Silence: CBS Ignores Obama's Massive Immigration Flip-Flop

The debate over Barack Obama's planned executive order on illegal immigration has continued to grow, but CBS is ignoring the President's glaring flip-flop, his repeated claims that he doesn't have the "legal" power to take such action. ABC and NBC both covered Obama's past admissions, but only briefly. In 2014, NBC allowed 12 seconds and ABC a meager 91 seconds.

On February 14, 2013, the President conceded, "I'm the President of the United States. I'm not the emperor of the United States." He added, "My job is to execute laws that are passed." On September 17, 2013, Obama bluntly said of immigration reform: "There is a path to get this done and that is through Congress.” [MP3 audio montage here.] Yet, CBS has avoided wondering about the contradiction and failed to ask when the President changed his mind. 

On Thursday, CBS This Morning reporter Major Garrett related, "Republicans complain the President simply doesn't have the legal authority to shield from deportation or provide work permits to up to five million undocumented adults." It would have been helpful if he noted that, at one time, Obama also expressed this view. 

NBC's Today on Thursday finally discovered the issue. Reporter Peter Alexander noted, "Even before President Obama announces a thing, by acting alone, his Republicans critics say he's betraying his own words." The reporter then played a clip of the President from February of 2013.  

ABC offered the most coverage, 91 seconds in 2014. On the November 16 edition of This Week, Jim Avila pressed Obama, demanding, "In 2013, you said I'm not the emperor of the United States, my job is to execute laws that are passed. Mr. President, what has changed since then?" 

On November 19, Good Morning America came back to the story. Before playing a clip of Obama, Jon Karl pointed out that the Commander in Chief "has repeatedly said in some very colorful ways that he doesn't have power to do it." Karl explained to viewers on the same day's World News that "this would be very difficult to defend legally." 

ABC, alone, among the networks, looked into the issue in past years. On June 15, 2012, Pierre Thomas discussed the President's last immigration actions: 

PIERRE THOMAS: Obama now says his administration has the authority to act on its own, seeming to contradict what he told our partners at Univision last year.

BARACK OBAMA: With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that's just not the case.

Obama made similar comments on March 28, 2011 and January 31, 2013. On that day, he conceded: 

OBAMA: I’m not a king. I am the head of the executive branch of government. I’m required to follow the law. 

The basic responsibility of journalists is to hold the powerful accountable, to "speak truth to power." On this story, CBS has failed. ABC and NBC have offered substandard, glancing coverage to a massive flip flop. 

Transcripts of the network coverage on Obama's past statements can be found below: 

Today
11/20/14

PETER ALEXANDER: Even before President Obama announces a thing, by acting alone, his Republicans critics say he's betraying his own words. 

OBAMA [FEBRUARY 14, 2013]: I'm the President of the United States, I'm not the emperor of the United States.         

World News
11/19/14

JON KARL: The President, in saying that, just last year said that this would be very difficult to defend legally, that’s why he couldn’t do it. All the White House will say to this is that things have changed and they say what the President will be fully within his legal powers. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now Jon, the President has suggested in the past that he doesn't have the kind of power to do this on his own. 

KARL: Immigrant groups have been pushing him to do this for years. And he has repeatedly said in some very colorful ways that he doesn't have power to do it. 

BARACK OBAMA: You know, I'm the President of the United States. I'm not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed. 

KARL: Does the president still stand by what he said last year, when he said, quote, “I am not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.” Is that still operative?  
 
JOSH EARNEST: Absolutely. 

KARL: Not a king either?

EARNEST: That’s right. 

KARL: But what the President says – the White House says has changed is the President’s view on what he can do legally when it comes to immigration. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: And they say they do have the legal basis for it. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of days. Jon Karl, thanks very much.     

This Week
11/16/14

JIM AVILA: The President's pivot to Asia filled with photo-ops and hugs, but never far away, domestic politics and the looming go-it-alone decision to reform immigration by presidential fiat. In 2013, you said I'm not the emperor of the United States, my job is to execute laws that are passed. Mr. President, what has changed since then?

BARACK OBAMA: Actually, my position hasn't changed. There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I'm exercising too much executive authority. Pass a bill I can sign on this issue.

BARACK OBAMA: You know, I'm the President of the United States. I'm not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed. 

World News
6/15/12
6:30

PIERRE THOMAS: Nor is it legal critics say. The President took the dramatic move to sidestep Congress after a bill overhauling immigration law had languished. Obama now says his administration has the authority to act on its own, seeming to contradict what he told our partners at Univision last year.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that's just not the case.

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