On February 2, all three network morning shows reported on Social Security as an issue President Bush will likely target in his State of the Union address, but only CBS adopted the misleading White House-approved term "personal accounts" to describe the administration's plan to partially privatize Social Security. While NBC News' Norah O'Donnell discussed "private retirement accounts" on Today and ABC News' Terry Moran referred to "private accounts" on Good Morning America, CBS News' Bill Plante used "personal accounts" twice as a graphic reading "personal accounts" appeared on the screen.
From the February 2 edition of CBS' The Early Show:
PLANTE: In the speech which he's been rehearsing now for the last couple of days, the president will try to reassure the public and nervous lawmakers -- Republicans as well as Democrats -- by saying that the personal accounts he wants will be voluntary and limited to conservative investments. But he'll offer no details on the size, or on how much those who use personal accounts will have to have their regular benefits cut.
This graphic appeared during Plante's report:
As Media Matters for America has noted, the Bush administration is pressuring reporters to refer to Bush's plans as "personal accounts," not "private accounts"; as the Columbia Journalism Review's CJR Daily observed on January 25, "both Republicans and Democrats are aware that the phrase 'personal accounts' polls better than the phrase 'private accounts.'"
But, as Washington Post staff writers Michael A. Fletcher and Jim VandeHei reminded Bush in a January 15 interview, he too has previously referred to his administration's Social Security plans as "partial privatization." And "privatize" was also the word of choice for the Cato Institute, one of the leading advocates of privatization, when it launched its "Project on Social Security Privatization" in 1995 (though Cato has since changed the name to the "Project on Social Security Choice").