ABC Highlights 'Guns Versus Butter' Poll that Matches Media's Agenda

Just over a week after ABC News exploited a crying mother to push an expansion of federal health insurance “for kids,” a story which matched the media's overall emotion over facts reporting on the topic, on Monday's World News anchor Charles Gibson highlighted how “a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds opposition to more money for Iraq and support for more money for children's health insurance.” Citing a “guns versus butter debate,” Gibson noted how “fewer than three in ten Americans back the President's request for another $190 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while seven in ten Americans support the increased funding for children's health insurance that the President says he'll veto.”

The Tuesday Washington Post put the two findings at the top of a graphic to illustrate “Advantage Democrats?”

The September 20 NewsBusters item, “ABC Exploits Kids and Crying Mom to Push Higher Federal Health Spending,” recounted:

CBS, and especially ABC, on Thursday night portrayed the debate over increasing federal spending on health insurance for children as an effort to help kids only the cold-hearted could oppose, a framing aided by scenes of cute toddlers, a crying mother and little emphasis on how those well above poverty would qualify. ABC anchor Charles Gibson overlooked the proposed expansion, to those in families who have or can afford private insurance, as he cited "a bill providing health insurance to millions of kids whose parents cannot afford private coverage."

Reporter Martha Raddatz found a poor mother to exploit, beginning her story: "Susan Dick depends on the so-called SCHIP [State Children's Health Insurance Program] program for her two sons, both of whom have asthma. The family income is too low for private insurance, too high for Medicaid." Raddatz briefly noted Bush's fear many would move from private insurance to the government program and then, leading into a soundbite from liberal Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, she hailed how "the expansion has bipartisan support across the country, including from many Republicans..." Capping her story, Raddatz featured a crying mother who sympathetically fretted: "If my boys don't have health insurance, it makes it very hard when you're a parent to know that they're sick and you have to get them to the doctor." Raddatz coldly concluded: "But the President made it very clear today, Charlie, he will veto this bill in its present form."

CBS anchor Katie Couric also painted Bush as opposed to helping kids: "President Bush opened a news conference today by attacking a proposed expansion of a health care program for low-income children."

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center