McCain campaign convened a conference call today with reporters to complain about being called liars and to criticize the media for underreporting potentially damaging stories about Obama.
Ben Smith at Politico writes that McCain chief strategist Steve Schmidt lied repeatedly during the call, forcing many reporters to conclude that McCain’s campaign staff can’t even tell the truth when they try. In fact, they misrepresented facts even when they didn’t need to. For example:
- Joe Biden’s son Hunter has worked in the past as a lobbyist. This could be potentially damaging to Obama since Obama rails against lobbyists. But instead of sticking to the truth, Schmidt claimed that Hunter Biden “is a lobbyist for the credit card and banking industry”, which is wrong. Hunter once worked for the credit-card issuing bank MBNA, but he never lobbied for them.
- Talking about William Ayers, Schmidt said that “Senator Obama began his political career in its early stages raising money at Ayers’ house”. While it is true that Obama once held a campaign event at Ayers’ house, it was not a fundraiser and Ayers did not contribute any money to Obama’s first political race.
- Schmidt also complained that one of Obama’s campaign surrogates, Florida Rep. Robert Wexler, had accused Sarah Palin of being a Nazi sympathizer. “Where is the outrage to that aspersion on the part of some of the biggest newspapers in the country?” Well, there isn’t any outrage, because Wexler never called Palin a Nazi sympathizer. He called Pat Buchanan a Nazi sympathizer, and attacked Palin for allegedly having endorsed him. (Palin denied ever having endorsed Buchanan, even though Buchanan claimed that she did).
When asked by reporters to back up their claims, McCain aides could not provide any evidence.
A separate report about the call talks about Schmidt slamming the New York Times over an article they published exposing that McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, was paid nearly $2 million to run an anti-regulatory advocacy group set up by now-failing mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Schmidt ranted that the Times is no longer a journalistic entity and has “cast aside its journalistic integrity and tradition” in order to attack McCain. Note that the McCain campaign failed to point out any errors in the Times article, they instead resorted to the old propaganda technique of attacking the source.
Joe Klein over at Time Magazine sums the call up nicely, saying the McCain camp has “Jumped the Shark“. In his opinion, the purpose of the call was to bully the press so they will “try to seek false equivalences between the two campaigns” and to distract everyone from the real issues (like the current financial crisis).
UPDATE: The NY Times responds to the attack.