Washington Post Confesses To Biased Reporting During The 2008 Presidential Campaign

The one thing about making an accusation against anyone is that those who are doing the accusing are under the requirement to prove the accusation. However, a confession requires no such proof at all.

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell has released just such a confession. From her November 9th column:

The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts.

Bill Hamilton, assistant managing editor for politics, said, “There are a lot of things I wish we’d been able to do in covering this campaign, but we had to make choices about what we felt we were uniquely able to provide our audiences both in Washington and on the Web. I don’t at all discount the importance of issues, but we had a larger purpose, to convey and explain a campaign that our own David Broder described as the most exciting he has ever covered, a narrative that unfolded until the very end. I think our staff rose to the occasion.”

As Bill Hamilton’s comments show, this was not an accident. It was a deliberate decision made by the editorial staff of the Post itself. The “larger purpose” he alludes to is getting Barack Obama elected.


The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces about McCain, 58, than there were about Obama, 32, and Obama got the editorial board’s endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain.

Stories and photos about Obama in the news pages outnumbered those devoted to McCain. Reporters, photographers and editors found the candidacy of Obama, the first African American major-party nominee, more newsworthy and historic.

So, the Post was more interested in making “history” than they were in presenting a fair, objective and unbiased report of the news. That doesn’t surprise me, but I think many people were done a huge disservice by it.

This little tidbit is very telling:

But Obama deserved tougher scrutiny than he got, especially of his undergraduate years, his start in Chicago and his relationship with Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who was convicted this year of influence-peddling in Chicago. The Post did nothing on Obama’s acknowledged drug use as a teenager.

Note that last sentence. It is not an accusation coming from a right-of-center blogger. It is a confession coming from a left-of-center publication.

And this:

One gaping hole in coverage involved Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate. When Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president, reporters were booking the next flight to Alaska. Some readers thought The Post went over Palin with a fine-tooth comb and neglected Biden. They are right; it was a serious omission.

Those of us who engage in politcal research and analysis would do very well to remember this in 2010 and 2012 as well as keeping it in the backs of our minds over the next four years as the Post reports on President Obama’s policies and actions. If they did such a deliberate hatchet job during the campaign, what are they going to deliberately mislead us on during an Obama Administration?

Be sure to send this post and the following link to all your friends. We need to get this information out and spread it as far as possible.

You can access the complete column on-line here:

An Obama Tilt In Campaign Coverage
Deborah Howell
The Washington Post
November 9, 2008