Newsies accused of playing up tensions

“Hillary Rodham Clinton is still seething about losing the nomination.”

“Michelle Obama doesn’t like her country and is an angry black woman.” “Bill Clinton continues to dis Barack Obama privately.”

While hardly definitive, that’s some of the undercurrents swirling in much of the news coverage — particularly television news, some say — at the Democratic National Convention.

“I’m just amazed at the negative coverage, all the negative innuendo of things that do not exist,” former Clinton adviser Terry McAuliffe told Daily Variety. “It’s all press invention.”

Case in point: McAuliffe has been at the Pepsi Center appearing on numerous programs — wearing an Obama lapel pin — proclaiming his and Hillary’s unequivocal support for Obama. “I’ve appeared on more shows than the Obama campaign people have,” he said.

When interviewers learn that he will be leaving before the end of the week to go on vacation with his family, with whom he has not spent any time in the past 16 months, he said, the lead has invariably been: McAuliffe will not be at Invesco Field when Obama accepts the nomination Thursday night; is he truly a supporter?

“The media always look for conflict,” McAuliffe said, “but let’s be honest — this is also about the Clintons. Some of the networks were just shameless with their negative coverage of them, and it’s time they stopped.”

Writing for the left-leaning watchdog group Media Matters on its website Tuesday, media critic Eric Boehlert lashed the press for portraying the placement of runner-up Clinton’s name into nomination at the convention as some “unprecedented, heavy-handed power grab.”

The fact is, Boehlert said, runners-up being put into nomination is a tradition, particularly among Democrats, but you wouldn’t know it from the coverage.

“On CNN,” Boehlert wrote, “Jack Cafferty commented, ‘The Democratic National Convention is now shaping up to be quite a party for Hillary Clinton. Her name will be placed in nomination. She’ll give a primetime address.’ He made no mention that that’s what previous runners-up had done at conventions.”

A veteran network producer said she has been “mesmerized by the negative coverage. It’s unbelievable.”

Sam Feist, political director for CNN, said the tensions between Clinton’s supporters and the Obama camp are real.

“I was just down on the (convention) floor speaking with some delegates, and I can tell you this is not resolved,” Feist said. “There are plenty of Clinton delegates who are not yet satisfied with Obama. These are issues worth exploring, just like there will be issues at the Republican convention about John McCain and his support from evangelicals.”

Putting Republicans on during CNN’s coverage of the Dem confab is a way to provide balance to evenings when Democrats speak uninterrupted and unchallenged from the podium, Feist continued. He said CNN will do the same with Democratic guests during the GOP convention next week.

The McCain campaign deployed former GOP rival contender Mitt Romney and others here to Denver to speak to the press, and the Dems are putting together a similar contingent for Minneapolis-St. Paul, Feist added.

To Democratic supporter Arianna Huffington, the problem with television coverage so far is that “it’s like they’re covering a sporting match — golf or something. We then lose track of how incredibly important the issues are.”

She agreed with Feist that the tensions between Hillary supporters and the Obama campaign “are not a fabrication of the media. It’s still unresolved, and it doesn’t help that Bill badmouths Obama.”

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