WashPost's Pershing Pushes Biased Narrative on 2013 Va. Gov's Race: 'Conservative' Cuccinelli vs. 'Businessman' Democrat

As the 2013 Virginia governor's race is already underway, the Washington Post is determined to set the narrative early on for its readers, and it goes a little something like this: Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is a hard-right conservative who's too extreme for the Old Dominion, especially in contrast to job-creating businessman Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe, you may recall, served as Democratic National Committee chairman from 2001 to 2005. [Read related posts here and here]

In the December 6 paper, Post staff writer Ben Pershing continued the narrative with his treatment of liberal former congressman Tom Perriello's announcement the day prior that he would not run for governor and that he backs McAuliffe, giving the former DNC chief a virtual lock on the nomination next June. The race is now between "Cuccinelli, a conservative who is loved by his party base, and McAuliffe," a "businessman" who "previously ran the Democratic National Committee," Pershing noted.  The term "liberal" was used twice in Pershing's 17-paragraph story, in relation to Perriello. There was no exploration of the question of McAuliffe's ideological leanings:


Perriello, who held the Charlottesville-based 5th Congressional District seat for one term before losing in 2010, is revered by many liberal activists in Virginia and across the country, and some on the left have urged him to consider a statewide bid. He released a statement Wednesday saying that he had been inspired by last month’s election results.

“In this spirit, I have considered a run for Governor, and am genuinely touched by the outpouring of support,” he said. “I do not feel called to serve in elected office at this time, but I do not need to have my name on the ballot to be part of the fight.”

Perriello, who has a strong relationship with President Obama and was part of several campaign events in battleground states this year, said he will continue in his role with the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, to fight for progressive causes and against Republican ideas he considers extreme.

“No one has worked harder to prevent this extreme agenda from reaching the Governor’s mansion than Terry McAuliffe,” Perriello said in the statement. “I hope that progressives and moderates can unite as Virginians choose between the worst of our past and the best of our future.”

In a statement released shortly after Perriello’s, McAuliffe praised him as “a courageous and principled fighter for progressive values and one of our party’s best spokesmen on issues of economic fairness.”

Even before Perriello’s announcement, McAuliffe sought to convey the idea that Virginia Democrats were rallying around him.

Seeking to assure readers that McAuliffe is a get-things-done job creator, this is how Pershing closed his story:

In a brief interview with reporters after the tour, McAuliffe was asked how he would energize Democrats, who rejected him in a primary four years ago.

“I think we do what I’ve done the last several years — we’ve done over 2,400 events, traveling throughout the commonwealth,” he said. “I’ve spent my time listening to folks.”

McAuliffe said the economic challenges Virginia faces, particularly with looming defense cuts, make his business background especially valuable now.

“It’s a different economy moving forward,” he said. “This is something I’ve done my whole life — I’ve created many jobs. I think we need some new and creative thinking to create jobs.”

So to recap, according to Pershing and his pals at the Post, the Democrats are rallying around McAuliffe, who's a non-ideological businessman with a laser-like focus on jobs. By contrast,  "firebrand" tea Party favorite Cuccinelli has burned bridges with the more moderate Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and risks being too extreme for the swing state's moderate suburban voters.

Expect this drumbeat to continue and grow louder as we move towards the November 2013 gubernatorial election.

Campaigns & Elections Media Bias Debate Labeling Washington Post Virginia Government & Press Ben Pershing Ken Cuccinelli Terry McAuliffe Tom Perriello