Reporters are eagerly anticipating President Obama’s budget speech this afternoon, with NBC’s Chuck Todd assuring viewers of Wednesday’s Today show that now, finally, “the President’s going to add his voice to this, debate, essentially, over what to do about the ever-growing deficit and debt.”
But over and over again over the past two years, the media have painted Obama as a leader committed to “slashing” the deficit, only to have the absurdity of such spin later revealed by the administration’s actual policies.
Let’s start the trip down memory lane with coverage of President Obama’s first budget speech in February 2009, which reporters claimed would include steps to aggressively reduce the deficit. ABC’s David Muir began the February 21, 2009 World News by pitching how the President was “slashing the deficit by at least 50 percent by raising taxes on the wealthy, people making $250,000 and above, and cutting war spending by bringing troops home from Iraq.”
A round-up from over the weekend of journalists denouncing Republican Congressman Paul Ryan for not including a big tax hike in his deficit-reduction plan and discrediting the Tea Party’s pressure on House Speaker John Boehner as a “far right” impediment to good government.
“He doesn't deal with the revenue side at all,” despaired Newsweek veteran Evan Thomas on Inside Washington, arguing: “We cannot survive on 18, his goal is to do 18 percent of GDP as revenue. That's not enough. We're going to have to raise some taxes...”
On HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night, Katty Kay, anchor of BBC’s World News America, echoed, “He does nothing on the revenue side,” fretting: “There is this allergy, amongst Republicans, about saying ‘you know what, we actually do have to deal with taxes too.’”
Juan Williams charged “the rich get off like scoundrels,” complaining on Fox News Sunday that Ryan is “not doing anything in terms of raising taxes.” Williams also worried: “John Boehner now has the Tea Party wrapped around his neck like an albatross.”
Catching up on an item from last weekend, Friday’s World News on ABC, Saturday’s Good Morning America on ABC, Saturday’s CBS Evening News, and Saturday’s NBC Nightly News all highlighted California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s defense of partial birth abortion as a procedure she had herself gone through as she berated New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith for describing the horrific nature of the procedure during a debate over federal funding of Planned Parenthood. The sympathetic treatment of Speier's outrage over having to hear the technique's description contrasts with media eagerness to describe rough interrogation techniques used on detainees in the War on Terrorism during the Bush administration.
These same shows devoted little to no time to showing Smith’s description of the controversial abortion technique or his reading from the book, Unplanned, by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who famously turned against abortion after observing the ultrasound of an abortion as it was carried out. Rep. Smith had given a speech on the House floor that was over eight minutes long.
On the February 12 World News Saturday, ABC correspondent David Kerley highlighted claims by Bob Greenstein of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy that the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama would block Tea Party-backed cuts from this year’s federal budget, thus protecting Republicans from their "less than responsible actions."
After Kerley began his piece by recounting that Tea Party Republicans in the House had pressured House Speaker John Boehner to support a plan cutting $100 billion in planned spending from the current fiscal year's budget, calling the cuts "broad and very deep," the ABC correspondent included a clip of Greenstein asserting that "they’re bigger than people think" without informing viewers of the liberal lean of his organization.
After a second clip of Greenstein in which the former Carter administration member contended that Republicans are "protected from the consequences of their own, I think, less than responsible actions here," Kerley continued: "Protected from the consequences, he says, because the Democratic Senate and the President will not go along."
On Friday’s World News, and again on Saturday morning’s Good Morning America, ABC ran reports highlighting hedge fund manager John Paulson’s "jaw-dropping" 2010 income from capital gains, fretting that he will not pay as high a tax rate as many regular income earners, and referring to Paulson’s lower tax rate as a "loophole" or a "tax break." GMA co-anchor Dan Harris even relayed complaints of "extreme unfairness."
Both reports ignored the historical evidence - recounted below - that raising capital gains tax rates leads to revenue losses for the government, and instead concentrated on the complaints of those who want to see a tax increase. Both reports also misleadingly referred to "so many Americans" or "the typical American" paying income tax rates of "up to 35 percent," without noting that many lower-income Americans pay no income taxes while the 35 percent rate only applies to higher-income earners. And the idea of cutting the income tax rate on many Americans to move it closer to 15 percent certainly was not mentioned.
On Friday’s World News, anchor Diane Sawyer set up that show’s piece:
On Saturday, both ABC and NBC ran stories fretting over the Crossroads of the West Gun Show that was held over the weekend in Tucson, Arizona. On ABC, at one point, correspondent David Wright seemed surprised that the large number of people showing up at the event were customers instead of protesters. After relaying that some members of Congress want more gun control laws and cautioning viewers that they should not "hold your breath for them to pass," he continued: "If you wonder why, just check out the crowd at today's gun show. These aren't protesters, they're customers."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, correspondent Kristen Welker noted that it is legal to carry concealed weapons in Arizona, "just as Loughner did last Saturday," as if a person with homicidal intent would decide to obey a law against carrying concealing weapons:
KRISTEN WELKER: Guns are permissible almost anywhere in the state, including many public buildings, and it is legal for people to conceal those weapons and carry them around, just as Loughner did last Saturday.
PAUL HELMKE, BRADY COMMISSION PRESIDENT: Arizona is only the third state in the country to allow people to carry loaded, hidden guns without any permitting process at all.
OK, so conservatives have to be accused of fostering hatred with our alleged vitriol, the kind of vitriol which fuels the flames of violence, like we witnessed in Tucson except – well, except there wasn’t, and isn’t, a shred of evidence that the killer was influenced by any conservatives since a) he didn’t listen to or watch conservative programming and b) isn’t a conservative.
There is the hypothetical question: What if the perpetrator of violence were liberal? How would the media react then? How many would put Chris Matthews, Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann and Co. on trial for creating the “atmosphere” of “hatred” so often ascribed to conservatives only?
In fact, it happened. One of Jared Loughner’s shooting victims was a local leftist activist, Eric Fuller, who last week was invited to ABC’s taping of an “American Conversation.” There, in front of all the cameras, he interrupted a local Tea Party activist by uttering what should be considered in this atmosphere to be a blood-curdling threat: “You’re dead!” Police considered these words serious enough to have him removed and involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
As NewsBusters reported over the weekend, ABC News did a deplorable job of informing viewers about a death threat made by a Tucson shooting survivor to a Tea Partier at the taping of a town hall event aired on Sunday's "This Week."
On Monday, Glenn Beck and his radio crew savaged Christiane Amanpour for her involvement in this fiasco while concluding, "That lack of truth is why places like ABC will eventually just go out of business and be looking for a handout from the government" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
As NewsBusters previously reported, a survivor of last week's Tucson shootings issued a death threat to a Tea Party member Saturday in the middle of a taping for a town hall meeting to be aired on ABC's "This Week."
For some reason, ABC World News Saturday in its report about the gathering chose to omit the seriousness of the threat and that it was made to a Tea Partier (video follows courtesy Mark Finkelstein with transcript and commentary):
On ABC’s World News Saturday, correspondent John Hendren filed a report marking this year as the first time since 1947 that no members of the Kennedy family will hold public office in Washington, D.C. The piece began:
JOHN HENDREN: The sun has set on the Kennedy era. When Congress reconvenes next week, it will be the first time in 64 years that there has not been a Kennedy in office.
KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND, DAUGHTER OF ROBERT F. KENNEDY: I think it's sad. I think that we need a Kennedy.
Hendren went on to recount the death of former Senator Ted Kennedy, "the Lion of the Senate," and the decision of Rhode Island Representative Patrick Kennedy to retire, as well as the shuffling of office space with the arrival of newly-elected Republicans. The ABC correspondent also noted that Tea Party-backed Rep. Ron Paul and Senator-elect Rand Paul are the only family members serving who will be serving concurrently in Congress.
Hendren concluded by offering a ray of hope for those would like to see the Kennedy family in government again:
On Thursday’s CBS Evening News, as correspondent Jan Crawford filed a report on the allegations that former Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell misused campaign money, the CBS correspondent seemed dismissive of O’Donnell’s reaction to the accusations as Crawford harkened back to the 2010 campaign and described some of O’Donnell’s recent words as the Delaware Republican's response "whenever she faced embarrassing revelations." Crawford: "O'Donnell says the charges are dirty tricks by the political establishment. Now, if that sounds familiar, it should. That was often her response during the campaign whenever she faced embarrassing revelations."
After a clip of O’Donnell from the campaign accusing her opponents of "making up stories," then came a soundbite of David Catanese of Politico.com: "It's something she used during her entire campaign, she used in the primary and the general election. And here she is on morning TV again pitting herself against the world, basically."
As all the broadcast network evening newscasts on Saturday used words like "historic" and "landmark" to describe the Senate vote in favor of repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on homosexuals serving in the military, the networks also provided substantially more soundbites to supporters of the measure than to those who opposed changing the policy.
On ABC, the lead report filed by correspondent David Kerley used soundbites from five supporters of lifting the ban, while only two soundbites featured opponents. Kerley began his report by quoting an unnamed "civil rights leader" calling Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a "stain on our nation," and, after quoting President Obama’s statement supporting the measure, immediately highlighted a former military service member who is gay. Kerley:
"A stain on our nation has been lifted," is how one civil rights leader put it tonight, and President Obama says, quote, "No longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans just because they are gay." This Senate vote was very personal for thousands of service members. Major Mike Almy served in Iraq but was discharged when the Air Force learned he was gay. He's been battling Don't Ask, Don't Tell ever since.
CBS’s John Dickerson also brought up civil rights as he called the vote a "civil rights victory for the President," although he also uniquely used the term "liberals" to refer to some of the President’s supporters who advocated the policy change. Dickerson: " Well, it's definitely a civil rights win for him, and it’s a win politically with liberals in his party, and they’ve been angry with him. They were angry with him on this issue in particular because they felt like he wasn’t pushing hard enough.