ABCNews.com and Time.com headlines mischaracterized Paulson's remarks as blaming Democrats

››› ››› MARK BOCHKIS

Headlines on ABCNews.com and on The Page website falsely characterized a reported conversation between Henry Paulson and House Democrats as Paulson blaming the Democrats for failed negotiations on economic recovery legislation, "plead[ing]" with them not to "blow up" the deal. But the article to which both headlines linked characterized the exchange differently, with Paulson acknowledging that House Republicans bore responsibility for the failure of negotiations.

September 25 headlines on ABCNews.com and on Time.com's website, The Page, falsely characterized a reported conversation between Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and House Democrats as Paulson blaming the Democrats for failed negotiations on economic recovery legislation, "plead[ing]" with them not to "blow up" the deal. The ABCNews.com headline (shown below) read, "Deal or No Deal? Paulson Pleads With Dems 'Don't Blow This Up,' " while The Page's headline (also shown below) stated: "Paulson to Dems: 'Don't Blow This Up.' " Both headlines linked to a September 25 ABCNews.com article, in which the conversation was characterized differently, with Paulson acknowledging that House Republicans bore responsibility for the failure of negotiations. According to the article, after Paulson told the Democrats, "Please don't blow this up," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded, "We're not the ones trying to blow this up. It's the House Republicans." Paulson then reportedly stated: "I know, I know; it's both sides." A September 26 Politico article, describing the same exchange, reported that "when Democrats left to caucus in the Roosevelt Room" following a meeting with President Bush at the White House, Paulson "pursued them, begging that they not 'blow up' the legislation." But the article did not include Paulson's reported acknowledgement that House Republicans bore some responsibility.

From the September 25 ABCNews.com article:

Paulson feared the deal was falling apart, sources told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

As Democrats met in the White House's Roosevelt Room after the meeting with [President] Bush, Paulson told them, "Please don't blow this up," according to sources.

Sources say Frank was livid, saying, "Don't say that to us after all we've been through!"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reportedly said, "We're not the ones trying to blow this up. It's the House Republicans."

Paulson replied, "I know, I know; it's both sides," according to a Treasury Department spokeswoman.

From the September 26 Politico article:

Talks were to resume at the Capitol on Treasury's $700 billion rescue plan, but a high-profile White House meeting ended Thursday on a sour, contentious note after animated exchanges among lawmakers laced with presidential politics just weeks before the November elections.

The political breakdown came as the collapse of Washington Mutual Inc. -- the largest bank failure in US history -- marked another low point in the financial crisis. And angry Democrats warned that Treasury's whole initiative could collapse unless President Bush gets House Republicans to come to the table.

"Unless this fourth leg shows up at some point, this could fall off very quickly," said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).

At the White House, in fact, House Minority Leader John Boehner had bluntly warned about the lack of Republican support for the massive government intervention: "I can't invent votes," Boehner said. But House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) angrily accused the minority of trying to undercut Paulson by crafting a late-breaking alternative proposal -- with the tacit support, Frank said, of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Both McCain and his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, would leave the White House without comment, and the meeting was described as among the wildest in memory. A beleaguered President Bush had to struggle to maintain order and reassert himself. And when Democrats left to caucus in the Roosevelt Room, Paulson pursued them, begging that they not "blow up" the legislation.

The former Goldman Sachs CEO even went down on one knee as if genuflecting, to which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) is said to have joked, "I didn't know you were Catholic."

It was McCain who had urged Bush to call the White House meeting but Democrats made sure Obama had a prominent part. And much as they complained later of being blindsided, the whole event turned out to be something of an ambush on their part -- aimed at McCain and House Republicans.

From ABCNews.com:

ABC Bailout

From The Page:

ABC Bailout

Posted In
Economy
Network/Outlet
The Politico, ABCNews.com
Show/Publication
The Page
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