"No wonder Republicans are livid with the early coverage of the 2012 general election campaign," reads a line in Politico's much-discussed, indirectly argued story today headlined "To GOP, blatant bias in vetting."
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The bias complaints in the piece are ostensibly coming from the mouths of Republicans, but the premise of the article is that in fact Mitt Romney has come in for rougher treatment that Barack Obama this cycle, with particular attention paid to The Washington Post's handling of pieces about Obama and Romney when they were in high school. (The Obama story, which ran inside the paper, wasn't new, and had leaked and gone viral by the time the Post got around to printing it; the Romney story had never been reported before, and Politico extensively covered it after it broke.)
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The piece also talks about pro-Obama bias at The New York Times.
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The lead quote in the story comes from the former governor and longtime Republican operative and lobbyist Haley Barbour, who says, “The New York Times has given Obama the longest wet kiss in political history, and they have done him a favor again."
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The accusation is presented as something extraordinary. But it is pretty precisely the opposite.
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During the 2000 primary, he saw the Times sneak one on a Republican.
"The New York Times gives Senator McCain a big wet kiss on the front page every day," Barbour said then, when he was backing George W. Bush. "The liberal media would love to move the Republican Party to the left, and they think McCain is the vehicle.”
After the primary, Barbour noticed the media going around with Al Gore.
"Who would be surprised that the liberal media elite is favorable to Gore and antagonistic to Bush?" he asked on CNN. "There's nothing new about that. However, the voters have a lot more sense than the media gives them credit for. This is borne out by the fact Gore has had a big wet kiss from the media for a month, Bush has had the worse media coverage imaginable, and two of the three big national tracking polls still show Bush ahead."
Barbour saw the wet kisses again in 2008.
By the time Obama won in November, Barbour had already declared it the "longest wet kiss in American history."
The kiss kept going through the coverage of health care reform.
"I mean since this thing passed last weekend, we've been seeing the longest wet kiss in political history given to the Obama administration by the liberal media league, and every day it goes by it gets sloppier," he told Jake Tapper on ABC's "This Week" in 2010.
It's worth mentioning that the Times hasn't been particularly hard on Barbour personally.
In 1982, when covering his unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate, a Times reporter overheard a campaign aide worrying that some "coons" might show up to a Barbour campaign rally, a remark that apparently embarrassed Barbour, who told the aide he would be turned into a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks if he persisted in talking like that.
The Times duly wrote a piece headlined "AGE ISSUE IS FOCUS OF MISSISSIPPI RACE." The article mentioned the "coon" remark in the 15th paragraph.