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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
Posted 11/25/2008

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:

  • 8:09 p.m.: "If you look at Virginia and Kentucky, it looks like a narrow McCain victory. If you look at Florida and Indiana, it looks like a big Obama win. All four states have less than a quarter of the vote in, so we can't jump to conclusions. ... On Senate races, Sue Collins' win in Maine is important. That indicates perhaps that the Dems won't reach 60 votes."
  • 8:41 p.m.: "With McCain doing better than expected in Kentucky and Virginia, and perhaps in Georgia, it looks good for him. But Florida is the fly in the ointment."
  • 8:52 p.m.: "One thing is clear at this point: The polls were wrong!!! Obama may still win, but he is not winning by the margins the polls predicted. In state after state, it is obvious that McCain is doing better than predicted. ... Until we see how McCain does in North Carolina and Florida (he has to win both to win the election), we cannot see how the race will go nationally. But it is clear that this is no blowout as the polls had predicted."
  • 8:58 p.m.: "Fox News and Newsmax report that exit polls are 5 points to 10 points more pro Obama than the actual vote. This election could be very, very close." Morris' headline: "Bradley Effect Is Real Tonight."
  • 9:25 p.m.: "It would appear that Obama is going to win, although not by the margins that had been predicted."
  • 9:37 p.m.: "So at this point my guess would be, just projecting out, that you will obviously have a Democratic gain in the Senate. They also picked up Virginia. But I do believe it’s not going to be a 60-vote Senate. I think it will be a 56- to 58-vote Senate. That of course means you are going to have a strong Democratic majority and Republicans will have a hard time mounting a filibuster, but you can’t actually count it out. I think the Democratic gains in the Senate are less than their optimists had predicted."

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).

Lowell Ponte -- he of the numerous misleading and false attacks on Obama before the election -- tried some pre-emptive mandate-squashing in a Nov. 3 article:

Because voting is not compulsory, approximately one-third of eligible voters — who meet the age, citizenship, and other legal requirements — never even register.

Of the remaining two-thirds, on a typical national Election Day only half of us — perhaps a bit more this year — who have registered bother to vote.

And of this one-third of eligible voters casting ballots, only about half will vote for the winner.

This means that the winner will win only about one-sixth of the potential ballots of eligible voters, and no matter how you slice this, it is hard for the winner to call his less-than-17 percent of eligible votes a mandate.

But in Barack Obama's case, his victory will carry even less of a mandate than this.

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.

Multiply the 4 million names ACORN registered by 83 percent — and, voila, we get approximately 3.3 million potentially fraudulent votes that might be cast for Barack Obama.

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

Uncertain over the direction of a liberal president-elect and reeling from job losses and poor outlooks from leading companies, the market has plunged over the last two days. On Friday, automakers are expected to announce huge losses and more job cuts that will only make the challenge greater for Barack Obama.

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?

To ask the question is to answer it.

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.

At least the Post has an ombudsman. Where is Newsmax's ombudsman to take the website to task for its right-wing bias and correct the false and misleading claims it made about Obama? Will Brennan admit that his work for Newsmax strips him of any moral standing to criticize the bias of other news organizations?

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).

Now in its third iteration since the 2000 Bush-Gore election battle, the map has changed only slightly.

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.


You know, maybe I'm showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but, you know, I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn't structured that way.

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.

The Obama years will be remembered in the Ministry of Truth's official history as the era of 1,000 czars, the elitist commissars he gave the power to rule by fiat in every sector of America's government, economy, and society.


Thus it has been these past eight years for President Obama's bailout czar and urban planning czar, his education czar and Latin America czar, his cybersecurity czar and Internet czar, his Afghan-Iraq war czar and income redistribution czar, the voter list czar and radio-Internet fairness czar, and many hundreds more.

And through their partisan power, Barack Obama became America's permanent caesar.

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.

Read Part 1 of this article.

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