Letting Kerry Off the Hook

Katharine Seelye and David Halbfinger were too kind to John Kerry in their account of last night’s debate. In today’s New York Times they write:

Senator Kerry reassured the audience that he was not giving up on the South, despite at least three statements he made in New Hampshire suggesting that Democrats could win without carrying any states in the region. He said those statements had been in response to mathematical questions about the Electoral College and whether it was possible for a Democrat to prevail without carrying any Southern states.

“I’ve always said I will compete in the South,” Mr. Kerry said. “I’ve always said I think I can win the South.”

That was the place for Seelye and Halbfinger to give us Kerry’s actual words from a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week, as reported by ABC News: “Everybody always makes the mistake of looking South,” Kerry said, in response to a question about winning the region. “Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own.”

With the inclusion of one simple quote, Seelye and Halbfinger would have allowed the reader to make up his own mind about the validity of Kerry’s explanation.


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

Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.