Suppose you were considering a presidential candidate who was long on experience on the state, national and international level. Seemed like someone who thinks like you do. Somebody you might even be happy to vote for.
And then you read this about them:
"(So and so's) 2008 presidential campaign has been burdened by unusually public discussion about his behavior with women. (A female public official with a similarly high post in the government) was quoted in (a local newspaper) saying she avoids standing or sitting near (the above candidate) because of his physical manner, which she said was not improper but was 'annoying.' '(He) pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg.'"
And then you read this:
"The willingness of (this candidate) and top aides to speak directly about speculation over his relations with women is itself an indication of how much the issue may be shaping public perceptions of his presidential prospects."
All of a sudden you are not at all sure about voting for this guy. The obvious impression - another womanizer.
Now suppose you read another story about the same candidate that started out like this:
" (So and so) likes to touch people. He hugs, pokes, jabs and tickles. If he sees a man with a bald pate, he rubs it. Looking to start a conversation, he might lean forward and head-butt someone --male or female. Bored on an airplane flight? He'll lick his finger and smudge an aide's glasses. (So and So) says he's just joking and teasing to ease tension and boredom. (The aforementioned female co-worker) says she finds the practice irritating. She said she tries to avoid sitting or standing next to (him) at public events. She said (his) personality is 'one of charisma, joking, joshing,' but also used some other words to describe his hands-on approach. 'I think it's irritating and annoying.' (she) said in a recent interview. 'I try not to put myself in that situation, trying not to stand or sit next to him.' Others who work with (him) say it doesn't bother them. "
Having read that you can see where the guy might be a little insufferable to be around all day. But a womanizer?
The first two passages were from a recent article on the political Web site Politico. The third was lifted from a story last December in the Albuquerque Journal which formed the basis for the Politico article. Both articles were about New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson - a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The thrust of Politico's story is that "speculation over his relations with women" is keeping Richardson out of the top tier of candidates, despite being "an exceptionally well-credentialed politician."
Politico has been around for only a couple of months, but it is staffed by seasoned journalists. So I'm not at all ready to allege any sort of deliberate bias. In fact the reporter in this case, Ben Smith, did make all the traditional journalistic attempts to "balance" the story.
But, the way the story is presented, the lasting impression it leaves is; Bill Richardson - letch.
And yesterday it gave the rightosphere ammunition to do some Richardson bashing. ("He's such a perv even his own lieutenant governor stays as far away as possible.")
Politico is already on the radar screen of MediaMatters.org, which charges that twice before Politico has published misleading stories that have sent the right-wing spin machine into overdrive.
From what I read yesterday, that count is now at three.