Newsmax's Election, Part 2: Denying the Mandate
The false and misleading claims didn't work, and Obama won the presidency. So Newsmax tried to downplay the magnitude of his victory.
By Terry Krepel
After months of attacking Barack Obama, election night went badly for Newsmax -- Obama defeated John McCain, and did so handily.
Dick Morris attempted a bit of quasi-liveblogging of the election results on Nov. 4, trying to spin away Republican losses and the Obama landslide. Morris' excuses became more strained as the evening went on:
Indeed, that was Newsmax's general theme shortly before and after the election: downplay the meaning and magnitude of Obama's victory.
By contrast, when President Bush won re-election in 2004 with a bare majority of 51 percent of the vote, Newsmax led the ConWeb in trying to portray it as a mandate. As ConWebWatch detailed, a Newsmax email stated: "The major media are very angry George Bush won the presidency by a significant margin. America is not divided. The race was not even close. The verdict of the people is clear: Americans today support President Bush and the values he stands for." Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy followed up by asserting that "the American people voted decisively to re-elect President Bush" (italics his).
Because voting is not compulsory, approximately one-third of eligible voters who meet the age, citizenship, and other legal requirements never even register.
How so? Ponte cited a 2004 statement by Newsweek's Evan Thomas that media bias is "worth maybe 15 points" to the Democrats, which "could give Mr. Obama 15 more points on election day that he would never have won had the media been fair." Ponte continued:
Over the years ACORN and its front groups claim to have added 4 million people to the voter rolls in America. When Virginia authorities investigated a random sample of ACORN registrations, they found that 83 percent of them were fraudulent or otherwise had potentially disqualifying problems.
That claim comes from an similar one Ponte made in an Oct. 6 Newsmax article: "In 2005, Virginia authorities sampled Project Vote registrations and rejected 83 percent of them for containing false or questionable information." Ponte offers no evidence to back up this claim or the source from where he plucked it. A quick Google search uncovered no independent source making the same claim.
Nevertheless, Ponte deducted 3.3 million votes, or 2.75 percent, from Obama's vote total and concluded: "Barack Obama, in other words, if this were an honest election, would win approximately 1 out of every 9 eligible voters. Yes, the media will call it a mandate. Their ethical dishonesty is electing Mr. Obama."
And Ponte's ethical dishonesty is offering statistics that can't be verified, as well as general Democrat Derangement Syndrome.
After the election, Newsmax attempted to blame a downtown in the stock market on Obama's win. A front-page Newsmax promo for a Nov. 6 Associated Press article read:
Markets Tumble Again With Obama Blues
But the article itself began this way:
Wall Street plunged for a second day, triggered by computer gear maker Cisco Systems warning of slumping demand and retailers reporting weak sales for October. Concerns about widespread economic weakness sent the major stock indexes down more than 4 percent Thursday, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which tumbled more than 440 points.
Nowhere did the article blame the market plunge on the "liberal president-elect"; in fact, Obama is not even mentioned until the 28th paragraph.
Newsmax eventually dragged out the old warhorse of hurling accusations of liberal bias. A Nov. 9 article by Phil Brennan tried to make a big deal out of the Washington Post's ombudsman "admitting" the paper was "in the tank for Barack Obama" and exhibited "brazen bias" during the presidential campaign. He adds:
Put another way, if the young Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, a conservative Republican and person of color, was running against an elderly liberal Democrat for president, would the coverage have been so kind to Jindal?
The Post could only hope to be as biased as Newsmax, which consistently defended John McCain and repeatedly peddled false and misleading attacks on Obama. Brennan, for his part, likened Obama to Hitler.
As Brennan might say, to ask these questions is to answer them.
Besides, as Media Matters' Eric Boehlert pointed out, the Post didn't actually admit to any bias, as Brennan claimed; the Post ombudsman merely tallied up raw numbers but made no conclusions about the content of the articles. Further, Brennan ignores the fact that a notable portion of criticism of the McCain-Palin ticket in the paper came from its conservative columnists, such as George Will and Kathleen Parker.
Newsmax went further down the denial spiral in a Nov. 11 article by Kenneth D. Williams, carrying the headline "America Is Still a 'Red' Nation":
A county by county breakdown of the 2008 presidential elections show that once again most counties went Republican (red counties voted for McCain, blue for Obama).
Nowhere does Williams note that this is irrelevant because land masses don't get to vote for president.
After the 2004 presidential election, as ConWebWatch noted, Newsmax was selling a similar U.S. map depicting the presidential vote by county, which showed an overwhelming -- and irrelevant -- red color for President Bush.
Ronald Kessler, meanwhile, took another stab at smearing Obama in a Nov. 12 column that attempted to play scare tactics by making a big deal about "how quickly" Obama could change courts to "a liberal judicial outlook." Kessler writes that Obama has said that, in selecting judges, he would look for candidates who show "empathy" for the weak and underprivileged, then bizarrely twists Obama's words: "Obama wants judges to have a bias in favor of an entire class of individuals. Imagine the outcry if Bush had said he wants courts to side with the privileged."
Does Kessler really think that empathy is the same thing as bias? Kessler adds:
But what really sends chills up conservatives’ spines is the president-elect’s statement on a Chicago radio station that he is “not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts,” implying that he would like to change the courts so that they construct their own laws.
In fact, Obama made no such implication. As the full context of Obama's statement makes clear, he said the courts were not the ideal venue to bring about "redistributive change," and that it should come up on the political side instead:
I think the tragedies of the civil rights movement was, because the civil rights movements became so court-focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing, and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And, in some ways, we still suffer from that.
Kessler thus joined other ConWeb writers -- including Newsmax's Phil Brennan -- in misinterpreting Obama's words in that interview.
Ponte struck again with a Nov. 14 column full of paranoid speculative fiction:
Looking back from 2016 on eight strange years of President Barack Obama's administration, we see that it has been nothing like what idealists believed they were electing in 2008.
Given the false claims Ponte had been peddling about Obama and other Democrats, it's no surprise to see him make the tiny jump to fiction actually presented as such.