Jack Kelly: Liberal news media looking out for No. 1, not ethics, Team Obama

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When the president or his aides and allies have gilded, massaged, stretched, twisted, shaved or mugged the truth, most in the "mainstream" media have covered for them.

In consequence, Team Obama's departures from the truth have grown more frequent; the distance between what they say and the facts has lengthened. There seemed to be no limit to the dissimulation, deceit and dishonesty the news media would overlook...

So they put out an ad charging Mitt Romney with the cancer death of the wife of a steelworker. There must have been shock in Team Obama when many of their friends in journalism sharply criticized them for it.

The ad was produced by a super pac headed by former White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton. It features Joe Soptic, who lost his job when GST Steel in Kansas City went bankrupt. GST Steel was owned by Bain Capital, the investment firm Mr. Romney co-founded.

In the ad, Mr. Soptic implies his wife, Ilyona, died of cancer shortly after he lost his job, and with it his health insurance. But:

• Two years before GST Steel was shut down, Mr. Romney had left Bain to run the Salt Lake City Olympics. The decision to close the plant was made by his successor, Jonathan Lavine, a major fundraiser for President Barack Obama.

• Mr. Soptic was laid off in 2001. Ilyona Soptic's cancer wasn't diagnosed until 2006.

• About six months after Mr. Soptic was laid off, he got a job as a school custodian. He had the option of adding his wife to his health insurance policy there, but chose not to.

• Mrs. Soptic had health insurance through her employer. Her husband's policy from GST Steel was her secondary coverage.

Mr. Romney wasn't responsible for the legitimate business decision to shut down GST Steel, which had nothing to do with Mrs. Soptic losing her own health insurance.

The ad is a total, breathtaking lie.

Mark Halperin of Time, who wrote a hagiographic book about Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign, called it "despicable."

"On just every level, this ad stretches the bounds of common sense and decency," Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler said.

Fact checkers at the LA Times and even The New York Times also called foul. CNN raked Mr. Burton over the coals in an interview Wednesday.

As criticism of the ad from normally friendly journalists mounted, Team Obama backed away from it.

"I don't know the facts about when Mr. Soptic's wife got sick, or the facts about his health insurance," said Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter.

She was lying.

Mr. Soptic originally made the false charge in a conference call the Obama campaign sponsored in May.

"The distinction the Obamans are trying to draw between a super PAC ad and a campaign ad are meaningless in this case," Mr. Halperin said.

"They're not telling the truth," said Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC.

Other bigfoot journalists still bury news unhelpful to Mr. Obama.

As of this writing, ABC, CBS and NBC have yet to report on the controversy on their nightly news programs.

But the number who have reported on it is significant.

I suspect the media outrage is a one-time thing. But there are three reasons why more liberal journalists may cast a jaundiced eye at other dubious claims from Team Obama:

• This was a blow so low it offends what remains of their sense of fair play.

• The ad indicates more about Team Obama than its lack of character. Confident people don't lie so brazenly. Competent people don't lie so stupidly. Some journalists may conclude the president is likely a loser, no matter how much they spin on his behalf.

• If they keep trying to cover for Team Obama, their credibility will suffer, and they can't afford to lose more of it. A poll released Thursday indicated 78 percent of respondents have an unfavorable opinion of the political media. CNN has lost so many viewers, it's just a step away from bankruptcy.

If the news media no longer will let Team Obama lie with impunity, I suspect it will be more because of their survival instinct than because they've rediscovered ethics.

jackkelly

This column originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe, go to http://old.post-gazette.com/trypress/ Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1476.


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