The White House released a series of statements, reportedly initiated by new press secretary Tony Snow, attacking specific media reports and editorials as misleading. Conservatives in the media have touted the statements as indicative of a new willingness on the part of the White House communications office, led by Snow, to call the press on its misinformation. But Media Matters for America has found that, of the six "Setting the Record Straight" releases issued from May 8 to May 11, at least four are highly misleading.
Fox News' Jim Angle misleadingly compared Bush's "approval rating" in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll to the "favorability rating[s]" of Sens. John Kerry and Hillary Rodham Clinton, noting that, while 31 percent of respondents approve of President Bush's job performance, just 26 percent hold a favorable view of Kerry and 34 percent hold a favorable view of Clinton. Angle neglected to mention that 55 percent of respondents view Bush unfavorably.
In a "newsbreak" report on the indictment of Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct, and violating a prohibition against political discrimination, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith failed to identify Fletcher as a Republican.
In reporting on Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson's claim that his account of having denied a qualified publisher a government contract because of his alleged animus towards President Bush was merely "anecdotal" and did not actually occur, The New York Times and the Associated Press did not note that Dustee Tucker, Jackson's spokeswoman, had already twice indicated that Jackson was referring to a real contract.
In reporting and editorializing on the Senate Judiciary Committee's May 9 hearings to consider President Bush's nomination of White House staff secretary Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, The Washington Post and The Washington Times each offered incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading portrayals of Kavanaugh's nomination and of Kavanaugh himself.
CBS News' Jim Stewart minimized former CIA executive director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo's involvement in the burgeoning corruption and bribery scandal centered around defense contractor Brent Wilkes. Noting that Foggo had resigned his position, Stewart reported that Foggo "had been somewhat linked to a contract scandal in Congress, but people say that is not the reason he left. He simply decided that with his boss gone, it was time for him to leave as well." But Stewart's statement "somewhat" understates Foggo's connections to the "contract scandal."
On ABC's Good Morning America, Republican strategist Bay Buchanan falsely claimed that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) is "letting everybody know that she's going to spend two years with impeachment hearings" if Democrats win control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. In fact, as The Washington Post reported, Pelosi has "vowed 'to use the power to investigate' the administration on multiple fronts," but she has "denied Republican allegations that a Democratic House would move quickly to impeach President Bush."
On Fox News Sunday, NPR's Mara Liasson again falsely claimed that Democrats received money from disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. As the weblog Think Progress first noted, she claimed on the May 7 show that "it's Democrats, not just Republicans, taking money from Abramoff." In fact, Democrats received contributions from Abramoff's clients and associates, but none from Abramoff directly.
On Meet the Press, Tim Russert cited a flawed AP article, which omitted key facts that undermined its suggested connection between Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in order to link Reid to "money from Jack Abramoff."
A Washington Post article on the ethics-reform bill passed by the House of Representatives buried a crucial fact: The bill had provoked widespread criticism from Democrats and government watchdog groups. In addition, the article noted that eight Democrats crossed party lines and voted for the bill, but did not similarly note that more than twice as many Republicans crossed party lines to vote against it. Other major print outlets similarly omitted crucial context regarding the House bill.
NPR's Andrea Seabrook reported that one of Democrats' "big problems right now" is "convincing voters that the so-called 'culture of corruption' is a Republican thing." According to Seabrook, "there's a growing list of ethics allegations against Democrats in Congress," and as examples, she noted: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV], Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, and others took campaign contributions from Indian tribes that were associated with [disgraced former lobbyist] Jack Abramoff." In fact, neither Reid nor Stabenow are facing allegations of ethical misconduct regarding Abramoff contributions, and the mere receipt of contributions from Abramoff clients is not an indication of corruption.
Major media outlets have largely ignored reports by The Boston Globe's Charles Savage documenting President Bush's apparent willingness to disregard congressional authority through the use of "signing statements" asserting "that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution." The media have also ignored the response by Democrats to Savage's reports.
On The O'Reilly Factor, nationally syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham claimed the "supposed mainstream media" are "making the same bet that [Sen.] Ted Kennedy [D-MA] is making" by supporting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Ingraham maintained that just as Kennedy supports granting a path to citizenship because it will "redound to the Democrats' benefit," presumably through votes, the media -- which she claimed "tilts to the left" -- support citizenship because it will bring "new viewers, new listeners, new customers to the more liberal viewpoint" to which the media purportedly cater.
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On the same edition of his radio show in which he misidentified the energy secretary, Bill O'Reilly proposed a "bill" to deport to Canada "high school kids in this country [who] couldn't pass a civics test," because they "don't know what the House of Representatives is; they don't know what the judicial branch is."
CNN's Dana Bash falsely claimed that a controversial provision inserted into an emergency spending bill by Mississippi Republican Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran would fund a rail line that Lott and Cochran "want to be built." In fact, the $700 million appropriation would fund the senators' efforts to move the existing CSX freight line despite the fact that, following Hurricane Katrina, CSX rebuilt the line at a cost of between $250 million and $300 million.