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You may recall GOP pollster Frank Luntz's recently released a 28-page memo, "The Language of Healthcare 2009: The 10 Rules for Stopping the 'Washington Takeover' of Healthcare," which is intended to help conservatives defeat President Obama and congressional Democrats' health-care reform initiatives. As we've noted over the past two weeks, Fox News has provided a forum for the Luntz talking points while Politico hyped his memo and downplayed a progressive pollster's pro-health care reform memo.
Well, now it seems Luntz doesn't want anyone asking who paid for his "10 rules" memo. Via Huffington Post's Sam Stein:
Conservative communications guru Frank Luntz has written the playbook for GOP opposition to the Obama administration's health care proposal. His plan, which is heavy on framing the president's proposal as a government "takeover," is already popping up in statements from top congressional Republicans and on Fox News, despite the fact that no Democratic legislation has been proposed.
But when it comes to discussing who funded his messaging, the wordsmith Luntz is notably devoid of words. Asked about his funder in an interview with the New York Times Magazine to be published on Sunday, Luntz was close-lipped:
Q Who paid you to write the health care memo?
A It's not relevant.
Q A pharmaceutical company?
A No pharmaceutical company was involved.
Riiiiiiight, it's not relevant who paid for the memo – a memo with talking points now being parroted by Fox News and other conservative media outlets and figures. I know it may be a bit of a stretch to expect Luntz to understand that this is an issue about his credibility as a pollster – if he has any left – but it's the right thing to do.
Come on Frank, answer the question.
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On The O'Reilly Factor, pollster Frank Luntz stated of his discussions of Gov. Sarah Palin "with groups of independents here in Minneapolis": "[A]s the discussion goes on, they start to turn negative until they hear about her stopping a bridge to nowhere." However, Palin reportedly supported the proposal to build a bridge between Ketchikan, Alaska, and Gravina Island and suggested that Alaska's congressional delegation should continue to try to procure funding for the project. Luntz gave no indication that his focus group participants were told about Palin's prior support for the bridge.
Frank Luntz falsely claimed that Sen. John McCain had "never really talked about" his decision to refuse an offer of early release from a North Vietnamese prison camp prior to mentioning it during an August 16 forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren. In fact, McCain has repeatedly cited his refusal to accept an early release in a book, interviews, speeches, and campaign ads since 1999.
On Hannity & Colmes, Frank Luntz said of Sen. Barack Obama: "[W]hen he gave his [March 18] speech on race, it was the first time that he used American flags behind him." However, Media Matters has identified numerous prior instances in which Obama spoke in front of either multiple American flags or a prominent American flag.
On Fox News' Fox & Friends, while discussing the electability of Sen. Hillary Clinton with a focus group in Ohio, pollster Frank Luntz called Jimmy Carter "the first female president."
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On Fox News, Frank Luntz told a focus group regarding Sen. Barack Obama: "But let's face it. He doesn't have foreign policy experience. He hasn't run a government, he hasn't run a business. Doesn't that concern you?" In fact, Obama is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has traveled to numerous countries while senator, and sponsored foreign policy-related bills.
On Hannity & Colmes, while conducting a focus group analysis of the February 21 Democratic presidential debate, Frank Luntz asked the focus group participants: "How many of you want [Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton] to really argue? Raise your hands." Luntz then asked: "And how many of you want them to make love to each other?"
On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity echoed President Bush's misleading claim during the State of the Union address that "116 million American taxpayers ... would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800" if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, a claim that Frank Luntz further exaggerated. In fact, because the tax cuts are largely skewed toward the wealthiest Americans, the "average of $1,800" figure cited by Bush dramatically overstates the impact of repealing the tax cuts on most Americans.
On Today, David Gregory and Frank Luntz discussed video clips of what Gregory called "the year's best quotes from the campaign trail." However, Gregory and Luntz omitted relevant context for two of the quotations -- an attack on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton by Rudy Giuliani and a separate attack on Clinton by Sen. John McCain.
Referring to a video clip of John Edwards discussing campaign finances at an appearance in Emmetsburg, Iowa, Republican pollster Frank Luntz stated: "But the problem with Edwards is, whenever he brings up money, people remember how wealthy he is, and they have a hard time listening to him complain about other candidates spending money when he himself is worth dozens and dozens of millions of dollars." But Edwards did not "bring up money" during his appearance in Emmetsburg; rather, he was responding to a question about campaign finances from an attendee at the event.
Discussing Sen. Hillary Clinton's performance during the Democratic presidential debate, Chris Matthews claimed that Clinton made herself "look like a switcher" when responding to questions about her views on Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposal to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. In fact, Clinton maintained that Spitzer's plan "ma[de] sense," explaining that "what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform" and claiming: "I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well-intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action on immigration reform." Matthews and other media figures invoked Sen. John Kerry's alleged "flip-flopping," suggesting that Clinton made inconsistent statements.
On Hannity & Colmes, Republican pollster Frank Luntz cited Republican focus group responses to an exchange over Iraq policy between Mike Huckabee and Rep. Ron Paul, and, echoing Huckabee's assertion about needing not "to lose our honor," declared: "Clearly, principle won out in this exchange." Luntz cited no evidence that the focus group participants favored Huckabee's comments because they thought that the comments -- in contrast with Paul's -- were based on "principle." In fact, Paul's position on the Iraq war has been consistent, though originally sharply at odds with public opinion.