Politico’s Loaded Word Choice

In their post-New Hampshire lay of the land piece, Politico’s Jonathan Martin and John Harris list several of the factors that are now working to frontrunner Mitt Romney’s advantage. In describing the backlash from conservative activists against the recent attacks by Romney’s primary opponents, Martin and Harris label the rhetoric as “anti-business,” which they say is a Democratic position:

Many conservative activists, while not especially enthusiastic about Romney or his establishment backers, are appalled by the odd turn of campaign rhetoric in the closing days of New Hampshire, with Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman taking aim at Romney’s record running the private equity firm Bain Capital. These people, who include radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, are apoplectic that anti-Romney Republicans are making common cause with anti-business Democrats.

Clearly, Rush Limbaugh thinks Democrats are anti-business. But do Politico’s top reporters agree with him?

The language in the above paragraph suggests they do. It’s possible — and I think likely — that they are simply sloppily putting forward the perspective of conservative activists, but the sentence isn’t tempered with any kind of language that makes it clear that the characterization that the attacks and Democrats are “anti-business” is coming from the conservative activists rather than the journalists. Without such qualification, the lines are blurred about what is being reported as fact. Is the fact that Democrats are “anti-business” or that conservatives view Democrats as “anti-business?”

Do Martin and Harris think it is accurate to describe the criticism of Romney and Bain Capital as “anti-business?” If they don’t, do they have an obligation in their write-up to challenge the characterizations of people like Limbaugh?

UPDATE: Later in the article, Martin and Harris do put the anti-business characterization into the mouth of conservatives: “By questioning free enterprise, as conservatives are characterizing it, Romney’s rivals are doing for him what the one-time moderate has been unable to do for himself: draw sympathy from the right-wing.” Still, anyone who did not read the whole article would miss that appropriate contextualization.

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