Broadcast and cable networks have failed to cover a liberal interest group's exploitative TV spot claiming any cuts to the EPA would be equivalent to spoon-feeding toxic particles to infants, even though the proposed cuts would only pare back funding to pre-recession levels.
The video, released in March amid debates in Congress to curtail the EPA's regulatory authority, has since re-emerged as a commercial on MSNBC. While depicting an adult feeding a small child helpings of baby food from jars labeled dioxin, mercury, and arsenic, a narrator frets: "If the EPA wasn't cleaning millions of toxic particles out of the air, they'd be going, well, somewhere else...Protect the EPA. Protect our kids."
Despite the impression left by American Family Voices, the group responsible for the advertisement, that cuts to the EPA would kill children, the numbers tell a different story.
In February, President Barack Obama proposed an FY 2012 budget of $8.9 billion for the EPA. In April, House Republicans passed a budget (the Ryan Plan) that would trim EPA funding to 2008 levels, or approximately $7.5 billion. The EPA's FY 2010 budget, which was already inflated 36 percent above pre-recession levels, was only about $1 billion more than Obama's 2012 proposal.
If baby food wasn't contaminated with dangerous amounts of arsenic in 2008, scaling back EPA funding to those levels in 2012 could hardly be construed as fatal to infants. Yet the media are allowing American Family Voices (AFV) to get away with such hyperbole and MSNBC is pocketing the ad revenue without scrutinizing the spot on any of its news programs.
AFV has a history of advancing liberal causes on a wide range of consumer issues. Shortly after Mike Lux, president of Progressive Strategies, a liberal political consulting firm, founded AFV in 2000, the group started assaulting President George W Bush with allegations of corporate corruption.
"I was outraged at the idea that Bush was going to do a big speech and pound his chest and say he is in favor of corporate responsibility when he is closer to the corporate world than any president since Ronald Reagan," accused Lux, a former aide to President Clinton. AFV ran TV ads in 2002, claiming, "Bush played a key role at Harken Energy – they used Enron-style accounting to hide losses."
Since then, according to AFV's website, the group has focused on torpedoing the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, accusing then-Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) of collaborating with Tom DeLay in a money-laundering scheme, and supporting the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.
Just like AFV has a history of attacking conservative politicians and promoting liberal policies, the media have a history of ignoring controversial liberal political ads. Back in May, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN, among others, avoided covering – for as long as they could – the Agenda Project's offensive Medicare video showing a Republican politician steering grandma and her wheelchair off a cliff.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.