In a separate post critiquing Associated Press reporter Stephen Ohlemacher's Monday evening and Tuesday morning dispatches on President-Elect Donald Trump's Electoral College victory, I noted that Ohlemacher gave undue ink and bandwidth to no more than 1,500 to 2,100 protesters in states Trump won who urged Republican electors not to carry out their Constitutional duty. Ohlemacher believed that he could comfortably claim that "thousands" were involved in these protests because he included those in states won by Hillary Clinton. That's bogus, as there were no Republican electors to persuade in those states. Ohlemacher's story also made a seriously deficient claim about the alleged shortcomings of the Electoral College.
As one would expect, there is plenty to criticize in Stephen Ohlemacher's Monday evening coverage of Donald Trump's achievement of an Electoral College majority earlier in the day.
This post will concentrate on Ohlemacher's questionable counting of "protesters." A separate post looks at a very revealing failure in the wire service story's photo collection, in a graphic showing how the structuring of the Electoral College allegedly disfavors high-population states, which are (supposedly) predominantly blue. It doesn't show that at all.
Carrying water for the left as their pet programs implode while pretending to be an objective reporter is a daunting task. The Associated Press's Stephen Ohlemacher was not up to that task Thursday afternoon. Twice, in relatively early paragraphs of his 31-paragraph writeup, the AP reporter claimed that the Social Security system has "money." He then separately quoted a Democratic congressperson who insisted that it has money, and that the mere act of correctly asserting that it doesn't "manufactures a crisis."
Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935.
In anticipation of the New Deal-era program's 80th anniversary, the Associated Press's Stephen Ohlemacher presented as facts several unfortunately widely believed distortions. His worst offense against common sense was an item in his list of "modest changes" which could "save" the actuarially bankrupt (to the tune of at least $10.6 trillion) program. The AP reporter included in his list of what he claimed would be "modest changes" the idea of applying the 12.4 percent payroll tax to absolutely all earned income. Modest, schmodest.
On Thursday, Curtis Houck at NewsBusters noted how the Big Three networks and the two leading Spanish-language networks ignored the latest developments in the now 813 day-old IRS targeting scandal. As usual, only Fox News covered a congressional hearing on, in Fox's words, "the lack of accountability following the IRS targeting of tea party and other groups" as well as a federal judge's threat "to hold (IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and Justice Department attorneys in contempt of court for failing to produce status reports and Lois Lerner e-mails."
Not that this excuses the non-coverage, but if these outfits were relying as subscribers on the Associated Press to make sure that the contempt threat made by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan got the visibility it deserved so they would be aware of it and use it, the wire service's Stephen Ohlemacher let them down — and, I would argue, deliberately so.
Once again, as it did a month ago in two separate stories, the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, left the name of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official who ran its section on tax-exempt organizations, out of its headline and opening paragraph. This time, for good measure, AP reporter Stephen Ohlemacher didn't reveal Lerner's name until Paragraph 3.
Before getting to Ohlemacher's journalistic malpractice, let's take a look at the how the Politico handled the same story of Congress holding Ms. Lerner in contempt yesterday, and at one example of how the AP itself covered the story of another controversial figure's anticipated congressional appearance in the 1980s.
I suspect that many readers who do their best to keep up with the news at a detailed level have a hard time understanding how many of their friends, acquaintances and neighbors — even many who they know put some effort into keeping up with current events — can be so unaware of many objectively important news developments.
There are two answers to that question. One is that the establishment press very often doesn't cover important matters at all; all one has to do is recall the empty media chairs at the trial of pre-born and newborn baby butcher Kermit Gosnell. The other is that when they do cover a story, journalists and their news outlets often do all they can to keep key names and facts out of their headlines and opening paragraph. Thanks to the fact that many people now consume news using computers, tablets, and smartphones, this stalling tactic may be even more effective now than it was in the print-only days.
Well, it's not perfect, but it's a start — and it's certainly a far cry from what President Obama is now willing to admit.
In his report Tuesday on the congressional hearing for John Koskinen, Obama's nominee to be the next IRS Commissioner, Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press wrote that Koskinen "told senators Tuesday he will work to restore public trust in the agency in the wake of the tea party scandal even as the IRS takes on new responsibilities administering the president's health care law." That's a remarkable admission, given that the word "scandal" does not appear in Koskinen's prepared remarks, and of course given that Obama's current opinion of what is better described as the "IRS conservative targeting scandal" is that it isn't one ("they’ve got a list, and suddenly everybody’s outraged"). As nice as it is that he used the "S-word," Ohlemacher's dispatch still contained serious oversights, including his failure to cite the change in Obama's public stance since May and his contention that no one outside the IRS knew of its targeting efforts until then.
There was no annual adjustment to Social Security benefits for inflation during 2010 or 2011. That's because the 2009 increase of 5.8 percent (announced in November 2008, and considered the "2009" increase at this table) was artifically lifted by the $4 per gallon gas prices seen in the summer of 2008, the period used in the annual inflation adjustment calculation. After gas prices came down, overall prices levels were slightly lower during the next two years.
With that background, it's hard to imagine how a headline writer at the Associated Press, aka the Adminstration's Press, could transform what writer Stephen Ohlemacher accurately described as an "historically small increase" to "among the lowest in years" — unless it's to create a false impression among those who only read headlines that the government is being unduly stingy in disbursing benefits. Excerpts from Ohlemacher's report follow the jump (bolds are mine):
As Brent Bozell at NewsBusters noted earlier today, news of the forced retirement of the IRS's Lois Lerner, the agency's chief orchestrator of the campaign which targeted tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny in their applications for not-for-profit status, "was censored by ABC, CBS, and NBC."
In what may surprise some, that lack of coverage didn't occur because of the Associated Press. Stephen Ohlemacher's story was mostly well-done, with two significant exceptions.
The Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, has been running a series of "Why It Matters" items in the run-up to the presidential election purporting to educate readers about important issues.
Reporter Stephen Ohlemacher's contribution to the series concerning Social Security opens with a bald-faced fib, omits the fact that the system's benefit payments and costs have exceed payroll tax collections for several years, and doubles down on the fib at the end. His opening sentence and other excerpts follow the jump:
The modern equivalent of a broken record, which used to be a common saying about someone who says the same thing over and over, is the "infinite loop" -- "a sequence of instructions in a computer program which loops (i.e., repeats) endlessly."
On Social Security, the establishment press has played a false infinite loop for decades, namely that its "trust fund" contains lots of real assets. Here is Stephen Ohlemacher's replay of the loop found in his coverage at the Associated Press on early Monday: