No matter which candidate wins Tuesday, it’s clear the media didn’t just cover this election, they shaped it. To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of coverage and the worst of coverage.
If you were President Obama, you got the best of coverage and photos of you with halos around your head. Your made-up autobiography and “composite” girlfriend were a blip in the news, your radical positions downplayed and the ongoing failures of your administration – economy, fast and furious, foreign policy in general – were all given short shrift in the major media.
Even your massive failure on Libya where four Americans were killed was somehow “utterly contrived” and CNN’s Candy Crowley covered for you during the debates. Every silly thing your PR people thought up from Big Bird to bayonets to binders received journalistic attention.
The major media, on the other hand, turned Mitt Romney into a caricature straight off a Monopoly card. They hollered “Bain” like it was a scene from “Batman,” dug into long-forgotten high school pranks and tried to depict him as radical right-wing, a well as bash him for his faith. A casual comment about the “47 percent” became “seismic” or a “disaster.” Things like the massive decline in the job participation rate and Obama’s $16-trillion nation debt were afterthoughts to news coverage.
To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of coverage and the worst of coverage.
The 2012 presidential election wasn’t like the awfully spun race of 2008. It was worse. The media’s longstanding war against conservative women which dominated the race four years ago, turned into a media-created “war on women” that somehow involved the GOP. Rush Limbaugh’s calling the obscure, money-hungry Sandra Fluke a “slut” became major national news. The vice president saying the GOP wanted to put “y’all back in chains” garnered little notice even though nutty Biden is one heartbeat from the Oval Office.
Perhaps journalists were simply projecting as a result of their own attacks against Palin, Bachmann and O’Donnell.
While it wasn’t a war on women, it sure was a war on truth and truth lost most days. The top issue to voters was the economy, but you’d never know it from the news coverage. Even the GOP primary, moderators pushed social issues to give Team Obama ample distractions from the 23 million under and unemployed.
When economic news was covered, it looked nothing like it had during the Bush administration. This time journalists found or created a silver lining inside every dark cloud. High gas prices weren’t bad, they were “improving.” And lousy economic growth was seldom called a major Obama failure.
For journalists, this election represented the reign of the fact checkers as the media used a new device to try and whine about Republicans. Yet the fact checking, as Crowley showed, was wildly one-sided and more to celebrate Dem talking points than anything. In one example, CNN journalist/Obama press secretary Soledad O’Brien was caught on air reading the Democratic blog Talking Points Memo to fend off a Romney spokeswoman.
But all that bias has led up to the election. Now all that’s left is the counting, and perhaps, the recounting. If the race goes into extra innings, look for journalists to pull out all stops to help their man Obama once more to the top spot. But no matter who wins, the media ensured that the American public lost.
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.