Study: News coverage of Va.'s Cuccinelli 24-1 negative, McAuliffe never called liberal

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If he didn’t know it already, the print media covering the nasty Virginia gubernatorial race appears out to get Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general. And they don't love Democrat Terry McAuliffe either in a race devoid of major issues.

In a survey of 405 news stories and editorials about the race in papers serving Virginia, 95 news stories were tilted against Cuccinelli, four were positive, a whopping 24-1 margin.

The Media Research Center also found that Cuccinelli, who proudly tried to fight Obamacare, was labeled a conservative 26 times, while McAuliffe, one of President Clinton’s best friends who chaired the Democratic National Committee, was never labeled a liberal.

The conservative media watchdog found that Cuccinelli received more coverage, in part because he is the attorney general.

“But this heavy coverage has not been a blessing for the Republican candidate,” said the group in a survey provided Friday to Secrets. “Our study found that Cuccinelli has received far more negative coverage than his rival, and only Cuccinelli has been cast by the newspapers as an ideological candidate. And, despite ongoing ethical questions surrounding Terry McAuliffe, these newspapers have collectively run twice as many pieces talking about Cuccinelli’s ethics than those of his Democratic competitor.”

Key points:

-- McAuliffe also faced news coverage that was predominantly negative, with three times as many negative news stories (66) as positive ones (21).

-- 173 stories and editorials were predominantly critical of Cuccinelli, vs. just 11 that reflected a pro-Cuccinelli tilt. McAuliffe: 112 negative vs. 24 positive ones. MRC said that Cuccinelli faced 35% more negative stories than McAuliffe.

-- Writers labeled Cuccinelli “conservative” 26 times (15 in news stories, 11 in opinion items), while McAuliffe was never once described as a liberal.

-- Ethical questions about Cuccinelli drew twice as much attention from the Virginian-Pilot, Richmond Times-Dispatch and Washington Post as those involving McAuliffe, whose green business boasts have been called into question.

Said the survey: “From June 12 through August 31, 91 news stories (34 percent of the total) and 61 editorials and columns (44 percent of the total) mentioned or discussed Cuccinelli’s ethics, most prominently questions surrounding his belated disclosure of gifts from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams (accounting for 119 of the 152 stories talking about Cuccinelli’s ethics).

“In contrast, 48 news stories (18 percent) and 27 opinion pieces (19 percent) talked about McAuliffe’s ethical problems, chiefly his stewardship of GreenTech Automotive, currently the subject of a federal investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Overall, readers saw 152 stories about Cuccinelli’s ethics, vs. just 75 about McAuliffe, a greater than two-to-one disparity.”

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.
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