- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

Although Tuesday’s gubernatorial election is a tossup when it comes to Virginia voters, Democratic nominee Tim Kaine would surely win a historic landslide if journalists covering the election were polled.

When the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs analyzed the content of news and opinion pieces in The Washington Post and the three largest papers in Virginia during a two-week period last month, they found that a majority of evaluations of Mr. Kaine (51 percent) were positive, while more than two-thirds of Republican nominee Jerry Kilgore were negative. The differences became even more pronounced when op-ed pieces and unsigned editorials were examined: Sixty-five percent of the signed columns and unsigned editorials were pro-Kaine, while 80 percent of those on Mr. Kilgore were negative.

The differences have been most pronounced on the hot-button issues of capital punishment and illegal immigration. When Mr. Kilgore emphasizes his support for capital punishment or his strong stance against providing taxpayer benefits for illegal aliens, he is routinely caricatured as mean-spirited or bigoted. Mr. Kaine, by contrast, tends to get softball treatment. On the death penalty, for example, one of Mr. Kaine’s first death-row clients after coming to Richmond 21 years ago was Richard Whitley, who had raped and murdered an elderly neighbor in Fairfax County. Mr. Kaine, who did not dispute Mr. Whitley’s guilt, said following his 1987 execution that Virginia’s death penalty was analogous to practices in the Soviet Gulag. Mr. Kaine says that despite all he has done to stop the death penalty, he can now be trusted to enforce the law.

Mr. Kilgore makes a serious substantive point, one largely ignored by the local media, that Virginia law gives a governor wide-ranging authority to implement an effective death-penalty moratorium by blocking executions on a “case-by-case” basis. But when Mr. Kilgore had the temerity to note that as a private attorney, Mr. Kaine, in conjunction with groups like Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the American Civil Liberties Union, worked to prevent executions from ever being carried out, The Post speciously suggested that by raising the issue, Mr. Kilgore was attempting to deprive defendants of legal representation.

On Friday, The Post’s lead editorial ridiculed Mr. Kilgore for using “scare tactics” by criticizing Mr. Kaine for being soft on illegal immigration. The Post repeated uncritically Mr. Kaine’s assertion that Herndon’s illegal-alien day-laborer facility was a purely local issue. The Post also asserted that Mr. Kaine really opposed “most” state benefits to illegal aliens, even though he wants to create a giant loophole in state law by permitting illegals who have grown up in Virginia to receive lower in-state tuition rates at public colleges. On Saturday, a front-page news story in The Post “reported” that Virginia voters believe that Mr. Kilgore has run a “more vicious” campaign than Mr. Kaine.

We certainly have no problem with the media barraging Jerry Kilgore with tough questions and dissecting his policy positions in detail. That’s their job. The problem is that they have been derelict in their duty to do the same to Tim Kaine.

If Mr. Kilgore is victorious on Tuesday, he can rightly claim to have defeated two adversaries: Mr. Kaine and the local media.

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