Media outlets largely ignored liberal Christian protest of budget and tax cuts
Research ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN
Major newspapers and broadcast and cable TV news largely ignored a peaceful religious protest against budget cuts to social programs in which more than 100 people were arrested. A search of the Nexis "major newspapers" database -- which contains 87 newspapers -- turned up only 10 mentions of the event.
A peaceful religious protest on December 14 against Republican-sponsored budget cuts in social programs -- in which more than 100 participants were arrested -- went virtually unreported by major news outlets. A search* of major newspapers and broadcast and cable TV news from December 13-15 found only a handful of newspapers that carried news of the protest and a single broadcast mention on NBC.
On December 14, a coalition of religious groups organized by Rev. Jim Wallis of Call to Renewal, a faith-based organization dedicated to combating poverty, and Sojourners, "a Christian ministry whose mission is to proclaim and practice the biblical call to integrate spiritual renewal and social justice," protested Republican proposals in the House and Senate to cut spending on the poor while extending tax cuts that will primarily benefit the wealthy. According to the Sojourners website, the protesters "kneeled in prayer blocking the entrance to the Cannon House Office Building" in Washington, D.C. The bills passed in the House were presumably the primary targets of the protest, because those measures would cut spending on social programs by a greater amount than similar legislation in the Senate and also would benefit the wealthy to a greater degree by extending tax cuts on investments. The House budget legislation would cut spending on social programs for the poor by $50 billion while sacrificing $94 billion in government revenue to extend tax cuts, more than three-quarters of which would go to the 14 percent of U.S. households making more than $100,000 a year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). As the San Francisco Chronicle reported on November 19, the spending reductions would include $14.3 billion in cuts to student loan programs, $11.4 billion in cuts to Medicaid, and $4.9 billion in cuts to child support enforcement. The measure would also cut off 220,000 people from receiving food stamps.
But the December 14 protest was largely ignored by the media. The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters both issued wire reports mentioning the arrests, and a search of the 87 newspapers in the Nexis major newspapers database from December 13-15 found only 10 mentions of the event. While The Washington Post ran a December 14 article that reported the upcoming protest in the context of contrasting conservative and liberal religious leaders' views on the proposed budget, the only follow-up report in the paper was a photograph of the arrests, published on December 15. The San Francisco Chronicle also ran an article on December 13, prior to the protest, but did not offer a follow-up article discussing the arrests. The New York Times included a one-sentence description of the protest and subsequent arrests in a December 15 article focusing on Republican plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. The St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune each ran, on December 15, brief mentions of the protests in articles about political strategies or legislation before the House and Senate, and The Denver Post published a column discussing the protest on December 15 by staff columnist Diane Carman. Also on December 15, the Chicago Tribune ran an article on the protest, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram printed the AP wire story about the arrests. Internationally, the Toronto Star mentioned the protest in a December 15 article on Pentagon budget requests.
NBC's Nightly News was the only broadcast evening news program that reported on the event. Neither ABC nor CBS acknowledged the protest on their evening news broadcasts, nor did any of the three network morning news shows: Today (NBC), The Early Show (CBS), and Good Morning America (ABC). Further, no prime-time cable news show mentioned the event.*
* Nexis searches of major newspapers, as well as, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC news files, with search terms "protest! or activist! w/50 relig! or budget or sojourner or faith" from December 13 through 15.