Media Bias and Double Standards

The media's scrutiny of Sarah Palin is drawing fire from Republicans. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, once a rival for the GOP nomination, said the media’s coverage has been “tackier than a costume change at a Madonna concert.” Is the media treating Palin differently because she is a woman? Is there a double standard?

A new USA Today-Gallup Poll suggests John McCain got a good bounce coming out of the GOP convention.   The poll gives McCain his first lead over Barack Obama.   The numbers show McCain wiped out a 7-point advantage Obama had coming out of the Democratic Convention two weeks ago.  McCain is now up 50 percent to 46 percent, thanks in part to running mate Sarah Palin.  The addition of Alaska’s Governor to the Republican ticket prompted 29 percent of the voters surveyed to say they were more likely to vote for McCain.  Twenty-one percent say it made them less likely to vote for the Republican ticket.

Palin’s choice energized the Republican base and women voters.  A new ABC News-Washington Post survey shows white women have moved from backing Obama by 8-points to supporting McCain by 12-points.  The Obama campaign has taken notice.  Obama is putting as much heat on Palin as he is on the man at the top of the GOP ticket.

However, the media’s scrutiny of Sarah Palin is drawing fire from Republicans.   Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, once a rival for the GOP nomination, said the media’s coverage has been “tackier than a costume change at a Madonna concert.”  McCain’s chief campaign strategist said the news media was “on a mission to destroy” Sarah Palin.   Last week one of Barack Obama’s original finance committee members said Palin is putting her career above her family.  Howard Gutman told the Laura Ingraham Show that the Alaska Governor should “focus on her unwed, pregnant teenage daughter.”  Gutman said, “this wasn’t a working mother issue, this was a parent issue.”  We should mention that Barack Obama has said anyone in his campaign spreading rumors about Palin’s daughter would be fired.  He says people’s families and especially their kids are “off limits.”  FOX News reports it isn’t clear what role Gutman still has in the Obama campaign.

We’ve heard those allegations here in the WYMT Newsroom.  Stephanie from Harlan posted this comment, “Why does the national media have a double standard when it comes to Sarah Palin, or is it all women?  I can not imagine a reporter would ask a man the same questions.”  Stephanie says she supported Hillary Clinton but is now considering John McCain.  And in a recent WYMT web poll, more than 86-percent of the 417 respondents said they felt the media was blowing the issue out of proportion.  Nearly 12-percent disagreed.

So is there a double standard? Is the media treating Sarah Palin differently because she is a woman, or as some would suggest, because she is a Republican?  Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to George Washington, “No government ought to be without censors and where the press is free, no one ever will.”  This is one of the great freedoms in America.  Men and women have fought and died to protect our right of free speech.  The media is a watchdog for the people.  We should give a voice to the voiceless and hold the powerful accountable.  It is a responsibility I take seriously.

John McCain, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and Joe Biden are running for the two most powerful positions in the world.  We need to know everything we can about them.  We need to ask tough questions about their experience, decision making process and voting records.  What is their vision for America?  And yes, we need to know about their personal lives to some degree.  Your business dealings, beliefs and the people you associate with will impact every facet of your life, including the decisions you make as President or Vice President.  We should ask these questions of every candidate, regardless of race or gender. 

Is there a double standard?  Here are the facts.  Sarah Palin is a self-proclaimed “hockey mom.”  She has five children, including an infant with Down Syndrome.  Her 17-year old daughter is pregnant and unmarried.  The question the media and many voters are asking is can a mother of five, with these types of family issues, be an effective Vice President?  Is it a fair question?  Yes, but only if you would ask a father the same question.   Here is another point.  Sarah Palin is not a single mom.  Her husband, Todd Palin, helps with the children.  What about the feminists?  Where are they in this argument?  Many have criticized Palin’s decision.  It seems a bit contradictory, or is their stance based more on politics rather than women’s rights?

Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee for Vice President.  He has served in the U.S. Senate since 1972.  But shortly after that election, Joe Biden’s world came crashing down.  Here is an excerpt from Beau Biden’s speech introducing his father at the Democratic National Convention. 

“In 1972, shortly after his improbable victory, but before he took the oath of office, my father went to Washington to look at his new office space. My mom took us to go buy a Christmas tree. On the way home, we were in an automobile accident. My mom, Neilia, and sister, Naomi, were killed. My brother, Hunter, and I were seriously injured and hospitalized for weeks. I was just short of 4 years old. One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital, Dad always at our side. We, not the Senate, were all he cared about. He decided not to take the oath of office. He said, "Delaware can get another senator, but my boys can't get another father." However, great men like Ted Kennedy, Mike Mansfield, Hubert Humphrey -- men who had been tested themselves -- convinced him to serve. So he was sworn in, in the hospital, at my bedside. As a single parent, he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he'd travel to and from Washington, four hours a day. Five years later, we married my mom, Jill. They together rebuilt our family. And 36 years later, he still makes that trip.” – Beau Biden

I was only 12-years old when Senator Biden was sworn it to office.  I can not tell you whether his decision was criticized or praised.  I do know that two weeks ago it was praised as an example of his love and commitment to this country and to his family.  That decision should not be questioned or criticized by anyone.  Joe Biden knew then what was best for him and his family.  Likewise, Sarah Palin knows what is best for her and her family.

I spoke with two women about this issue.  They support different candidates but their opinions are very similar.  Victoria is an Obama supporter from Eastern Kentucky.  She says this race is quickly losing its focus on the issues and focusing on insignificant “stuff” that won’t have a flip to do with the economy, foreign policy, etc.   Here’s what she has to say about the question regarding the “so-called” double standards.  These are her words.  “I'm not sure that the media's coverage of Sarah Palin is anything but a reflection of the double standard held by many in our nation. I heard a woman (not a reporter) say on CNN the other day that if Sarah Palin can't control her seventeen-year-old daughter, she certainly can't control the country. (It's a good thing I couldn't get my hands through the television screen. That's why I could NEVER be a reporter--because someone would punch me right in the face for saying things like, "Do you know how utterly asinine that statement is?") What I've seen from the reporters, however, hasn't necessarily been a double-standard thing; rather, it's been what I mentioned earlier: a loss of focus on what's important.
Anyway, these issues you've raised are the pains of a first childbirth, aren't they? This woman on the Republican ticket (and a woman who is a viable candidate) is new territory for us as a country--so we have to deal with all of the issues that are connected with womanhood in general being dragged into the vice-presidential arena. And, like childbirth, it's natural--but it's ugly and it's painful.” – Victoria, Barack Obama supporter.

Lisa is from Tennessee.  She also agrees there is a double standard.  However, she blames the “liberal, biased” media which she says is “blinded by hate.”  Here’s what she has to stay.  Again, these are her words.  "Wait, I thought that N.O.W. (National Organization of Women) was supposed to champion the advancement of women?" "Why isn't anyone in the media asking Barack Obama how he is going to handle being a father of two young girls if he becomes President?" "Why isn't anyone in the media talking about how Barack and Michelle are both on the campaign trail, leaving their daughters to be raised by some other family member?" Yep. Biased is putting it lightly. It's great to be a woman in politics these days...unless of course you don't have a liberal platform.” – Lisa, John McCain supporter.

Unfortunately, all political parties and many of their supporters are guilty of using these tactics when it benefits their cause.

In closing, I would like to share a personal note.  My mom divorced when I was six months old.  My brother was eight.  She was looking for a job and a place to live.  A prominent businessman offered her this advice.  Go home, move in with your parents and sign up on welfare.  You will never raise two boys on your own.  Well, for anyone who knows my mom, you can imagine her response.  She stood up, looked him square in the eye and said, “Like hell I will.”  She walked out the door and for the next twenty plus years she worked two, three and sometimes four jobs to put food on the table and clothes on are our back.  Yes, there were times she missed our school activities, but she made sure we had an education and more importantly a home filled with love.  For me, I will never question what a loving parent, man or women, can juggle and accomplish when it comes their children.

I look forward to your comments.

As always, thanks for making WYMT-TV your source for news and information.  We appreciate your trust.



Neil Middleton

WYMT Mountain News

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“We in America do not have Government by the majority.  We have government by the majority who participate.  – Thomas Jefferson














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