Arlen Specter Embattled; Media Long Used Senator as Club to Bash "Far-Right" GOP

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter could find himself out of a job Tuesday night, if his newly-adopted Democratic Party refuses to renominate the 80-year-old incumbent for a sixth term. For the establishment media, Specter's chief value was as a Republican Senator they could quote espousing anti-conservative talking points usually uttered by liberal Democrats.

It will be interesting to see whether, if Specter is indeed rejected in favor of the more liberal Congressman Joe Sestak (late polls show a virtual dead heat), if that will trigger hand-wringing about the "fringe" of the Democratic Party drumming out a more "moderate" Senator.

A review of how the media have promoted Specter as more desirable than the rest of the GOP over the years, starting with Specter's (brief) 1995 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination:

"And now joining us from Philadelphia, Senator Arlen Specter, who casts himself as an alternative candidate to the far-right fringe."

- Today weekend host Giselle Fernandez, February 19, 1995.

"Do you think the fact that the Christian Coalition did not invite Arlen Specter to its convention, in fact, supports his assertion, allegation, that there is intolerance practiced by the religious right?"

- CNN anchor Gene Randall to Lamar Alexander on CNN's Inside Politics, September 8, 1995.

"The Christian Coalition is holding its big political confab this weekend, has invited all GOP presidential candidates except one, Arlen Specter, the lone non-Christian candidate. Senator Specter, to be sure, has little support in this group, which he has assailed. But as the Simon Wiesenthal Center noted the other day, to exclude only one aspirant could create the impression it has something do with his faith."

- Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt on CNN's Capital Gang, September 9, 1995.

# After Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords switched to the Democratic Party in 2001:

"Even top Republicans are acknowledging that some soul searching is necessary now regarding how dissenting voices are treated within the Republican Party. Even Senator Arlen Specter said Jeffords' defection is a very loud wake-up call. Isn't it?"

- Question to Karen Hughes from CBS's Jane Clayson, May 25, 2001 Early Show.

# Juxtaposed with conservatives against embryonic stem cell research:

Correspondent Bob Schieffer: "The problem is, many religious conservatives oppose such [embryonic stem cell] research, so the President limited federally-backed research only to cells already created in previous experiments. But will that be enough?...A leading Republican says the President's plan simply does not make enough cell lines available."

Senator Arlen Specter: "It has become apparent that many of the lines sighted are not really viable or robust or usable."

Schieffer: "Specter and the scientific community want a much bigger and more aggressive research program...."

- CBS Evening News, September 5, 2001.

# Talking about the Bush administration's program to have the National Security Agency eavesdrop on terrorists:

"We better all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because he might be all that's standing between us and a full-blown dictatorship in this country."

- CNN's Jack Cafferty on The Situation Room, May 11, 2006.

# When Specter switched to the Democratic Party:

"There's a big message here, which is that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right, that it is making itself uncompetitive in significant parts of the country, like the Northeast. This is really a cannon shot at them, saying this party is no longer competitive in lots of the country."

- CNN political analyst Bill Schneider, 12pm ET hour of CNN Newsroom, April 28, 2009.

"Specter told us today he thought that he could not win re-election in a primary in his home state....Specter said he couldn't risk that, and said that voters who tend to turn out in the primaries tend to be on the fringe of the party, not a moderate Republican like he is."

- Kelly O'Donnell on the April 28, 2009 NBC Nightly News.

CBS reporter Chip Reid:
"Moderate Senator Arlen Specter says he's leaving the Republican Party because the Republican Party left him....Specter blames the party's increasingly conservative tilt."

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA): "There ought to be a rebellion. There ought to be an uprising."

- CBS Evening News, April 28, 2009.

White House reporter Chuck Todd: "For Arlen Specter the decision to leave the Republican Party was about self-preservation, but for the Republican Party it's devastating - not just to their hopes of slowing President Obama's agenda in Congress but for what it says about the future of the GOP."

Talk radio host Michael Smerconish: "The Republican Party in the aftermath of the presidential race should have come to him and tried to clone him. They need more Arlen Specters. And instead they deride him as a R.I.N.O - Republican In Name Only."

- NBC's Today, April 29, 2009.

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.