Media quote Jindal without noting he is misrepresenting Obama's comments

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Media outlets have uncritically reported Gov. Bobby Jindal's misrepresentation of a quote from President Obama. The outlets reported that according to excerpts of Jindal's response to Obama's address to Congress, Jindal would say: "A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said 'we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her." In fact, Obama stated that if his economic recovery plan were not passed, "we may not be able to reverse" the current economic crisis.

In reporting on released excerpts of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's response to President Obama's February 24 address to a joint session of Congress, media outlets including the Politico and MSNBC.com have uncritically reported Jindal's misrepresentation of an Obama quote. The media outlets reported that Jindal would say, according to the excerpts: "A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said 'we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her." In fact, in the January 8 speech and the February 5 Washington Post op-ed in which Obama used the phrase "we may not be able to reverse," he did not suggest that "we cannot recover" or that "America's best days are behind her." Instead, he stated that if his economic recovery plan were not passed, "we may not be able to reverse" the current economic crisis. Indeed, during his speech, Obama said of the possibility that his plan would not be passed and thus, "we may not be able to reverse" the crisis: "That is not the country I know, and it is not a future I will accept as President of the United States."

Media outlets that advanced Jindal's false attack include:

  • In a February 24 post on his Politico blog, senior political writer Ben Smith stated that Jindal "accus[ed] the president, basically, of pessimism" in the released excerpts, and then uncritically repeated Jindal's statement.
  • In a February 24 post on the MSNBC.com blog First Read, NBC political researcher Domenico Montanaro reported that in the excerpts, Jindal "channels Bill Clinton, taking a swipe at Obama for not being hopeful enough," then uncritically repeated Jindal's statement.

In his January 8 speech, Obama stated:

It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now. We should have an open and honest discussion about this recovery plan in the days ahead, but I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That is not the country I know, and it is not a future I will accept as President of the United States. A world that depends on the strength of our economy is now watching and waiting for America to lead once more. And that is what we will do.

Similarly, in his February 5 op-ed, Obama wrote:

What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives -- action that's swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

Likewise, at a February 9 town hall in Elkhart, Indiana, Obama stated:

Economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don't act immediately, millions of more jobs will be lost. The national unemployment rates will approach double digits not just here in Elkhart, all across the country. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse.

So we can't afford to wait. We can't wait and see and hope for the best. We can't posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place. (Applause.) That was what this election was all about -- the American people rejected those ideas because they hadn't worked. (Applause.) You didn't send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same; you sent us there to change things -- (applause) -- the expectation that we would act quickly and boldly to carry out change. And that's exactly what I intend to do as President of the United States of America. (Applause.)

That's why I put forth a recovery and reinvestment plan that is now before Congress.

Salon.com's Alex Koppelman also noted Jindal's misrepresentation of Obama's quote in a February 24 post on the War Room blog.

From Smith's post, headlined "Jindal accuses Obama of pessimism":

The early excerpts of Bobby Jindal's response to Obama's State of the Union are largely standard fare, but the conclusion strikes an interesting note -- one hinted at recently by Bill Clinton -- accusing the president, basically, of pessimism.

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said 'we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her.

From Montanaro's First Read post:

He also channels Bill Clinton, taking a swipe at Obama for not being hopeful enough.

"A few weeks ago, the president warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said, 'We may not be able to reverse,' " Jindal will say. "Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her."

Posted In
Economy
Network/Outlet
The Politico
Person
Ben Smith
Show/Publication
MSNBC.com, First Read
Stories/Interests
Economic Recovery Plan
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