UPDATED REPORT: Economists comprised only 6 percent of guest appearances discussing stimulus on cable news, Sunday shows

››› ››› ELBERT VENTURA, ROB SAVILLO, LAUREN AUERBACH, TOM ALLISON, DIANNA PARKER, CHRISTINE SCHWEN & MORGAN WEILAND

A Media Matters review of the Sunday talk shows and 12 cable news programs from January 25 through February 15 found that during 203 hours of programming on Sunday mornings and weekday afternoons and evenings, only 41 of 722 total guest appearances in discussions about the economic recovery legislation and debate in Congress, were made by economists -- a mere 6 percent. The review is an update of a Media Matters study released February 11 that found that from January 25 through February 8, only 5 percent of the total guest appearances that included discussions of the recovery plan were made by economists.

In a February 4 article on The Huffington Post, Crooksandliars.com founder John Amato observed: "I'm sure you've heard about the hundreds of economists that are either for or against President Obama's stimulus plan. My question to the media is: Where are they?" A Media Matters for America review of the Sunday talk shows and 12 cable news programs from January 25 through February 15 found that during 203 hours of programming on Sunday mornings and weekday afternoons and evenings, of 722 total guest appearances in discussions about the economic recovery legislation and debate in Congress, only 41 were made by economists -- a mere 6 percent.

As Media Matters has extensively documented, media coverage of the plan has also been marred by conservative falsehoods and misinformation.

The analysis presented here is an update of a Media Matters study released February 11. That study found that from January 25 through February 8, only 25 of the 460 total guest appearances that included discussions of the recovery plan were made by economists, or 5 percent of the total. This update, which extended the time period under study through February 15, found that little has changed.

Media Matters purposefully used a broad definition of "economist" to be inclusive, coding as an economist any guest who has a master's degree or doctorate in economics or who has served as an economics professor at a university or college, as best as we could determine. (All current members of Congress were coded as non-economists.)

On cable news channels, economists made a total of 33 guest appearances out of 639 guest appearances in broadcasts that included guest discussions of the stimulus. The show that featured the most guest appearances by economists was Fox News' Glenn Beck, which featured 10: Arthur Laffer (who appeared twice), Stephen Moore (who appeared four times), Barry Ritholtz, Amity Shlaes, Thomas Sowell, and Ben Stein:

Cable channels

Program

Economist guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

%

Total guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

Hours of programming in which stimulus was discussed

The Situation Room

5

5%

104

42

Lou Dobbs Tonight

2

4%

49

15

Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull

0

0%

35

11

Anderson Cooper 360

0

0%

53

13

Your World with Neil Cavuto

6

8%

77

15

Glenn Beck

10

26%

38

13

The O'Reilly Factor

1

4%

28

11

Hannity

1

2%

62

14

Hardball with Chris Matthews

1

1%

78

15

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

4

6%

70

14

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

1

4%

27

14

The Rachel Maddow Show

2

11%

18

12

Among the Sunday shows, ABC's This Week featured the most economist guest appearances, with three over the course of four broadcasts:

Sunday shows

Program

Economist guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

%

Total guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

Number of broadcasts in which stimulus was discussed

This Week

3

11%

28

4

Face the Nation

1

10%

10

4

Meet the Press

2

11%

19

4

Fox News Sunday

2

8%

26

4

Restricting the definition of "economist" to guests with a doctorate in economics produced substantially lower numbers. Twenty-seven of the 722 guest appearances during the period studied were by people with a Ph.D. in economics -- 4 percent of the total. Under the more restrictive criterion, Glenn Beck's tally of economist guest appearances falls from 10 to 3:

Cable channels

Program

Economics Ph.D. guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

%

Total guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

Hours of programming in which stimulus was discussed

The Situation Room

5

5%

104

42

Lou Dobbs Tonight

0

0%

49

15

Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull

0

0%

35

11

Anderson Cooper 360

0

0%

53

13

Your World with Neil Cavuto

4

5%

77

15

Glenn Beck

3

8%

38

13

The O'Reilly Factor

0

0%

28

11

Hannity

1

2%

62

14

Hardball with Chris Matthews

1

1%

78

15

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

4

6%

70

14

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

0

0%

27

14

The Rachel Maddow Show

2

11%

18

12

The numbers for the Sunday shows barely changed with the more restrictive criterion:

Sunday shows

Program

Economics Ph.D. guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

%

Total guest appearances in which stimulus was discussed

Number of broadcasts in which stimulus was discussed

This Week

2

7%

28

4

Face the Nation

1

10%

10

4

Meet the Press

2

11%

19

4

Fox News Sunday

2

8%

26

4

The following is a list of all guest appearances by economists using the broad definition outlined above, with a separate column noting which ones have economics Ph.D.s:

Date

Network

Program

Guest

Economics Ph.D.?

1/28/2009

MSNBC

Hardball with Chris Matthews

Armey, Dick

Yes

2/10/2009

CNN

The Situation Room

Armey, Dick

Yes

2/11/2009

FNC

Your World with Neil Cavuto

Armey, Dick

Yes

2/10/2009

MSNBC

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Bernstein, Jared

Yes

2/13/2009

FNC

Your World with Neil Cavuto

Bernstein, Jared

Yes

2/5/2009

CNN

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Ferguson, Niall

No

2/4/2009

MSNBC

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

Huffington, Arianna

No

1/25/2009

ABC

This Week

Krugman, Paul

Yes

2/4/2009

MSNBC

The Rachel Maddow Show

Krugman, Paul

Yes

2/13/2009

MSNBC

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Krugman, Paul

Yes

2/10/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Laffer, Arthur

Yes

1/28/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Laffer, Arthur

Yes

2/11/2009

FNC

Hannity

Lindsey, Larry

Yes

1/28/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Moore, Stephen

No

2/2/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Moore, Stephen

No

2/11/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Moore, Stephen

No

2/12/2009

FNC

Your World with Neil Cavuto

Moore, Stephen

No

2/13/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Moore, Stephen

No

1/27/2009

MSNBC

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Orszag, Peter

Yes

2/5/2009

CNN

The Situation Room

Orszag, Peter

Yes

2/5/2009

FNC

Your World with Neil Cavuto

Orszag, Peter

Yes

2/8/2009

ABC

This Week

Reich, Robert

No

2/3/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Ritholtz, Barry

No

1/30/2009

CNN

The Situation Room

Rivlin, Alice

Yes

2/8/2009

CBS

Face the Nation

Romer, Christina

Yes

2/12/2009

MSNBC

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Romer, Christina

Yes

2/11/2009

MSNBC

The Rachel Maddow Show

Sachs, Jeffrey

Yes

1/26/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Shlaes, Amity

No

2/9/2009

CNN

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Smick, David

No

1/30/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Sowell, Thomas

Yes

1/30/2009

FNC

Glenn Beck

Stein, Ben

No

2/6/2009

FNC

The O'Reilly Factor

Stein, Ben

No

1/25/2009

NBC

Meet the Press

Summers, Larry

Yes

2/8/2009

FNC

Fox News Sunday

Summers, Larry

Yes

2/8/2009

ABC

This Week

Summers, Larry

Yes

2/9/2009

CNN

The Situation Room

Summers, Larry

Yes

2/9/2009

FNC

Your World with Neil Cavuto

Summers, Larry

Yes

1/30/2009

FNC

Your World with Neil Cavuto

Wheelan, Charles

No

2/1/2009

NBC

Meet the Press

Zandi, Mark

Yes

2/6/2009

CNN

The Situation Room

Zandi, Mark

Yes

2/15/2009

FNC

Fox News Sunday

Zandi, Mark

Yes

A spreadsheet of all the guests who discussed the recovery plan classified as either economists or non-economists is available here [PDF file, 80KB].

Methodology

Media Matters coded the following cable news shows for the weeks of January 26-30, February 2-6, and February 9-13:

The Situation Room (4-7 p.m. ET), CNN

Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN

Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull, CNN

Anderson Cooper 360 (10 p.m. ET hour only), CNN

Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox News

Glenn Beck, Fox News

The O'Reilly Factor (8 p.m. ET broadcast only), Fox News

Hannity, Fox News

Hardball with Chris Matthews (5 p.m. ET broadcast only), MSNBC

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, MSNBC

Countdown with Keith Olbermann (8 p.m. ET broadcast only), MSNBC

The Rachel Maddow Show (9 p.m. ET broadcast only), MSNBC

(Note: On February 9, some shows were pre-empted by, or broadcast at a different hour because of, President Obama's 8 p.m. press conference. CNN's Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull was pre-empted at the 8 p.m. hour and was not coded. Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor aired at 9 p.m. and was coded at that hour. Fox News' Hannity did not air at all on that night. MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann aired at 10 p.m. and was coded at that hour.)

Media Matters also coded the Sunday-morning talk shows on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC for January 25, February 1, February 8, and February 15. All shows were one hour long except for CBS' Face the Nation, which runs for 30 minutes:

Face the Nation, CBS

Fox News Sunday, Fox

Meet the Press, NBC

This Week, ABC

Media Matters counted as appearances instances in which someone appeared as a guest on a show -- either live during the show or in a taped interview aired during the show -- and discussed the economic recovery plan. If a guest appeared more than once in a broadcast during separate segments, that guest was counted only one time for the purposes of this study. Reported stories and news packages were not included in the study. Guests who did not participate in a discussion of the plan were also not included in the study.

All guests coded were classified as either an "economist" or "other." To be classified as an economist, a guest must have received an advanced degree in economics or served as an economics professor at a college or university. We used bios, profiles, resumes, and news stories available online to determine as best we could each guest's educational background and professional experience. We coded all current members of Congress as "other" without assessing their educational or prior professional background. Ben Stein, whose bio states that he "worked as an economist at The Department of Commerce," was coded as an economist. David M. Smick, who, among other things, is the founder, editor, and publisher of The International Economy magazine and the author of The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy, was also coded as an economist.

Media Matters also analyzed the guest appearances using a more restrictive definition of "economist" as a guest with a Ph.D. in economics.

Broadcast hours calculated for this study include only broadcasts in which at least one guest was on to discuss the economic recovery plan. Transcripts for shows were reviewed through the Nexis news database. Transcripts for CNN shows were also obtained through CNN's website. Shows for which no transcripts were available were viewed via digital recordings.

Posted In
Economy
Stories/Interests
Economic Recovery Plan
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