I am without a doubt a left-leaning voter, and interning with the Obama campaign has opened my eyes to the ruthless culture surrounding this election. That aside, I’ve been completely engrossed in election coverage and the past three debates, and I’ve got a bone to pick with the media.
Every debate has been followed with a fact check (and sometimes in the debate – who can forget Candy Crowley’s correction of Governor Romney in debate 2?), which I believe to be an absolutely vital service provided by the media. Viewers expect outlets to provide reasonable coverage of how and when candidates misspeak, something that should be independent, non-partisan and based solely on fact.
Political advertisements undergo a similar treatment. I love this article — though thoroughly pessimistic, it points out campaigns’ tendencies to overstate, amend or fabricate their accomplishments and their opponents’ shortcomings. However, it shows an interesting phenomenon I’ve observed this campaign – in the coverage I have watched and read, the media seems to be placing the falsehoods made by each campaign on an equal level, regardless of the gravity or magnitude of the falsity.
This article, for example, presents examples of fictions from each campaign as equal sins, which I believe to be an egregious error. It equates the controversial and flagrantly untrue “Work for Welfare” ads that were released directly from the Romney campaign with a pro-Obama Super PAC advertisement blaming Bain Capital for the loss of a worker’s job and health care that culminated in his wife’s death, which was found to have taken place after Romney had formally left Bain. Although I don’t agree at all with the emotional manipulation used in the Obama ad, the two spots are not even comparable in the spread of misinformation to the general public.
The analyses of the third debate was to me by far the worst attempts to compare President Obama’s errors with Governor Romney’s on an equal level. This fact check places Obama’s slight exaggeration of U.S. export figures beside Romney’s promise to impose Iranian sanctions that have already been in place since 1995, and his oft-repeated geographical mistake that Syria is Iran’s path to the sea. Objectively, these statements are not even close in breadth of mistake.
I appreciate the media’s role in presenting all mistakes, regardless of size and meaning, to the public. Factcheck.org was even meticulous enough to point out that only five non-partisan studies support Governor Romney’s tax policy, compared to his stated six studies. Perhaps the media intends for the public to be savvy enough, as the CNN article pointed out, to sift through the “smoke and mirrors” that accompanies any campaign on the national stage. However, I believe all exaggerations and fudged talking points cannot be met with the same amount of criticism, as some are integral to the core of a message, whereas others are simply statistics distorted as they pass through different tiers of analysis.