charge Schwarzenegger with unwanted groping.
“I don’t remember all the details of Juanita Broaddrick,” CBS anchor Dan Rather told FNC’s Bill O’Reilly in 2001 about the woman who alleged Clinton raped her, “but I will say that — and you can castigate me if you like — when the charge has something to do with somebody’s private sex life, I would prefer not to run any of it.”
[ABC’s] Peter Jennings interviewed both Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, the incumbent whose poor performance stimulated the recall effort in the first place. In excerpts shown on Sunday’s This Week and today’s Good Morning America, Jennings’ sole focus was Arnold’s alleged sexual misbehavior:
“It cannot be easy to spend the last few days of this campaign having to deal constantly with being called a serial groper or a serial abuser of women,” Jennings told the GOP candidate, as if ABC had done nothing to help promote the story. After Schwarzenegger called the last minute charges “campaign trickery” and “dirty campaigning,” Jennings argued with him: “But why is it dirty campaigning?”
In his interview with Davis, shown only on This Week, Jennings did not confront Davis with any aspect of his own record, instead inviting the Governor to do a little negative campaigning. He asked Davis, “What drives you crazy about Schwarzenegger?” and, “What does it say about California, what does it say about America that a movie actor/businessman can emerge onto the scene with such power and put you in such jeopardy?”
NBC’s Tom Brokaw interviewed Arnold and he, too, pushed the Democrats’ scandal line. “Based on their descriptions, in many states what you did would be criminal, it would be sexual assault of some kind,” he scolded in an excerpt shown on Sunday’s Dateline and Monday’s Today, with more promised for Nightly News.
ABC’s Linda Douglass lobbed the nastiest mudball on Thursday’s World News Tonight when she misquoted Schwarzenegger as saying once of Hitler, “I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it,” even displaying the offensive quote on the screen.
In reality, Arnold had said “I don’t admire him for what he did with it.” Don’t admire — huge difference. The New York Times, which ran the same bad quote in its early Friday editions, rapidly corrected the error after talking to George Butler, whose book proposal was the original source of the quote.
But Douglass let the smarmy charge linger, ignoring the error in her story for Friday’s World News Tonight. On Sunday’s This Week Douglass refused to acknowledge an error, only noting that Butler had a less anti-Arnold interpretation and not hinting at her own faulty reporting.
During Clinton’s impeachment scandal, ABC was embarrassed by news that Douglass was a close friend of Webster Hubbell who served as a top-ranking Clinton Justice Department official before he was convicted of embezzlement. Is it any coincidence that Douglass is pushing exactly the kind of news California Democrats most wish to read right now?
A couple of footnotes: Despite the media’s best efforts, Davis lost the recall and Schwarzenegger replaced him as governor; elected to a full term in 2006, he served a total of seven years in office. As for Linda Douglass, the ABC reporter, she went on to serve as a spokeswoman for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and later as Communications Director for the White House’s Health Reform Office under President Obama.