Cary: When you compare how the media covered you in the context of protesting the Iraqi War outside Bush's [Crawford] house to how you were covered in your campaign against Nancy Pelosi, what comparisons do you make?
Cindy: Well, when I went down to Crawford, Texas in the summer of 2005 it was something that was new. I think it was something that hadn't been done before. The coverage of the anti-war movement had been very sporadic, to say the least. And when I went down there, of course, I, and the people who traveled with me, or who came to Camp Casey, got really good coverage.
I started to see the dynamics changing during that summer when I might have been unique, or something new. But the first week, when thousands of people started to come join me, and many of them, really even most of the people, were veterans, were gold star families, or people who had loved ones in the service, the media realized that I wasn't unique - that there was really a strong feeling against the war and the country even at the time. They had importance and the coverage started to lessen and lessen.
I was able to get coverage for things that I was doing, or events I was doing after Camp Casey, but when I announced that I was going to be running against Nancy Pelosi, that practically came to a dead halt. We got very little coverage here in the Bay area or nationally.
We got zero coverage nationally, except maybe a couple of newspaper articles, like an article in Newsweek. Pretty much that was just about the only national coverage we got. We had events here and we had press conferences, and not one press outlet would come. The [San Francisco] Chronicle wrote only a few articles about me; I think when it would have looked weird for them not to cover the campaign. For example, when we got on the ballot. But then there were always only a couple of paragraphs, and said, "She has no chance." And things like that.
Cary: To what do you attribute, as you said, very little coverage? How do you explain that?
Sheehan: Well I can't really explain it except it was a good story that was even more news-worthy than my protest and Crawford. We were running a very serious, dedicated, committed campaign against the Speaker of the House. To me that's news, right? And then what about the fact that Nancy Pelosi's supposed to be progressive, and she had somebody progressive running against her who had a lot of differences with her, and with her policies, and her platform. So it almost seems like there was a concerted effort to blockade my campaign.
Cary: "Concerted effort to blockade" - what do you think was behind that?
Sheehan: You know I can't say. I really can't say. I can't speculate; I don't know. I'm not them. But my message was stifled. So people couldn't hear what I was saying. People couldn't get to know my platform. We had to spend a lot of money in advertising, and literature, and all that kind of stuff, to be able to get our message out. So it just seems like the establishment didn't want to cover - for whatever reason, they didn't want my message to get out.
And then there was a presidential campaign, and it seemed like all the news, the national news, was all presidential coverage all the time. And one of the reasons I ran for Congress was that I thought that in the McCain and Obama campaigns there was not that much difference in policy; there was more difference in style. And Nancy Pelosi and I had some fundamental differences in foreign policy and domestic policy that wasn't covered.
Cary: Did you make any inquires with the media as to why they weren't covering you, and, if so, what did they say?
Sheehan: Well, I can tell you one incident. We had, toward the end of the campaign, to hire a PR firm. And they'd been working in San Francisco for years, in the Bay area for years. They said they'd seen nothing like this where they couldn't get one interview for me, one story placed. And the women who ran the PR firm actually said that a few people contacted them and said that if they worked on my campaign they wouldn't get any work from them again.
So Nancy Pelosi has - comes from a very big political machine in Baltimore, and there's a very big political machine here in San Francisco that is centered around the Democratic Party. And it's powerful. Just a few very brave people are able to overcome that - not overcome, but overcame the threats because they had integrity and believed in my campaign, and they believed in my right to run. To have my voice heard.
And that wasn't the only time people were told they can't work on my campaign. We lost several campaign workers that were intimated from working on my campaign. So it's just a really powerful machine here. We raised $700,000 and we spent a lot of that on advertising, as I said. But I think to even compete against the machine here in San Francisco you would need at least two to three million dollars to even have a fighting chance here.
Cary: You mentioned that you were aware of some that had been intimidated not to be part of your campaign. Any specific instances beyond what you've alluded to?
Sheehan: You know, these people still live here, still work here, and still want to work on other campaigns. All this intimidation came from the so-called Left. There was none of that from the co-called Right. The Republican raised more money than I did, and got half as many votes as I did. So there's very little of what we would call right wing media bias here in San Francisco. It all has to be left wing bias or left wing intimidation.
Cary: Is there anything else about the whole process you want to add?
Sheehan: (She mentioned the endorsements from two local papers she doesn't consider part of the MSM, and a progressive website.) It just was very disheartening, not just here in San Francisco, but people from radio stations like Air America. I couldn't get on their shows. They'd covered me before when my protested first started and was limited to George Bush, the Republicans and the war. But when it turned into being against the entire system - the Republicans, the Democrats and the war machine - those people stopped covering me. So it is very disheartening.