Maverick No Matter What

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Isabel Macdonald Communications Director 212 633 6700 x 310 imacdonald@fair.org

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)

Maverick No Matter What

McCain's VP Pick Just Reinforces Media Storyline

NEW YORK - 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.

 

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