Accusations of anti-Romney bias spark a media firestorm

Published: Friday, June 1 2012 8:14 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this May 8, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Lansing, Mich.

Carlos Osorio, Associated Press

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As its site-leading story Thursday morning, Politico published an article accusing both the New York Times and Washington Post of exhibiting a strong anti-Republican bias this month.

"No wonder Republicans are livid with the early coverage of the 2012 general election campaign," Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen wrote. "To them, reporters are scaring up stories to undermine the introduction of Mitt Romney to the general election audience — and once again downplaying ones that could hurt the president. … Republicans cry 'bias' so often it feels like a campaign theme. It is, largely because it fires up conservatives and diminishes the punch of legitimate investigative or narrative journalism. But it also is because it often rings true, even to people who don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh."

Specifically, Politico challenged the recent placement of a Times story about Ann Romney's expensive horse-riding hobby and the Post's revelations that Mitt Romney bullied his classmates in high school — both of which are considered negative toward Romney, and both of which landed on the front page of the respective publications. Conversely, last week the New York Times and Washington Post buried potentially damning revelations about President Barack Obama's prolific marijuana usage during college on pages A15 and A6, respectively.

Thereafter the blogosphere erupted, as high-profile publications weighed in on Politico's charges. A sampling of that reaction:

Huffington Post: "The Politico story resembles a classic Washington beat-sweetener, the type of piece reporters write to curry favor with and access to potential sources. In this case, Politico's slamming of rival publications as biased serves to suggest that it will give Republicans, including Romney, a fairer shake."

New York Magazine: "Brownnosing Politico A-team Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei have a real gem today called 'To GOP, blatant bias in vetting,' in which they allow Republicans to once again essentially ask: If our nation's newspapers love Barack Obama so much, why don't they marry him?"

Talking Points Memo: "Politico is a bit notorious for using its news pages to attack key rivals, whether that’s in pieces like this or pieces nominally slotted as ‘media’ coverage. Not surprisingly, one political news publication is not in a great position to disinterestedly critique its rivals. … So Politico is the golden mean against which all competitors are judged as falling short. Every publication is a business. And every business does positioning. But that’s better left to press releases and marketing than sock-puppetting news articles."

GQ magazine: "This Politico story was written by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, two people at the very top of the organization's masthead. It's effectively an unsigned house editorial. And it levied a charge of journalistic malpractice at two of Politico's biggest rivals. The house position of Politico, as evidenced by this piece, is that they are fair and their chief competition is not. It's a thinly disguised, fundamentally craven argument for Politico's superiority in the world of political coverage. Let's call this article for what it was. It wasn't journalism. It was business."

Per the Huffington Post, both the Times and Post refuted the Politico article:

Times political reporter Richard Stevenson said in a statement, "Since the very first stirrings of the 2008 campaign, the Times has exhaustively and aggressively covered nearly every aspect of Barack Obama's story. To suggest that we've pulled our punches or tilted coverage in his favor or against his opponents just is not supported by the facts."

Later on Thursday, Post national editor Kevin Merida provided a lengthy response to Politico's claims, pointing out that his paper is "criticized and complimented for our reporting by both sides of the political divide, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives."

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