McCain campaign cynically attacks New York Times

[via Editor and Publisher]

It all began with a New York Times article today -- not on the front page -- that tied Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manage to receiving nearly $2 million in payments in the past five years to run a firm defending Fannie May and Freddie Mac and others. It sparked a remarkable conference call with reporters in which Steve Schmidt, chief McCain strategist, hit back at the Times, charging that it is no longer even a journalistic operation but a propaganda organ for Barack Obama.

That led Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, to respond (in note to "The New York Times is committed to covering the candidates fully, fairly and aggressively. It's our job to ask hard questions, fact-check their statements and their advertising, examine their programs, positions, biographies and advisors. Candidates and their campaign operatives are not always comfortable with that level of scrutiny, but it's what our readers expect and deserve."

Meanwhile, another Politico writer, Ben Smith, wrote a tough piece declaring that several facts put forth by the McCain team in the same conference call were false. This inspired a McCain aide to state that Smith, like the Times, was "in the tank" for Obama.

In a piece later in the day, Politico pointed out that McCain is an avid reader of the Times and "has enjoyed a very friendly relationship with the paper and many of its biggest stars – as recently as 24 hours before the Schmidt attack."

Joe Klein at Time's Swampland joined in, writing that Schmidt has jumped the shark here: "[I]t should be remembered that Steve Schmidt is doing this for two (nefarious) reasons: 1. He's hoping to work the refs: if he complains enough about press bias, we mainstream sorts will cower, cringe and try to seek false equivalences between the two campaigns. 2. The more time we spend covering this nonsense, the less we'll spend on the real issues in this campaign."

Also, Sam Stein at Huffington Post pointed out that Team McCain has cited the discredited New York Times in at least 60 emails in its rapid-response messages to the media: "For a party that rails against the New York Times, the Republicans sure depend on the Grey Lady to score political points."

Schmidt's statement follows.

"We are first amendment absolutists on this campaign and the press and everyone who wishes to cover this race from a blogosphere and media perspective is constitutionally protected to write whatever they want. But whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization.

"It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Gov. Palin and excuses Sen. Obama. There is no public vetting... there is no level of outrage directed at his deceitful ads... This is an organization that is completely and totally 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate.... Everything that is read in the New York Times should be evaluated by the American people from that perspective.

"That, it is an organization that has made a decision to cast aside its journalistic integrity to advocate for the defeat of one candidate, in this case, John McCain, and the election of another, Barack Obama."

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey