Calling the decision not to run McCain's op-ed "unfortunate" and "alarming," Republicans in the House asked the paper "to permit a third partythe purchase of ad space" in the Times "as a second-best means of responding" to an op-ed by Sen. Barack Obama the Times published recently.
The GOP has taken issue with national media coverage - particularly in the Times - many times in the past. Last year, Republicans seized on MoveOn's full-page Petraeus/"Betray Us" ad as a sign of the paper's liberal sympathies.
"A national publication such as the Times has a clear obligation to provide equal access to its op-ed page to both candidates," the Republicans wrote, "to convey fairness by the paper and to help further the national debate."
"In his op-ed, Senator Obama addresses the differences between his position and Senator McCain's position on Iraq, and responds to the criticisms leveled by the McCain campaign," the letter continues. "The Times readership, and indeed the public, deserves an equal chance to read Senator McCain's response on the same editorial page."
GOP lawmakers also complain that an e-mail sent to the McCain campaign explaining the decision presents a clear editorial bias "by presuming to tell Senator McCain how and what to write in his submission in order to win the favor of the Times' Op-Ed editors."
The Republicans play on a perception that members of the national media clearly favor Obama over their own candidate, citing a Rasmussen poll that shows 49 percent of the respondents believe members of the media "will actively attempt to assist Senator Obama's campaign" - a narrative that has taken root on cable news and the late-night comedy circuit as well.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 96 House Republicans had signed the letter.
The text of the letter is after the jump; we'll post a response from The Times when we get one.
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