A revised version of an AP article made clear that the claim of a "top Republican congressional official" reported in the original version of the article -- that the economic stimulus package being considered in Congress "could steer government checks to illegal immigrants" -- is false. But at no point in the original article did the AP indicate that it had contacted or attempted to contact any Democratic officials -- or anyone else besides the single anonymous Republican official -- to confirm whether the legislation would permit undocumented immigrants to receive tax credits.
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A Drudge Report headline stated "HILL REPUBLICAN: STIMULUS GIVES CASH TO ILLEGALS" and linked to an AP article that reported that "[t]he $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants, a top Republican congressional official asserted Thursday." A revised version of the article made clear that the claim is false, but the Drudge Report did not remove the headline and link to the original version of the article until roughly four hours after the new version was available.
On MSNBC Live, Melissa Francis cited what she called the "legitimate" "complaints" of opponents of the economic recovery plan and stated, "Only 64 percent of the money is going to be spent within the next 19 months." Contessa Brewer replied, "And how do you justify that?" However, the CBO director has stated in congressional testimony that unlike ordinary "periods of economic weakness" that "are fairly short-lived," "CBO projects that economic output will remain significantly below its potential for several more years, so policies that provide stimulus for an extended period of time may be appropriate."
CNBC host Erin Burnett asserted that there were "interesting ideas" in Rush Limbaugh's Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing President Obama's economic recovery plan and offering Limbaugh's own suggestions for what should be included in a stimulus plan. Specifically, Burnett said that Limbaugh's suggestions of "cutting the corporate tax" and "slashing capital gains [taxes]" are "serious things to say." But Burnett did not note that many economists do not view corporate and capital gains tax cuts as "serious" or effective methods for stimulating the economy.
On Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy repeated the falsehood that the economic stimulus bill includes "$4 billion for ACORN." In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding.
Echoing a Republican talking point, Rush Limbaugh asserted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that "[t]he average recession will last five to 11 months; the average recovery will last six years. Recessions will end on their own if they're left alone." But Limbaugh's claim misses the point and misrepresents the reason for the stimulus bill. Economists take the position that an economic stimulus package is necessary, both during the recession and after the economy begins to recover.
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According to a new study by ThinkProgress, Republican lawmakes have had a 2 to 1 advantage over their Democratic counterparts when it comes to cable news appearances on the stimulus debate:
The media have been aiding their efforts. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — have hosted more Republican lawmakers to discuss the plan than Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio this week:
In total, from 6 AM on Monday to 4 PM on Wednesday, the networks have hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 24 times. Surprisingly, Fox News came the closest to offering balance, hosting 8 Republicans and 6 Democrats. CNN had only one Democrat compared to 7 Republicans.
Karl Rove falsely claimed that the economic stimulus bill would amount to spending "$206,000 for each new job that [President Barack Obama] wants to get," becoming the latest Fox News figure to repeat the false calculation. In fact, by calculating the per-job cost by dividing the estimated total cost of the recovery bill by the estimated number of jobs created -- and thus suggesting that the sole purpose of that package is to create jobs -- Rove ignored other tangible benefits stemming from the package, such as infrastructure improvements and investments in education, health, and public safety.
The Wall Street Journal uncritically reported congressional Republicans' criticism of the proposed economic stimulus bill on the grounds "that much of the money in the package wouldn't be spent until 2011 or later, when a recovery is likely to be already under way." The article did not mention that economists, including Congressional Budget Office director Douglas W. Elmendorf, have said that fiscal stimulus in 2011 or later would be effective in the current economic situation, in which economic output is projected to remain below its potential long after the technical beginning of the recovery.
Over on Huffington Post, ACORN CEO and chief organizer Bertha Lewis has a great post up taking the media to task for advancing the demonstrably false right-wing talking point that under the President's economic stimulus plan ACORN would receive a jaw-dropping $4.19 billion.
From her post (emphasis added):
Sometimes, in my copious spare time, I like to peruse what various folks in the media, both new and traditional, are saying about ACORN. Sometimes this makes me happy, for example when I see Ben Ehrenreich's well done article on what people are doing to combat the foreclosure crisis at the heart of the economic meltdown. And sometimes it leaves me perplexed. Like now, watching the right-wing blogs and then right-wing traditional media outlets pick up the ridiculous talking points from the GOP leadership attacking Obama's stimulus package by claiming that it gives ACORN a $4.19 billion bailout.
Puh-lease, people! When we heard that we fell over ourselves to see the language in the bill that would make us the richest organization of poor people in world history. We scrambled to set-up a direct deposit account. We wondered if check cashing outlets would take government checks. Turns out, though, that this $4 billion is pretty much like the last billion we read about in GOP press releases: a complete fabrication of overheated partisan fever dreams.
At this point I'm not sure what is more amusing: watching respectable elected officials parrot zombie talking points from the party that brought us the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression or watching so-called journalists mimic the charges without asking for proof. Or calling us for our comment.
So let's be clear. ACORN isn't getting any of this money. Since it is set aside for non-profit housing developers to help purchase, rehab, and resell foreclosed properties, we aren't eligible for it in the first place.
Lewis is right – this dubious talking point has been all over the conservative and mainstream media. More from Media Matters here:
Myths and falsehoods surrounding the economic recovery plan
The Hill repeated false GOP claim that ACORN is a "beneficiar[y] of the stimulus package"
Parroting GOP, Dittohead Limbaugh dutifully launches false ACORN attack
SF Chronicle reported false claim that $4.19 billion of recovery plan "would go to" ACORN
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On his radio and television shows, Bill O'Reilly claimed that the food-stamp provision in the economic recovery bill will not stimulate the economy. But economists, including the director of the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office and a reported adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, disagree.