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  • CNN erroneously claimed Obama's inauguration will "easily shatter" spending records

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As it continued the media's cavalcade of misinformation about the cost of the Obama inauguration, CNN reported Monday night that this week's swearing-in would likely be "the most expensive inauguration ever." And that with a possible price tag of $160 million, the Obama bash would "easily shatter" inauguration spending records.

    Isn't it amazing how, when the press gets a story it wants to tell, that no matter how many times the facts are explained, the press simply ignores the facts and keeps on telling the tale it wants to tell? And make no mistake, this week the Beltway press corps is absolutely wedded to the idea that Obama's inauguration is going to going to rewrite--no, shatter--the inauguration spending records.

    Memo to CNN, the only thing shattered this week is the media myth about Obama's supposedly historic inauguration expenses. As we've been pointing out for days, the $160 million figure the media used combined the traditional expenses attached to the swearing-in festivities along with the massive security and logistic costs. (Question: Why, after decades of calculating inauguration costs by always leaving out security costs, has the press decided, for the first time in modern memory, to attach security costs to Obama's tab? Just curious.)

    It's a big eye-popping number for sure, and the press fell in love with it in recent days. But is the tab historic, as CNN so breathless claimed? What the clueless CNN reporters and producers don't understand is that when security costs are factored into the cost of Bush's (much smaller) 2005 inauguration, that event cost $157 million.

    So again CNN, our question is simple: If Bush's bash cost $157 million and Obama's might cost $160 millio, how does Obama "easily shatter" the spending record?

    We'll wait....

  • NYT "seems" to know a lot about Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Personally, we prefer when journalists simply report the facts and stay away from explaining how things "seem." But in its piece about how Fox News "seems" to be poised for a new heights under the Obama administration, the Times just can't help itself [emphasis added]:

    But the network is showing no concern about the new administration; if anything, it seems re-energized. With a series of program changes this month, Fox News is doubling down on the programming strategy that has made it the No. 1 cable news network for seven years. Some of the network's prominent conservative hosts seem invigorated about being back on offense.

    Also note that reporting on the arrival of Glenn Beck to Fox News from CNN Headlines News, the Times politely declines to mention that Beck spent his time at CNNHL in the ratings cellar. Then again, the Times has always played nice with the ratings-challenged Beck.

  • CNN leaves out all context about Obama's inauguration cost

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Here's the misleading online report from CNNMoney.com's Catherine Clifford [emphasis added]:

    The total cost of the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States will likely top $150 million by the time the galas and streamers and porta-pots are all cleaned up.

    Yet another news article detailing the cost of the Obama inauguration, including security costs; costs reporters can't actually confirm. Instead the analysis is built on a projection.

    Here's the real problem, though: Where's the context? Meaning, how much did previous inaugurations cost, once security expenses were factored in? The entire point of the CNNMoney article is to highlight how expensive the Obama inauguration is going to be. And readers are certainly left with the impression that the spending is historic and just out of control. But is it?

    As Media Matters has been noting for days, if you add in the cost of security for Bush's 2005 inauguration, that event cost $157 million. So why does CNNMoney suggest the Obama tab is so newsworthy?

    UPDATE: ABC News does the same thing. It expresses amazement at how expensive the Obama inauguration might be (based largely on security costs), yet makes no reference to the fact that when Bush's inauguration security costs were tabulated his swearing-in cost $157 million.

    UPDATE: Great point, made by Washington Monthly reader:

    Not to be nitpicky, but when you factor in inflation (via The Inflation Calculator at the Dollar Times website), $157M in 2005 dollars would be $173M in 2008 dollars. So in other words, this inauguration will actually cost less than the last one, from a certain point of view.

  • Yahoo! News echoes Obama v. Bush Inaugural price-tag bupkis

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Yahoo! News has taken the bait failing to check on this pathetically easy to rebut piece of conservative misinformation.

    In a story headlined, "That's a lot of balloons" Yahoo! News spews hot-air going to great lengths to convince readers that President-elect Obama's inauguration will cost more than triple that of outgoing President Bush's 2004 event even using the nation's economic woes as a backdrop. The article opens:

    As the recession continues to wreak havoc on the U.S. economy and inauguration celebrations ramp up, a lot of people are asking: "How much will this shindig cost?" [emphasis added]

    The short answer? More than $150 million — and yep, that's the most expensive ever. (By comparison, George W. Bush's 2005 inauguration cost $42.3 million. Bill Clinton managed with $33 million in 1993.)

    Perhaps a few more reporters should be asking, "Why haven't I thoroughly fact-checked these numbers?" Because as Media Matters detailed this evening, the whole notion that Obama's inauguration is costing more than Bush's is a load of B.S.

    As Media Matters noted:

    MSNBC's Tamron Hall stated that "the inauguration festivities" for President-elect Barack Obama are "estimated to reach as high as $150 million," while "[i]n 2004, to note, the inauguration of George W. Bush cost roughly $40 million." But the $40 million figure that Hall cited for Bush's second inauguration reportedly does not include security and transportation costs incurred by the federal government and the District of Columbia; these costs are included in the $150 million estimate that the media are reporting for the Obama inauguration.

    Further:

    When the costs incurred by the federal government and the District of Columbia are factored in, the total cost of Bush's 2005 inauguration was reportedly around $157 million, as Media Matters for America senior fellow Eric Boehlert noted.

    Come on Yahoo! News, this kind of sloppy "reporting" will only make me want to refer to you as Yahoo? News in future posts. Get it together.

  • NYT plays dumb about Sundance

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's not often that we critique Arts coverage, but this Times piece was so dreadful and misleading and just plain pointless, it needed to be called out.

    It's by Michael Cieply and headlined "The Films Are Green, but is Sundance?" The soggy point was that the famous film festival is hosting a number of movies with environmental themes but that Sundance....well, honestly we're not sure of the point. We think it's something like, but people used up gas while traveling to Sundance so therefore there's a conflict with the environmental theme. (Did we mention how pointless this exercise is?)

    Some lowlights in an article that was literally brimming with them:

    Still, a stroll here this week down Main Street — where a dozen idling trucks were unloading supplies and equipment, while an oversize band bus, with trailer in tow, spewed fumes outside a soon-to-be-busy party site — framed the obvious quandary: how can you cram some 46,000 people, roughly equivalent to a fifth of Hollywood's total work force, into a pretty little mountain town without contributing mightily to the problems your films hope to solve?

    Are you following? Do you see the false premise the Times constructs? If you're concerned about the environment, if you want to spread the word about environmental activism through film, than you basically shouldn't participate in our society because if you are associated with an industry in which a bus idles, than you're a hypocrite. Or more accurately, an "obvious quandary" is created.

    Honestly, we expect this nonsensical logic from Lou Dobbs who points to snow storms as proof global warming might not exist. But to see the Times traffic in this kind of forced jibberish is depressing.

    The groans in the article just kept coming [emphasis added]:

    Los Angeles to Park City is about 692 miles by the old wagon route, though most visitors seem to come by air through Salt Lake City

    Yes, the Times thought it was noteworthy that Sundance attendees did not drive to Utah.

    And this:

    Utility officials said there was no way to determine how much extra wattage was being poured into the valley for the festival's spotlights and the strings of colored bulbs lining Park City's streets.

    Too dumb for words? We think so.

    And those were the first two--the best two--examples the Times provided in an effort to show that Sundance was not Green.

  • The AP concocts the cost of Obama's inauguration

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's hard to find journalism more shoddy than this, courtesy of the AP's Matt Apuzzo [emphasis added]:

    The price tag for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration gala is expected to break records, with some estimates reaching as high as $150 million. Despite the bleak economy, however, Democrats who called on President George W. Bush to be frugal four years ago are issuing no such demands now that an inaugural weekend of rock concerts and star-studded parties has begun.

    Where does that jaw-dropping number of $150 million come from? The AP never says. It doesn't quote anybody, it doesn't point to any facts. There's no nothing. The AP builds an entire story around how much Obama's inauguration might cost (why stop at $150 million?), yet never substantiates the what-if estimates.

    As we said, journalism doesn't get much worse than that.

    For an ind-depth look at the phony controversy over Obama's possible inauguration costs, click here.

    UPDATE: Unlike AP, ABC News at least tries to substantiate the huge figure the media have been tossing around in terms of the cost of Obama's inauguration. (Hint: Most of it is for security.) But even with ABC's actual reporting, the article still falls short. (Hint: No context.)

  • NYT: Bush should've schmoozed the Beltway more

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Times' Mark Leibovich wrote up Obama's recent Beltway get-togethers with various pundits and reflected on Bush's complete lack of social interaction with the capitol over the last eight years [emphasis added]:

    In contrast to Mr. Obama's week of fraternizing, George W. Bush never came around to the notion that Washington socializing was worth the effort — or the risk of a later-than-necessary bedtime. While it is not likely that a few well-placed dinners, social calls or drop-bys over eight years would have had much bearing on his abysmal approval ratings, it is not far-fetched to think it could have bought him a slight uptick in sympathy from the bipartisan commentariat that routinely savaged him.

    See, if Bush had only gone to cocktail parties, the pundits--on both sides of isle-- wouldn't have have been quite so mean to him.

    A) I must have missed all those GOP columnists who have "savaged" Bush during the last eight years. B) Liberal commentariat were "savaging" Bush in 2001 and 2002 and 2003? And C) Bush refused to interact with the Beltway for the first four years of his administration and was showered with media hosannas, which proved Bush's complete repudiation of the Village's social circuit had no bearing with his coverage.

    This reminds me of the Slate article we recently commented on, which claimed the press gets outraged when it's ignored by the White House, even though this press corps did not become outraged when ignored by the Bush White House. And now the Times suggests the press would have been more sympathetic to Bush if he hadn't ignored them socially, yet the press produced more sympathetic coverage for Bush than any other president in recent memory.

    Bush hasn't even left office and already the Village is rewriting its history.

  • Politico develops amnesia

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Politico's Patrick O'Connor thinks it's a very big deal that some Democrats have some unpleasant things to say about Bush's legacy as he prepares to leave office. And Politico suggests its certainly newsworthy (and a bit amazing) that some Democrats even want to hold Bush hearings after he leaves town.

    I mean my goodness, what kind of zealots investigate the actions of presidents after he leaves the White House? What kind of partisan fanatics call for hearings about a president months after he has exited?

    Oh, you mean those kind.

  • Why conservatives are such bad media critics, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Because they suggest journalists who deliver bad news for Republicans are biased. For real.

    You couldn't ask for a better example than from our pals at Newsbusters who posted this dart:

    Friday's CBS Evening News delivered a parting shot at outgoing President George W. Bush as fill-in anchor Maggie Rodriguez paired how a just-released CBS News/New York Times survey pegged Bush's approval rating "at just 22 percent" -- which she noted "is the lowest for an outgoing President since the question was first asked more than 70 years ago" -- with how "68 percent said they expect Barack Obama to be a good or very good President."

    How dare CBS accurately, and in a straightforward manner, report the facts as reflected by public polling which captures the feelings of everyday Americans!!

  • The Internet and the press

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Jay Rosen offers up a must read:

    In the age of mass media, the press was able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with relative ease because the people on the receiving end were atomized-- connected "up" to Big Media but not across to each other. And now that authority is eroding.