McCain senior campaign adviser Steve Schmidt had his response ready to go when reporters inevitably questioned campaign adviser Rick Davis’ $35,000 per month former position as the president of an organization set up by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stave off increased federal regulation, as reported today by The New York Times.
Without denying the veracity of The Times’ story, Schmidt lashed out today at the journalistic integrity of the newspaper and it’s alleged bias in favor of Sen. Barack Obama, during a 45-minute conference call with what seemed to be just about every political reporter in Washington.
“We are first amendment absolutists on this campaign, in that the press, and anybody who wishes to cover this race, from the blogosphere perspective or a media perspective, of course is constitutionally-protected with regard to writing whatever they want to write.
But let’s be clear and be honest with each other about something fundamental to this race, which is this: whatever The New York Times once was, it is today not, by any standard, a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Sen. McCain, attacks Gov. Palin and excuses Sen. Obama. There’s no level of public vetting with regard to Sen. Obama’s record, his background, his past statements. There’s no level of outrage directed at his deceitful ads.
This is an organization that is completely, totally, 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate, which is their prerogative to be. But let’s not be dishonest, and call it something other than what it is. Everything that is read in The New York Times that attacks this campaign should be evaluated by the American people from that perspective: that it is an organization that has made a decision to cast aside its journalistic integrity and tradition, to advocate for the defeat of one candidate — in this case, John McCain — and advocate for the election of the other candidate, Barack Obama.”
Davis got two questions about his ties to the Homeownership Alliance, the group that was the focus of The Times’ piece. Both times, Schmidt changed the subject to a critique of The Times and the news media in general.
Schmidt also blasted reporters for not pursuing the Obama campaign’s questionable connections as aggressively as it had McCain’s. Schmidt specifically cited Sen. Joseph Biden’s son, whom Schmidt referred to as a lobbyist on behalf of the credit card and banking industry (Marc Ambinder notes The Times has published two articles on Biden’s son); Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod’s lobbying activities, and Obama’s relationship to former Weatherman William Ayers.
Schmidt alleged the existence of a “fierce campaign of intimidation” against Obama critics.
“The reality is this: you may not read it on the front page of The New York Times, but the Obama campaign is surrounded by people who have worked in the lobbying industry, and he has been able to make these charges for months with no scrutiny about the reality of his record, and the reality of the records of the people around him. We would hope that in the final 43 days of this campaign, there is a restoration to some degree of the level of symmetry in coverage on these type of issues, because the American people deserve no less.”
While reporters were looking for quotes to follow up on The Times’ article — following a string of ads released by the McCain campaign hitting Obama for his campaign’s ties to Fannie Mae – Schmidt appeared to have pretty successfully deflected questions about Davis’ own connections to the current financial crisis by engaging in the classic now standard conservative pasttime of bashing The New York Times.
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