AP’s Lazy Laundry List

As Campaign Desk has pointed out (more than once), sometimes the press takes talking points from a political party or candidate and presents them as a “story.” Yesterday Campaign Desk found an example of the press in effect writing talking points for the John Kerry campaign.

Like The New York Times’ David Sanger, the Associated Press yesterday characterized the Bush administration’s decision to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify under oath and in public before the 9/11 commission as part of a pattern of administration reversals.

Unlike Sanger, however, AP did not provide detailed examples, or grant the White House communications director space to debunk the “pattern” notion, or acknowledge that “certainly other administrations have had to back down, on issues big and small.”

Instead, the AP wrote the story in the style of Kerry campaign talking points; an un-bylined, bullet-pointed list of five “previous Bush reversals in the face of criticism.” In other words, minus the detail, the context and the White House rebuttal.

Yes, the AP’s Jennifer Loven also wrote a more detailed story yesterday about the decision to allow Rice to testify in which Loven noted that “Bush has reversed himself in the face of political realities on several previous occasions,” and quoted Bush on why he changed his position.

But it was the list-like AP piece that CNN ran yesterday and the San Francisco Chronicle published today, albeit at the end of a detailed piece by Edward Epstein of the Chronicle’s Washington Bureau. The AP laundry list also got a congratulatory mention from Matthew Yglesias on the (need we say left-of-center) American Prospect’s blog. And, not surprisingly, it is the un-bylined AP piece rather than Loven’s that the Kerry camp chose to link from the “Reading Room” area of the John Kerry web site, just above a link to Paul Krugman’s latest column.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.