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Why Does the Media Love to Pick On Palin?

The media just loves to hate Sarah Palin. And, if polls are to be believed, the constant media bombardment has hurt her standing among many independents. 

Unfortunately, over the last couple of weeks, even conservative media pundits such as Mona Charen, Peggy Noonan, George Will, Joe Scarborough and Matt Labash see these attacks and warn that she can’t win the presidency. They even buy into the attacks on her judgment, intelligence, and competence. But what these conservatives don’t appreciate is that Palin is being attacked because she is smart and effective, not because she is dumb.

For just how far off base her coverage by the media has been, consider the reaction when Sarah Palin, a Fox News contributor and former Alaska governor, last Wednesday accidentally referred to North Korea as an ally. It was an obvious slip of the tongue and she corrected the trivial gaffe immediately in her very next sentence. The local, national, and even international news coverage was massive, making the trivial error front-page news. A Google news search finds 834 separate news stories run just that day alone.

This is just the surface of the attacks. The media started attacking Palin as soon as she was nominated by John McCain to be vice president and they have continued ever since. Tina Fey's performances on "Saturday Night Live" got people to actually believe that Palin really did claim she could see Russia from her house. 

The attacks have continued unabated. On Nov. 19, just days before the media coverage about the North Korea slip, she was being inaccurately attacked for supposedly being unable to name her favorite founding father, with one MSNBC commentator sarcastically pleading with Republicans to nominate Palin for president. In fact, Palin said that her favorite founding father was "George Washington," for his ability to give up the trappings of power and not making himself a king.

No other Republican gets even remotely similar treatment. One can systematically go through news coverage on this. A Factiva news search covers only a fraction of the news sources covered by Google news, relying more on major news outlets, but it does a much better job of linking different words in a story. 

Thus, in major news outlets, 194 news stories over the last month from Oct. 28 to Nov. 27 talked about Sarah Palin in the same paragraph that they used the words “extreme,” “dishonest,” “unpresidential,” “stupid,” “incompetent,” “gaffe,” or “dumb.” Fox News recently identified eleven other contenders -- in addition to Palin -- who will likely vie for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Those 11 candidates, combined, garnered 27 percent more news coverage than Palin, but had just 144 negative stories written about them.

Of course, Democrats are virtually immune from such coverage in the mainstream media. Barack Obama's intelligence is never questioned, even though he refuses to disclose his college or law school grades, but the list of his gaffes are almost endless. Obama uses a TelePrompter for a reason. Take him telling supporters on May 9, 2008: "I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii . . . ." But a Google news search shows only six news stories mentioning the "57 states" mention over the first three days (virtually all in conservative publications) and only 14 after a week.

Since becoming president, Obama has called Europe a country. He misspelled the city of "Syracuse" twice, even though the word was spelled correctly next to where he was writing it. And he said that the Constitution was written "20 centuries" ago, the FBI was founded "100 days" ago when he meant 100 years, "Austrian" is a language, breathalyzers are used to treat asthma, and that he is working hard to "halt the rise of privacy," not piracy. None of these cases got more than a few minor mentions in news stories in the months after the gaffe.

But slips of the tongue demonstrate neither a person’s intelligence nor their understanding of issues. Obama’s knowledge of economics is abysmal – his emphasis on higher tax rates and spreading wealth make the economy smaller. His health care regulations will cause people to be thrown off of private health insurance, raise costs, and lower quality.

Sarah Palin has been pointing out many of these problems before anyone else. On health care, she coined the term "death panels," and the press attacked her mercilessly for it. But after Obamacare has become law, even Democrats, such as Paul Krugman, are now using the term, acknowledging that Obama care will empower government panels to make decisions on who will be allowed to get medical care.

Palin’s analysis of the economics of health care would make an economist proud. Take how Obamacare creates an incentive for people to wait until they needed care before they purchased health insurance. Banning any higher premiums for those who wait until they are sick to get insurance may be very bad public policy, but it is one part of Obama care that is extremely popular. Other Republicans have seen the polls and refused to discuss the problem, but Palin ignored the polls and made the right economic argument.

What Palin’s conservative critics need to recognize is that any other candidate who posed the same threat to Democrats would also be attacked as viciously. The desire to give up on Palin and move on to another potential Republican presidential nominee is understandable. But there is a reason why the media wants to take Palin out.

John R. Lott, Jr. is a Fox News.com contributor. He is an economist and author of the just released revised edition of "More Guns, Less Crime" (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.