January 8th, 2008
04:51 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama campaign scoffs at talk of media 'free pass'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Laughter. That's what you get when you ask Robert Gibbs, Sen. Barack Obama's communications director, if the press has given the Illinois senator a pass on vetting his record: "Hah! No I don't think so! I'd be glad to share the clips! I don't think anybody's given anybody a pass in this."

He added, "I think it’s a little sad where we’ve reached the point in the campaign where one side feels that desperate negative attacks is the only solution."

Gibbs was not responding to Bill Clinton's Tuesday comments, which made the claim, in particular: he was asked Monday about the last-minute flurry of attacks from Hillary Clinton's campaign on Obama’s record - what her aides have referred to as "inconsistencies."

The eleventh-hour effort began Saturday night with Sen. Clinton's comments during the WMUR/ABC News debate, when she claimed the Illinois senator said one thing then did another on Iraq war funding, the Patriot Act, the energy bill and his positions on mandatory minimum sentencing and universal health care.

Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod told CNN Sen. Clinton was distorting Obama’s record, quoting another New York senator: “As Senator Moynihan said, 'You’re entitled to your own opinions but you’re not entitled to your own facts.'” He made an apparent dig at Sen. Clinton’s record on the war: “I’m not the strategist for the other side, but the whole flip-flop discussion, I wouldn’t want to go down that road.”

But Sen. Clinton’s strategist Mark Penn insists the campaign is engaging in “a serious debate about talk versus action... a reality check to what’s happened so far." He called on the media to “do with others what they have done so effectively with Sen. Clinton, which is to look at her record. That record is not only an open book it’s the subject of sixty books. And I think as the stage narrows to a smaller group of candidates it’s important that everyone be vetted, everyone be tested.”

He added, “It’s a long campaign. It’s been a long campaign and I think we’ve got a long way to go in this campaign.”

Related video: Watch Clinton on Obama 'fair tale'

Related video: Watch John King and Jessica Yellin on Bill Clinton's comments

–CNN's Jessica Yellin

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Intelligent Vote

    Obama is a real politician. He is an excellent spinner. He is excellent with words. He is like agreat actor. He can make people fall in love with him with his words and how he delivers them. I hope that people who fall for this kind of pretense will soon wake up and realize that they've been tricked.

    I agree with Bill Clinton that most of the media/press have not been interrogating or investigating Obama and his records. I am glad that he brought that out. The media should focus on a candidate's records rather than sing praises and campaign for one candidate. Otherwise the media loses credibility if they are biased.

    January 8, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  2. Shannon McMcMurphy


    As a Canadian, I am certain my political views in respect to your country are less than interesting. However..

    I was astounded to see George Bush relected as President in 2004. A very costly lessons to Americans, no doubt.

    I did not watch CNN coverage of that election but I can say that If CNN backed Bush the way they are endorsing Obama, I am not surprised he won. Your so-called "independent coverage" falls well short of the mark. After watching your program for 5 minutes I know who you support. As a Canadian, I naturally support a Democratic candidate but don't know which one as yet. Can you not let Americans decide?

    And, apparently, God help anyone who criticizes the mighty Lou Dobbs.

    You need to become as independent as you claim you are.

    January 8, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  3. steven van wicklin

    Obama might seem exciting now, but don't be a fool, as much as I like him he could NEVER win the White House (or not yet anyway)... Place your votes for Hillary or Edwards, if not McCain is a shoe in...

    January 8, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  4. jeremy

    obama is the only person running that can cross party lines and communicate. we need a leader in this country that brings people together for discussion on important issues.
    mrs. clinton, mccain nor anybody else can do that or would try for that matter. it's time we have a leader that doesn't put a price on getting to the negotiating table in all forums of government, especially affairs abroad. look at what the current administration has done, NOTHING. they constantly demand that the other side must do this that and the other thing to even start a discussion. that is not diplomatic and that is not what our country needs. obama is the only candidate that stated he will talk to people without terms. discussion and negotiation are the avenue to change. vote for somebody capable of doing that without having to answer to special interests.

    January 8, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  5. david

    Best Political Team on T. V. Is this a joke don’t you mean if your not for Mr. Obama that the Best Political Team on T. V will go after you with a vengeance. I thought our news people in Canada were biased in reporting the news on our politicians but then our CBC if government funded. But your repotting is supposed to be objective WHERE IS IT when you spend all your time parsing Mr. Obama and criticizing any one who says any think against him. Have any of you bothered to look at his record or looked at his life before he be came your little darling. In a one hour Wolf Blazer news show the talking heads tore in to every one who had any think bad to say about Mr. Obama. This is politics not a love feast between CNN Mr. Obama. Start repotting objectively and putting the other side of the of the coin on the air or the other democrats candidates should ask for equally time.

    January 8, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  6. Budhasoren

    It's about time that Clintons and Bushes and all those who got us in this national and international mess including Lieberman and McCain to retire....and let the new energy flow into our great nation.

    January 8, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  7. Mike in Kentucky

    I have hesitated to weigh in on this topic, but...

    I have been a loyal veiwer of CNN for many years, it was my vehicle of choice for objective coverage of the events of the nation and the world. It was the gold standard of news coverage against which I judged all other news coverage on the air.

    However in the last few years, apparently in an attempt to chase ratings and hence advertisers, there has been a "Foxification" of CNN, turning it into a mishmash of entertainment, infomercials and "opinionews".

    The recent glorification of the Barack Obama campaign is a case in point. To borrow Fox News's slogan, fair and balanced...not by a long shot.

    Please CNN, return to your roots, when you were the respected, objective NEWS outlet that Americans wanted and needed.

    Ted Turner is not in his grave but he should be spinning around at what he sees today on your air!

    January 8, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  8. Socrates

    Not that I'm throwing my hat into any ring here, but I think Hillary and Bill are guilty of being kettles to Obama's pot (no pun intended). With 9 million children still lacking healthcare, I'd say Hillary did a wonderful job of coming through with her promises/ideas for change. We should all check our facts rather than kowtowing to the news media (no offense meant, CNN). The media only works as a liberal/conservative mouthpiece if we, the "informed" viewers, let them. Time for Americans to start thinking for themselves, otherwise we will be herded off the cliff.

    January 8, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  9. kaeser

    i'm glad to read above that i am not the only canadian watching your broadcasts. in terms of the democratic race, i would like you all at cnn to take a look at the balance of negative and positive comments towards hillary and obama.

    you have beaten to death the idea that hillary is a less charismatic, older woman, whereas obama can do a great 'i have a dream' imitation. i would hope that in this serious and tenuous period of world politics, and your local economy (which affects canada, btw), that you would inform your viewers of the candidates' issues and positions regarding this. otherwise i fear that the american voters will realize too late that they have voted for charisma over substance.

    January 8, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  10. Duncan, Richmond, VA

    Obama's comments on the Iraq war are interesting and any fool knows that if he was in Congres in 2002, he would have voted with the rest of them to attack Iraq. To suggest otherwise is just plain lying.

    January 8, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  11. Elaine/South Dakota

    Listened to President Clinton speech this afternoon.. I agree with him.. I believe the media talks up and about the people that are leading more than the other canditates..

    After the Iowa primary I was really impressed with Obama.. Thought his 'winning' speech was very good.. But after listening to the New Hampshire debate, I have changed my mind.. I got very tired of listening to Obama.. He talked more than anyone – had more time given to him.. Obama talked the most, then Edwards and Richardson came in last.. Now I feel that Richardson is more qualifed than either Obama and Edwards, but all we hear about Richardson is how he is doing in the polls..

    I am very concerned about Obama being the candidate or president for that matter.. I heard that when he was sworn into the Senate he placed his hand on the Koran – not the Bible.. Also heard he attended a Muslim school for several years, he did go to a Catholic school for a couple of years – but had more schooling in the Muslin school.. Obama went to the same Muslim school that some of the terrorists did.. I find this very disturbing considering the terrorists attacks etc.. and the way the world is today.. The terrorists have said that they will get America from the inside and go out from there.. Obama talks of change – doesn't really define what his change is – but could this be the change he talks of.. Is Obama the way in and then out from there for the terrorists groups??

    I hope the news people and reporters will check into this information and report it – the American people need to know..

    Thank you..

    January 8, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. Brian

    I think Sen. Obama is being given a "free pass" by the media, relative to other candidates. Not because of any political agenda on the part of the media, but for a very simple reason; "RACE".

    You all know it, even if you won't admit it.

    The moment the media starts vetting Sen. Obama, the way they do others, his campaign; or some "self-appointed" leader of the african-american community will play the "RACE" card.

    Sen. Clinton's and her campaign, have already started playing the "GENDER" card. Referring to her opponents as "The Boys", and claiming they're picking on her.

    If they want the top job, then they need to step-up and take the punches like the others and not use their race or gender to hide.

    January 9, 2008 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  13. An Informed Voter

    I think the Senator Clinton's problems with the media are largely of her own making: she has focused the early part of her campaign on smears instead of facts. When things don't go her way, she whines and cries. She always find someone to blame, other than herself. The simple fact is that Hillary Clinton isolated herself, didn't talk to the media, changed slogans weekly, came across as petty and divisive, started a disinformation campaign against Senator Obama, and comes across as entitled, combative, and exasperated much of the time. Also, as soon as she lost the Iowa caucuses, she immediately began dumping on the people who she love so much just the day before. Who's fault is that?

    January 9, 2008 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  14. Marian


    You have been misinformed. Two press reports from Obama's swearing-in ceremony in January 2005 mention specifically that Obama took the oath of office by placing his hand on his own copy of the Bible. Vice President Dick Cheney, in his role as president of the Senate, administered the oath. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., an American convert to Islam and the first Muslim elected to Congress was sworn in using a Koran. Ellison used a Koran that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, borrowing the rare book from the Library of Congress.

    As far as his schooling, according to CNN dispatched Senior International Correspondent John Vause who went to the school that Barack attended in Jakarta to investigate the allegation:

    Vause reported he saw boys and girls dressed in neat school uniforms playing outside the school, while teachers were dressed in Western-style clothes.

    He said he has attended some madrassas in Pakistan and the school that Barack attended is nothing like that.

    Vause also interviewed one of Obama's Basuki classmates, Bandug Winadijanto, who claims that not a lot has changed at the school since the two men were pupils. Insight reported that Obama's political opponents believed the school promoted Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam, "and are seeking to prove it."

    "It's not (an) Islamic school. It's general," Winadijanto said. "There is a lot of Christians, Buddhists, also Confucian. ... So that's a mixed school."


    January 9, 2008 07:32 am at 7:32 am |