Horsing Around: Networks Cover Romney’s Horse Twice Kerry’s Windsurfing

Media continue theme that GOP presidential candidate out of touch because of wealth.

Journalists have been stressing that Romney can’t connect to the common man since his first appearance in the 2012 presidential campaign. Now they have a new target: his wife Ann’s horses. Some she used for therapy for her multiple sclerosis, and one she managed to get into the London Olympic Games.

So far in 2012, the three broadcast networks have mentioned Romney’s horses more than twice as many times as they mentioned John Kerry’s preferred sport, windsurfing, during the entirety of 2004.

Just since April 2012, ABC, NBC and CBS morning and evening news shows have mentioned Ann Romney’s therapy horse twice and Rafalca, the horse that she sent to the Olympics, 12 times, for a total of 14 times. That’s more than twice as many times they talked about Kerry’s windsurfing in all of 2004.

The same the three major networks only mentioned John Kerry’s windsurfing six times during all of 2004. And of those six stories, four mentioned it either as an example of how low the Bush campaign was stooping in its tactics by even mentioning it, or how Kerry was doing his best to connect to the common man. Because every common man windsurfs. The remaining two stories only mentioned it in passing.

According to Forbes estimates from 2004, Kerry himself was worth about $240 million. Teresa Heinz Kerry, his wife, was heir to the Heinz empire and worth anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion more. Romney’s estimated net worth is $250 million – or one third to one-fifth the wealth Kerry and his wife had at the time.

The networks don’t have to specifically say that Romney’s horses make her and her husband look out of touch with the American people. By repeatedly bringing it up, they have kept this topic on people’s minds. Not only is the idea of owning a horse often stereotypically considered a “rich person thing,” but the lefty blogs and news outlets like Alternet, Think Progress and The Huffington Post have been targeting the Romneys for their horses more openly.

Alternets Lynn Paramore called dressage an “upper crusty equestrian pastime” and The Huffington Posts Michael Winship referred to Rafalca’s debut in the Olympic games as an “upper class equestrian happening that might only feed ongoing accusations of patrician elitism.” By keeping the horses on people’s minds, the networks have increased the mileage of these lefty insults.

But the networks were quick to defend Kerry against such claims in 2004.

On NBC’s “Today” show on Oct. 2, 2004, Gloria Borger lamented about how the Bush campaign had stooped so low as to target Kerry’s windsurfing. “I thought that the candidates actually finally rose above their own campaigns … this has been a very nasty campaign with Swift Boat ads and ads about John Kerry windsurfing, negative ads that seem to be coming out every day.”

Byron Pitts favorable covered Kerry’s hobby on CBS’s “Evening News” on July 23, 2004. Pitts described Kerry’s windsurfing hobby as “the softer side of a candidate who, on the stump, often comes across more like Lincoln than Elvis. It’s an art form that President Bush mastered years ago. The images defy reality. The president’s bloodline is even bluer than Kerry’s, and he, too, is a multibillionaire. For his part, Kerry’s trying. From trap shooting to windsurfing to cycling, this New England patrician is doing his best to be an average guy.”

According to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s July 27 column, “John Kerry was made to look effete in 2004 by Republican mockery of his windsurfing, his Turnbull & Asser shirts and his French fluency.” So he thinks the left should do the same exact thing: “Democrats have a chance to do something similar to Romney, with his Swiss bank account, his Grand Cayman and Bermuda tax havens, his multiple homes, his $10,000 bet, his friends who own NASCAR teams, and now the six-figure horses his wife imports from Europe. Nothing saysman of the peoplequite like horse ballet.”

Nothing quite says “average guy” like windsurfing, but the media considered that a low blow, while the networks and papers have had no scruples about pointing out Ann Romney’s expensive hobby.

These network stories came out soon after a USA today article on July 2 by Susan Page entitled “Mitt Romney’s secret weapon: Wife Ann, and her lessons of MS.” This article looked at Ann Romney’s use of “dressage” to combat her Multiple Sclerosis, a competitive, and apparently therapeutic, sport involving horseback riding.

Dressage has also gotten a reputation for being a sport for the wealthy, as Page noted in her interview with Ann Romney. “Does pursuing such an elitist sport create a political problem for her husband, already derided by President Obama as a gazillionaire who is out of touch with the lives of most Americans?”

This bias toward the Romneys may get even worse now that the Olympic Games have begun, as The New York Times’s Trip Gabriel pointed out. Gabriel said on June 17 that he anticipated a flood of attention directed at Ann Romney and her horse once the Olympics start, “As millions tune in to the Olympics in prime time this summer, just before Mr. Romney will be reintroducing himself to the nation at the Republican convention, viewers are likely to see ‘up close and personal’ segments on NBC about the Romneys and dressage, a sport of six-figure horses and $1000 saddles.”

On July 19, Ann Romney made an appearance on “Good Morning America” and apparently shocked the DNC when she told Robin Roberts that her dressage hobby was part of her therapy for her MS. The DNC quickly announced that they were pulling a two-part campaign ad entitled “Mitt Dances Around the Issues” volumes 1 and 2, which interspersed clips of Romney with footage of a dressage horse prancing, set to music. However, the videos are still up on the DNC’s “rapid response” youtube channel. The Huffington Post had referred those ads as being poorly executed, ineffective and painful to watch.”

The DNC also expressed regret if Ann Romney was offended, according to ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” on July 19, and claimed they would “refrain from any further horse-themed attacks.”

But apparently the left-wing blogs and news outlets must have missed that memo. After the interview, Alternet’s Leo Gerard posted that Mitt Romney needs to getdown off his high-steppindressage horse and Daily Kos’s Jon Perr blogged about how “their horse Rafalca, one who may yet provide the Romneys with a substantial tax deduction, is on the U.S. Olympic team for the upcoming London games.”

The horse versus windsurfing hypocrisy is just the most recent way the networks have held candidate Romney to a different standard than they used for candidate Kerry. The Business and Media Institite previously found that ABC, CBC and NBC news gave 13 times the attention to Romney’s wealth that they gave to Kerry’s much greater wealth during the same time periods (January to April) in 2012 and 2004, respectively.