Beyond the Announcement

The mainstream media moved in lockstep in its coverage of and comment on Ralph Nader’s “Meet the Press” announcement of his candidacy for president yesterday.

Given Nader’s past and the climate of this year’s election, the news story practically wrote itself on to the front pages of the major papers.

A “consumer advocate,” Ralph Nader “spoiled” the 2000 election by stealing enough votes in Florida and New Hampshire to hand the contest to George W. Bush.

Now that he’s no longer the “darling of liberal crusaders”, former supporters and traditional democrats joined in chorusing that Nader’s run was “egotistical,” and Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic national chairman, strongly urged Nader not to run.

Not unexpectedly, this template, with some variations, appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg separate themselves from the pack by providing a closing detail that moves the coverage at least a little beyond the initial fanfare of the “Meet the Press” interview and the consternation that greeted it.

The duo reported:

[McAuliffe’s] spokeswoman, Debra DeShong, said Mr. McAuliffe was “very disappointed” with the decision. But she said that Mr. Nader had “promised Chairman McAuliffe that if he were to run in this election, he would not criticize the Democratic nominee.”

That promise did not last long. “Kerry has been known to bend before the will of corporatism,” Mr. Nader volunteered yesterday.

Informed of his remark, Ms. DeShong declined to comment.

Thomas Lang

Correction 2/24/04/ 9:01 a.m.: The above post has been changed. Debra DeShong is Terry McAuliffe’s spokeswoman, not Ralph Nader’s as originally identified.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.