Funny, the Post was not nearly as eager to make an issue of 2006 Democratic senate candidate (now U.S. senator) Jim Webb's past writings. A search of Post archives found exactly one article in which the Post mentioned that Webb had written novels between 1978 and 2001 depicting, among many other salacious scenes, a father performing a sex act on his young son. And the news headline blamed Webb's Republican opponent, Sen. George Allen, for making the subject newsworthy in the first place: "Allen Blasts Webb Novels for Sex Scenes; Veteran Says Works Reflect Trauma of War." The article goes on to explain: "Webb's books, including 'Lost Soldiers,' 'Something to Die For,' and 'Fields of Fire,' are historical novels that describe wartime horrors in Vietnam and people dealing with the aftermath of combat," adding, helpfully, "Webb is a decorated Marine who served in Vietnam."
Nor was the Post nearly as aggressively critical of Webb's views on women in the military, summed up in a 1979 Washingtonian magazine article entitled "Women Can't Fight," as it has been of McDonnell's 1989 views on women, gays or marriage. Although the Post mentioned the magazine piece during its 2006 reporting on the election, the newspaper also noted, "Webb has said he opened as many as 18,000 assignments for women, the largest number in Navy history," and gave prominent coverage to Webb's endorsement by Hillary Clinton and other notable Democratic women. The Post has granted no similar caveats to McDonnell.
The Post's kid glove treatment of Webb played an important role in his ultimate election in 2006. And it was particularly egregious given the way they went after Webb's opponent George Allen for having uttered a nonsensical phrase during a campaign stop, referring to a Democratic opposition researcher who had been videotaping Allen on the campaign trail as "macaca." The Post alleged -- unconvincingly, in my view -- that the term was a racial epithet, driving Allen's campaign into a tailspin from which it never recovered.
Maybe the Post hopes its coverage will have the same effect this time around. No wonder so many Americans mistrust the media.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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