The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Isabel Macdonald Communications Director 212 633 6700 x 310

Maverick No Matter What

McCain's VP Pick Just Reinforces Media Storyline


When John McCain selected Alaska
governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate, pundits and reporters saw
the move as more proof of McCain's "maverick" nature--despite the fact
that Palin's selection would seem in large part to be an attempt to
placate the Republican Party base, further undermining his
media-sustained reputation as an independent politician who breaks with
his party.

The day after the announcement, a Washington Post headline (8/30/08) declared, "With Pick, McCain Reclaims His Maverick Image." The following day, a Post subhead was "Fellow Maverick Survived McCain's Thorough Vetting Process, Aides Say." On NBC's Chris Matthews Show (8/31/08), reporter Norah O'Donnell asserted, "He's trying to recapture the maverick label." Fellow panelist Howard Fineman of Newsweek
weighed in: "Sure, it's risky, but he had to shake things up, and as
his top advisor told me, this is a maverick picking a maverick."
O'Donnell later added: "All the headlines in the papers were 'Maverick
chooses maverick.' McCain couldn't be happier with the headlines the
day after."

On NBC's Meet the Press (8/31/08),
reporter Andrea Mitchell explained that McCain "has returned to the
original John McCain, the maverick." Her explanation, though, actually
provided more evidence of the opposite; she explained that McCain had
wanted to nominate Sen. Joe Lieberman, but that was "shot down by the
conservative base." The usual definition of a political maverick
involves a willingness to defy a party and its base; for years McCain
has enjoyed such a reputation with journalists, though the actual
evidence for that has been wildly exaggerated by the press. (McCain's
voting record has for years been among the most conservative in the
Senate--see Extra!, 5-6/08.)

For the media, the storyline for McCain seems to be that he's a
maverick just because he's John McCain. Weighing McCain's decision to
choose either Palin or former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, John Harwood
wrote in the New York Times (9/1/08),
"Both choices offered the opportunity to reinforce Mr. McCain's image
as a free-wheeling maverick." For much of the mainstream media, there
is no other way to describe John McCain--no matter what reality is
telling you.

FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.