Nets Trumpet Obama's Efforts to 'Protect Consumers' from Credit Card Companies

Instead of providing any suggestion President Barack Obama's hectoring of credit card company executives, with the not-so-subtle threat of further regulation, is an improper strong-arm tactic, the network evening newscasts on Thursday night hailed Obama's efforts to “protect consumers” -- in stories each complete with a sympathetic victim of jacked-up interest rates, but barely any time, if any, for a view contrary to Obama's.

ABC's Charles Gibson teased: “Tonight, tough talk. A stern warning from the President to credit card executives. If you don't protect the consumers, the government will.” CBS's Katie Couric fretted about the impact of “the credit card fees, penalties, and rising interest rates” which led the President to tell “the credit card companies: enough.” Reporter Anthony Mason began: “Clean up your act. That was President Obama's message to credit card issuers today.” NBC anchor Brian Williams trumpeted how Obama has come to the rescue: “Today the President admonished the credit card companies and came down on the side of consumers.”

CBS's Mason provided no downside to Obama's rhetoric nor the perspective of the credit card companies, while ABC's Jake Tapper and NBC's Lisa Myers squeezed in a few words with a different take.

Tapper, who noted “some attendees told ABC News they thought today's meeting was more political theater than substance,” added: “The industry believes, for the most part, they are doing what they need to survive in a recession, as Americans wrack up more debt than ever before and are having trouble paying their bills.” Myers reported, “The banks insist that the increases are justified, that their costs and risks are going up,” and: “Banks have warned that new consumer protections could backfire, raising costs and limiting the availability of credit.”

For a flavor of how the media framed Obama's lecturing of credit card companies, a look at the teases and how the anchors led their newscasts on Thursday, April 23:

ABC's World News:

Gibson's tease:

Tonight, tough talk. A stern warning from the President to credit card executives. If you don't protect the consumers, the government will.

Gibson led:

Good evening. President Obama summoned executives of the largest credit card companies to the White House today, telling them, in essence, change the way you do business or the government will make you change. The numbers involving credit cards are staggering. Americans carry nearly a trillion dollars of debt on their charge cards. That's an average of over $7,000 for every household with an unpaid balance. And the interest rates they owe have soared to an average above fourteen-and-a-half percent. So, Jake Tapper reports on today's meeting from the White House. Jake?

CBS Evening News:

Katie Couric's tease:

Tonight, the President takes credit card companies to task, telling them:

OBAMA: The days of any time, any reason rate hikes and late-fee traps have to end.

Couric opened:

Good evening, everyone. The recession and unemployment, the housing crisis, and just plain overspending have millions of Americans caught in a credit card crunch, drowning in plastic debt. Consider this: The average household owes more than $10,000, more than four-and-a-half percent of credit card accounts are delinquent. Then come the credit card fees, penalties, and rising interest rates. Today, Anthony Mason reports, the President told the credit card companies: enough.

NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams began:

Good evening. It doesn't take a political scientist to figure out why there's so much consumer outrage right now over those wildly rising credit card rates. Some of the same banks that got billions in taxpayer money to stay in business are now sticking it to those same taxpayers, their customers. Today the President admonished the credit card companies and came down on the side of consumers. It's where we begin tonight with NBC's Lisa Myers in our Washington newsroom.
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