In his September 21 nationally syndicated column, Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III criticized ABC host George Stephanopoulos's "cotton candy" interview with President Clinton on the September 18 edition of ABC's This Week, deriding as "too comical to correct" Clinton's claim that his administration "moved 100 times as many people out of poverty in eight years as had been moved out in the previous 12 years." But Clinton's positive record on addressing poverty is, in fact, almost a mirror image of the negative record of the preceding 12 years: The presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush actually saw a dramatic net increase in the number of impoverished Americans, whereas Clinton's presidency witnessed an even more dramatic net decrease.
The number of poor Americans grew by more than 6 million between 1981 and 1992 -- while decreasing by 7.6 million between 1993 and 2000 -- so Clinton's statement was, in fact, a sizable understatement of the difference. If the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations could claim a net decrease of 70,000 people below the poverty level, Clinton would be numerically correct in claiming that his administration had "moved 100 times as many people out of poverty."
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 31,822,000 Americans below the poverty level in 1981, the first year of Reagan's presidency. That number rose sharply to 35,303,000 in 1983, when it began to gradually decrease. In 1990, the numbers began to rise dramatically again, and by 1992, the final year of George H.W. Bush's presidency, the number of Americans below the poverty level had risen to approximately 38,014,000 -- a net increase of 6,192,000. In 1993, when Clinton first assumed office, there were 39,265,000 impovershed Americans. That number decreased every year of Clinton's presidency, and by the end of his second term in 2000 there were 31,581,000 Americans below the poverty level -- a net decrease of 7,684,000.
Bozell concluded his September 21 column by criticizing the media for lobbing softball questions at Clinton, claiming that they offered him "shoeshines" and "backrubs" and that "[t]he public deserves better." But in his June 15 column, Bozell defended Fox News host Neil Cavuto against accusations that he "wasn't tough enough" during a June 8 interview of President Bush. Bozell claimed that Cavuto's interview "was no puff job" and that Cavuto asked "some challenging questions." Among the questions Cavuto asked Bush that Bozell defended were "Do you think you get a bum rap in the media on the economy?" and "Do you ever get mad at your fellow Republicans?"