Media figures have repeatedly forwarded the notion that the United States is currently facing a debt crisis. However, leaders of both parties agree there is no immediate crisis, and by focusing attention too heavily on deficit and debt reduction, the media distract from the more imminent problem of growth and jobs.
Throughout news coverage of recent budget negotiations, media figures have consistently framed discussions around the notion that the country faces a debt crisis, an assertion that is often presented uncritically and accepted as an indisputable fact. Since discussions are predicated on the assumption that a debt crisis exists, ensuing analysis of budget proposals is often solely focused on how far they go in reducing short term deficits and debt.
While media are convinced that a debt crisis exists, leaders of both parties have made explicit statements to the contrary. In a March 12 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Obama claimed that "we don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt," a statement that was immediately criticized by conservative media. When asked if he agreed with Obama's statement regarding debt on the March 17 edition of ABC's This Week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded that there is no immediate crisis. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a similar admission on CBS' Face the Nation, saying "we do not have a debt crisis right now."
Furthermore, the media's focus on a "debt crisis" has necessarily steered the debate about budgets toward how the parties will sufficiently address short term deficits. Economists, meanwhile, have repeatedly argued that undue focus on deficits and debt distracts from the more pressing need for economic growth and reduced unemployment.
The bipartisan admission that there is no immediate debt crisis provides media with an opportunity to reframe their budget negotiations coverage around economic growth.
Video by Alan Pyke.
From the January 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
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In several on-air interviews about the then-pending fiscal cliff legislation, journalists allowed Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to attack the bill without noting Issa's personal financial stake in opposing the legislation and keeping his own taxes at a lower rate.
In appearances on Fox News' Fox & Friends (1/2), CNN's The Situation Room (1/1) and CNN Newsroom (12/31/12), the issue of Issa's wealth was not broached by the reporters and anchors who interviewed him.
As Politico reported, Issa's 2011 financial disclosure statement showed almost $15 million in earnings from investments. The vast majority of Issa's income comes from investments -- income that will be taxed at a higher rate under the legislation that just passed (capital gains taxes will be increased from 15 percent to 20 percent for families making over $450,000 a year.)
The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that Issa has a net worth between $195 million and $700 million. Roll Call ranked him as the second wealthiest member of the 112th Congress, based on the lowest and most charitable estimate of his wealth (members of Congress are only required to report ranges of their wealth, not exact numbers.)
In voting "No" on the bill, Issa voted in his own self-interest, a pertinent fact that Fox and CNN never bothered to tell their viewers.
From the October 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak threw cold water on the right-wing media narrative that President Obama is anti-Israel, praising Obama for doing "more" for Israeli security than any other U.S. president.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer that aired yesterday on CNN's The Situation Room, Barak responded to a question about the state of the current U.S.-Israeli relationship by saying, "I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past."
BLITZER: You've studied U.S.-Israeli relations over many years. How would you describe the relationship today?
BARAK: I think that from my point of view as defense minister they are extremely good, extremely deep and profound. I can see long years, administrations of both sides of the political aisle deeply supporting the state of Israel, and I believe that reflects the profound feelings among the American people. But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past.
BLITZER: More than any other president? LBJ, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush?
BARAK: Yeah, in terms of the support for our security, the cooperation of our intelligence, the sharing of thoughts in a very open way even when there are differences, which are not simple sometimes, I found their support for our defense very stable.
Barak's praise for Obama on Israeli security flies in the face of the right-wing media's false narrative that Obama is hostile to Israel, a narrative that goes as far back as 2008. These bogus attacks include claims that Obama and members of his administration are anti-Semitic and that Obama may use military force against Israel.
Just yesterday, conservative media figures added to this narrative by remarking that Obama, as president, hasn't visited Israel.
During an appearance on Fox News' Special Report, Fox contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol praised Romney's recent visit to Israel while noting that "President Obama has not been in Israel as president of the United States." Fox's Sean Hannity similarly said that it is an "alarming fact that after nearly four years in office, President Obama has yet to visit our closest ally in the Middle East in what is now a very troubling time."
In fact, Obama visited Israel as a candidate, just like Mitt Romney, and it is not unusual for a president to not make a trip to Israel during a first term. Furthermore, none of the previous three Republican presidents made trips to Israel at this point in their presidencies, and neither Ronald Reagan nor George H.W. Bush traveled to Israel as president at all.
Fox News' Greta van Susteren last night became the sixth journalist to interview Mitt Romney without asking him about the conservative conspiracy theory alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood is using supposed ties to an aide for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to infiltrate the U.S. government. Two surrogates for Romney's campaign have defended that conspiracy during the past week, while Republican leaders like John Boehner and John McCain have condemned it.
Erick Erickson brought Fox News' false small-business attack on President Obama to CNN, citing deceptively edited comments to accuse Obama of embracing "grade school Marxism."
On Friday, during an appearance in Virginia, Obama made the point that success in business comes not just from individual drive, but also from benefits provided by others, including the government:
OBAMA: If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
Then on Monday, Fox & Friends deceptively edited Obama's remarks, tearing two sentences of his argument out of context and distorting them to make it appear that he was saying small business owners don't deserve any credit for their own success. Mitt Romney, during a campaign stop today, repeated Fox's distortion of Obama's remarks, and his campaign posted a video on YouTube repeating the out-of-context remarks over and over.
Now, Erickson has brought this distortion to CNN. During an appearance on The Situation Room Tuesday, Erickson said:
ERICKSON: For [Obama] to say somehow that if you've built something, you didn't really build it, other people do -- no one denies that other people contributed to your success in life, but, I mean -- this is just grade school Marxism that he's uttering.
Erickson went on to label the distorted comments from Obama as Marxist twice more during the segment. But Erickson is leaving out the key context of Obama's comments. Obama's "[y]ou didn't build that" comment was directed at American infrastructure and services such as roads and bridges - not an individual's business.
A majority of federal rulings on the substance of President Obama's health care reform law have found it to be constitutional, including the law's mandate that individuals purchase health insurance. But a Media Matters review of the five largest newspapers and the flagship CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news programs finds that the media overwhelmingly focused on rulings that struck down the law in whole or in part -- 84 percent of segments on the broadcast and cable programs reviewed and 59 percent of newspaper articles that reported on such rulings -- while largely ignoring rulings that found it constitutional or dismissed the case.
Mitt Romney's remarks at Solyndra were full of falsehoods that went unchecked by many major media outlets. The media also largely failed to point out that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney invested in several companies that subsequently went bankrupt or defaulted on state loans.
In the wake of President Obama's declaration of support for marriage equality and the passage of North Carolina's anti-gay marriage amendment, CNN broadcast a variety of segments focusing on the historic implications of this week's events. Three of CNN's most recognizable faces hosted Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the issue of same-sex marriage.
Although Piers Morgan, Wolf Blitzer, and Soledad O'Brien failed to identify Perkins as a hate group leader, they did challenge him on several of his anti-gay talking points. O'Brien and Morgan were particularly assertive in challenging his failed logic.
Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's Morgan on Tuesday:
Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's Blitzer on Wednesday:
Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's O'Brien on Thursday:
Hernon Graddick, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), published a column Thursday criticizing CNN's decision to welcome the hate group leader, arguing that the media needs to do a better job of providing context for Perkins' appearances:
[W]ith a wealth of political thinkers, analysts and strategists to go to -- why has CNN turned to Tony Perkins three times in the last few days to represent the "other side?" He was on with Piers Morgan Tuesday night to talk about the vote in North Carolina. He appeared with Wolf Blitzer Wednesday evening to talk about the President's support for marriage equality, and then was interviewed by Soledad O'Brien Thursday morning on the same topic.
All of this is fine, as long as Perkins is put into the proper context. Which he sort-of was by Morgan and O'Brien, but Blitzer didn't even come close.
Here's the crux of the problem -- and the exact reason why GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project was born. Tony Perkins and others of his ilk cannot be used to exemplify those who simply oppose marriage equality. CNN is more than welcome to interview him on the issue of marriage equality, of course. His is unquestionably one of the loudest voices in the nation speaking about the issue.
But when Perkins gets interviewed, a responsible journalist needs to tell the audience exactly who Perkins is speaking for. Based on his own statements -- Tony Perkins represents people who believe supporting LGBT equality is akin to being a terrorist. Who believe marriage equality is the same as bestiality. Who say that gay people are "vile," "hateful," "spiteful" "pawns of the enemy." Tony Perkins does not represent people who oppose marriage equality. Tony Perkins represents those who oppose LGBT people -- period.
If CNN wants that side represented in this discussion, then Perkins is absolutely the right man for the job. But they need to make it clear to the audience that that's what he's there for. And by not doing so, they have not told the whole story.
On Thursday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews demonstrated a good example of how cable news hosts should handle Perkins when he appears on their shows.
Several media outlets have distorted comments by an EPA official, falsely suggesting that he said "oil companies should be crucified." In fact, the official was using an analogy, which he has since apologized for, to describe a common approach to regulatory enforcement: making examples out of those who break the law.
During a Situation Room segment on Thursday, Wolf Blitzer led a discussion between CNN contributors Mary Matalin and Donna Brazile about controversial comments Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) made regarding the Tea Party. When Blitzer turned to Matalin for her opinion, seemingly apropos of nothing, Matalin brought up Glenn Beck and what she called his "astounding, remarkable series on the civil rights struggle in this country including black founding fathers."
This set off a heated back-and-forth about Beck between Matalin and Brazile over the course of the 11-minute segment. When confronted about Beck's notorious comment that President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred of white people," Matalin made a series of equivocating statements that mostly excused Beck's comment, saying he made it in the "context" of "a number of things that were in Barack Obama's background which hadn't been condemned, that Barack Obama didn't condemn."
According to her CNN bio, Matalin is the editor-in-chief of Threshold Editions, an imprint of publisher Simon & Schuster. Threshold has published most, if not all, of Beck's recent books. In fact, it's publishing Beck's The Snow Angel next month.
That fact didn't come up as Matalin randomly injected Beck into the conversation on CNN.
Is Matalin concerned about the flagging profile of one of her most productive authors now that his Fox News show has ended and his rally in Israel was met with little fanfare?
From the November 5 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
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From the October 1 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
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President Obama has long advocated allowing the Bush income tax cuts that only benefit the wealthiest 2 percent to expire, while maintaining those that help everyone. And conservative media figures routinely respond to the prospect of higher taxes on the wealthy by arguing that the rich aren't actually rich, the latest being CNN's resident crotchety old man, Jack Cafferty.
Asking viewers of The Situation Room, "is it a mistake to raise taxes on the so-called wealthy?," Cafferty explained that "by [Obama's] definition, wealthy translates to couples making more than $250,000 a year, individuals making more than $200,000." He added:
Those numbers are very arbitrary, Wolf, depending where you live in this country. Two hundred thousand dollars, if you live in Manhattan, ain't all that much money. A couple hundred thousand dollars in Fargo would probably buy you half the town.
Cafferty claims two hundred thousand dollars "ain't all that much money" in Manhattan. According to a September 2009 NY Daily News article, census data show that "the median household income in NYC was $51,116 last year, slightly lower than the national average of $52,029. In Manhattan, it was $69,017." So half the households living in Manhattan make less than $69K, yet Cafferty thinks you can earn more than three times that amount and still not have "that much money"?
There's just no city you can go to in this country where an income of $250,000 isn't a lot higher than the vast majority of families, regardless of whether you know someone who makes even more.
FYI, here's what our national income distribution looks like (from Census Bureau data):
The ones in red are those who will see a less-large income tax cut next year, under Obama's plan. Cafferty can argue against that change, but he can't deny that those affected represent just 2 percent of taxpayers.
From the September 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room: