Limbaugh, Hannity, and the GOP: an iron triangle of stimulus misinformation

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On any given day during the current congressional debate over the economic recovery plan, chances are good that Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity will say something false about the administration's or congressional Democrats' efforts to pass a bill. And they do not promote these falsehoods in isolation; they are often promoted concurrently with each other and with Republican members of Congress. President Obama reportedly chastised congressional Republicans for "listen[ing] to Rush Limbaugh," and, as Media Matters for America has pointed out, Limbaugh has also demonstrated a proclivity for listening to -- and parroting -- congressional Republicans. For his part, in consecutive shows on January 30 and February 2, Hannity hosted Sens. Mitch McConnell, Tom Coburn and John McCain on his radio show, and on February 4 he hosted Rep. Mike Pence on Fox News. As a result, Hannity and Limbaugh have created an echo chamber of Republican talking points and misinformation criticizing the economic recovery plan. And given the acknowledgment by some national journalists that they pay attention to Limbaugh and Hannity, it follows that they care what the two are saying about the stimulus -- CNBC anchor Erin Burnett said as much about Limbaugh, touting his op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on that topic as "serious."

CLAIM: Corporate tax rate cuts and capital gains tax rate cuts would provide substantial stimulus

In a January 29 speech at the Heritage Foundation, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) attacked the economic recovery plan and offered his own "Jobs Plan That Works," saying, in part: "Just as we cut taxes for families and small businesses, we need to cut them for corporations as well, from 35 percent to 25 percent. And we shouldn't be afraid to say so. Our corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world, driving investment and jobs overseas. Lowering this key rate will unlock trillions of dollars to be invested in America instead of abroad." On the January 21 edition of Hannity's Fox News show, Michael Steele, now chairman of the Republican National Committee, said: "You want -- if you want to stimulate this economy, eliminate the capital gains tax for two years and see what happens. See what happens on Monday morning if you eliminate it today." Like DeMint and Steele, Limbaugh, in his January 29 Wall Street Journal op-ed on how best to stimulate the economy, wrote: "I say, cut the U.S. corporate tax rate -- at 35%, among the highest of all industrialized nations -- in half. Suspend the capital gains tax for a year to incentivize new investment, after which it would be reimposed at 10%." On the January 27 broadcast of his radio program, Hannity attacked the tax cuts in the recovery package as "anemic" because "They don't cut corporate tax rates. They don't cut capital gains tax rates."

However, as Media Matters has noted, many economists do not view corporate tax rate cuts and capital gains tax rate cuts as particularly effective methods for stimulating the economy. Mark Zandi -- the chief economist and co-founder of Moody's Economy.com, who was reportedly a McCain campaign economic adviser -- included in 2008 written congressional testimony a table stating that every dollar spent through a "Cut in [the] Corporate Tax Rate" produces a GDP increase of only $0.30 -- the third least-efficient provision of the 13 he studied. A 2003 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report stated that a "capital gains tax cut appears the least likely of any permanent tax cut to stimulate the economy in the short run; a temporary capital gains tax cut is unlikely to provide any stimulus."

From Limbaugh's January 29 Wall Street Journal op-ed:

I say, cut the U.S. corporate tax rate -- at 35%, among the highest of all industrialized nations -- in half. Suspend the capital gains tax for a year to incentivize new investment, after which it would be reimposed at 10%. Then get out of the way! Once Wall Street starts ticking up 500 points a day, the rest of the private sector will follow. There's no reason to tell the American people their future is bleak. There's no reason, as the administration is doing, to depress their hopes. There's no reason to insist that recovery can't happen quickly, because it can.

From the January 27 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: I look at this as smother the private sector, in terms of the stimulus package. I don't see this as a stimulus package. And when I look at the tax cuts -- as you point out have historically gotten us out of recessions -- in this plan they're anemic. They don't cut corporate tax rates. They don't cut capital gains tax rates. It's a lifeline that the private sector I think needs, you know -- that they need to stabilize. They need to invest. They need job growth. They're the ones that create jobs.

CLAIM: Recovery package is "spending," not "stimulus"

As Media Matters noted, on the January 28 edition of his show, Limbaugh hosted Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who stated of the recovery legislation: "[T]his is a spending bill. This is not a stimulus bill. ... Even the Congressional Budget Office, controlled by the Democrats now, says it is not a stimulative bill." Limbaugh then said on the January 29 edition of his show that "if we're gong to stimulate the economy, there's got to be something in here that stimulates, and there just isn't. It is just traditional typical Democrat spending." Then, as Media Matters documented, the February 3 broadcast of the CBS Evening News uncritically aired a clip of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claiming that the economic recovery legislation was "not a stimulus package. It's a spending package." And Media Matters noted Hannity's February 2 falsehood that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) "say[s] it's not a stimulus bill." In fact, the notion that "spending" is distinct from "stimulus" and the claim that the bill is not "stimulus" have been challenged by economists. CBO director Douglas Elmendorf stated in congressional testimony that the House legislation, H.R. 1, "would provide massive fiscal stimulus" and that the CBO, along with "most economists," believes that all of the spending in the bill "provides some stimulative effect." Additionally, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has said, "[S]pending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple."

From the February 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Here's the problem, Bob [Beckel, Democratic strategist], is that the Congressional Budget Office, which used to be the gold standard that we used to rely on to give us information, even they say it's not a stimulus bill. Goldman Sachs' CEO says it's not a stimulus bill.

What they're telling us is the following, is that, you know, the infrastructure spending and the real spending in this bill comes out in 2010, 2011, 2012. How does that -- how do you label that a stimulus bill?

From the January 29 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: I'm going to tell you what: The more this is learned -- the more of this kind of thing in this bill is learned, the more the American people are not going to want any part of this. And they're being told once again this has to happen now or we're going to have a terrible result in the economy. It's going to get even worse. And they tell us, by the way, it's going to get worse if this stimulus bill, "Porkulus" [sic] bill, goes to the Senate and the president signs it and so forth.

But this is not -- if we're gong to stimulate the economy, there's got to be something in here that stimulates, and there just isn't. It is just traditional typical Democrat spending.

CLAIM: Spending after beginning of recovery is ineffective stimulus

On the January 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity, former Bush White House senior adviser Karl Rove attacked the recovery package, saying: "Look, this is a mishmash of spending proposals, not stimulus proposals. When you have a stimulus bill that spends more in 2011, 2012, and 2013 and in the out years than it spends in 2009, that's not a stimulus bill, that is a spending bill." Hannity and Limbaugh have echoed this line of attack. As noted above, on the February 2 edition of Hannity he said: "What they're telling us is the following is that, you know, the infrastructure spending and the real spending in this bill comes out in 2010, 2011, 2012. How does that -- how do you label that a stimulus bill?" On January 28, Hannity claimed that the "better part of this money is not going to be spent until 2010, 2011, 2012," adding: "So how is that a stimulus? We'll be out of the recession by then." On January 22, Limbaugh said: "So here now for those of you waiting for Obama to get you your healthcare, to drive you to the hospital, to fill up your car, to get you your job, to get you your gift certificate at Wal-Mart, now we're being told that over half the money wasn't going to show up until after 2010 when the recession's over?" As Media Matters has noted, however, in his January 27 written testimony, CBO's Elmendorf said:

Because most periods of economic weakness are fairly short-lived, it is generally preferable that stimulus policies be short-lived. Currently, however, CBO projects that economic output will remain significantly below its potential for several more years, so policies that provide stimulus for an extended period of time may be appropriate. Indeed, a fiscal stimulus that ends before the economy has started to regain its footing runs the risk of exacerbating economic weakness when the stimulus ends.

From the January 22 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: So here now for those of you waiting for Obama to get you your healthcare, to drive you to the hospital, to fill up your car, to get you your job, to get you your gift certificate at Wal-Mart, now we're being told that over half the money wasn't going to show up until after 2010 when the recession's over? By the way, I'm gonna tell you what: If he gets what he wants, if he gets what he wants, there isn't going to be a recession in 2010. It's going to be a depression.

From the January 29 edition of Hannity:

HANNITY: The amazing thing to me is the more people get the details of this bill and what's in it and all the pork and how the stimulus is back-loaded, the more they oppose it. Is that good for the Republicans opposing this now?

ROVE: Well, yes, it's good for the Republicans, but more importantly, it's good for the country. Look, this is a mishmash of spending proposals, not stimulus proposals. When you have a stimulus bill that spends more in 2011, 2012, and 2013 and the out years than it spends in 2009, that's not a stimulus bill, that is a spending bill, a pork bill that is designed for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to grow government.

From the January 28 edition of Hannity:

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. Look, the Heritage Foundation did an analysis, the CBO did an analysis, and what they've determined is the following: that this -- Barack Obama said this is a stimulus, a jolt to the economy. The better part of this money is not going to be spent until 2010, 2011, 2012. So how is that a stimulus? We'll be out of the recession by then.

CLAIM: Illegal immigrants receive tax credits under stimulus plan

As Media Matters noted, a January 29 Associated Press article cited a single anonymous "top Republican congressional official" in reporting that the stimulus bill "could steer government checks to illegal immigrants," as it "would allow people who don't have Social Security numbers to be eligible for" tax credits. Both Limbaugh and Hannity repeated this claim on the January 29 editions of their radio shows. The claim, however, is false. In fact, the recovery bill specifically precludes from eligibility for the Making Work Pay tax credit of $500 per individual and $1,000 per family "any individual unless the requirements of section 32(c)(1)(E) are met with respect to such individual." Section 32(c)(1)(E) of the Internal Revenue Code, which specifies requirements for individuals to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, states:

(E) Identification number requirement

No credit shall be allowed under this section to an eligible individual who does not include on the return of tax for the taxable year --

(i) such individual's taxpayer identification number, and

(ii) if the individual is married (within the meaning of section 7703), the taxpayer identification number of such individual's spouse.

The law defines "taxpayer identification number" for purposes of Section 32(c)(1)(E) as "a social security number issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration":

(m) Identification numbers

Solely for purposes of subsections (c)(1)(E) and (c)(3)(D), a taxpayer identification number means a social security number issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration (other than a social security number issued pursuant to clause (II) (or that portion of clause (III) that relates to clause (II)) of section 205(c)(2)(B)(i) of the Social Security Act).

Therefore, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bars anyone without "a social security number issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration" from eligibility for Making Work Pay tax credits. The AP later revised its January 29 article to make that clear.

From the January 29 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: So the "Porkulus" [sic] bill has passed the House, and yet why do the Democrats don't -- seem to not think that they've had a victory? Why does Obama think that he really hasn't had a victory? I've noticed all day today, they're not happy about this. They got what they wanted. Do you know that in this "Porkulus" bill, it has been learned, in addition to everything else, illegal immigrants will also be given checks of $500 to $1,000 as tax credits. So we're going to be giving cash to illegal immigrants as well, in addition to all the other things that are in the "Porkulus" bill.

From the January 29 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: And do you realize the AP even reported that if you thought the Obama-Pelosi-Reid pork-fest was bad before, did you know that under this plan some of the stimulus cash, which is going to put we the taxpayers on the hook for decades, and our children and grandchildren are going to bear the burden of this debt when we're gone, that it's going to to illegal aliens? Illegal immigrants? The House Republicans just uncovered that little detail this morning, and the AP reported "the $800 billion economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants," according to a top Congressional Republican asserting Thursday.

"The legislation, which would send tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple, expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens, but it would allow people who don't have Social Security numbers to be eligible for the checks. Undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for a Social Security number can file a tax return with an alternative number. A House-passed version of the economic recovery bill and one making its way through the Senate would allow anyone with such a number, called an individual taxpayer ID number, to qualify for the tax credits." [laughs] Oh, let's not read the darn thing before we start passing -- yeah, it's only $819 billion. What's the big deal?

CLAIM: The New Deal failed, prolonged Great Depression

On the January 23 edition of Hannity, former New York City mayor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said: "[T]he actions of the New Deal, which may have had other reasons for them, did not work from the point of view of solving the Depression. In fact, by 1936, '37, '38, the Depression was arguably just as bad as it was in 1929." Hannity and Limbaugh have also worked attacks on the New Deal into their criticisms of the economic recovery package, with Limbaugh stating as fact that the New Deal "didn't work," and "prolonged" the Great Depression. Such claims have been flatly rejected by prominent economists, including Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who has said that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not go far enough to end the crisis and that it was actually Roosevelt's reversal of New Deal policies -- in an attempt to balance the budget -- that hindered recovery.

From the January 27 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: I don't think anyone could make the case that FDR's plan, New Deal, actually saved us from the Depression. I don't think that the stimulus that the Japanese government spent in the '90s actually saved them from their economic slowdown, it actually hurt them. Why do we seem to be batting our heads against the wall and wanting to revisit things that have failed in the past?

From Limbaugh's interview with Hannity on the January 21 edition of Hannity:

LIMBAUGH: I -- it has never worked. The New Deal didn't work. You know, Hoover was president through the Depression for one year. FDR prolonged the New Deal for seven or eight years, and yet he's given credit for ending the Depression. Didn't happen. World War II ended it. The New Deal didn't work.

This is new New Deal. It doesn't work. If it works, it will be the first time that it works, but it never has, and I don't think this is going to be the record-breaker.

HANNITY: So I'm guessing you didn't get your Obama commemorative dinner plates, Rush?

From the January 17 edition of Hannity:

HANNITY: You have a piece coming out. There's been a lot of intellectual debate, a little chatter, discussions going on about the success, in terms of whether government can be that answer and whether or not it worked for FDR. Liberals claim, in fact, it was the New Deal that got us out of the Depression. There are others that have a very different point of view and really think FDR made a lot of mistakes by implementing bigger government programs. And that actually it was World War II, in one way, that saved the economy. Now my father fought in World War II. Where do you stand on this?

JONAH GOLDBERG (National Review Online editor): Well, the argument is over whether or not the Great Depression was prolonged by the New Deal or ended by the New Deal. And the general consensus is is that the Great Depression certainly wasn't ended by the New Deal. And that it really only ended either during World War II, or during the post-world war boom.

From the January 7 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: I take it back. It does work. It did work. FDR and his New Deal worked in fact precisely as he intended it to. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal is the model for Barack Obama's raw deal. And FDR's New Deal was a champ. There may have never been anything like it. Until the October surprise of last October, which led to the new New Deal equaling the raw deal.

No, I know, folks. I know the New Deal did not get us out of the Depression. I'm not saying that that's its measure of success. The New Deal worked for Franklin Delano Roosevelt like a charm, though. It empowered the Democrat [sic] Party with unbeatable majorities in the House and Senate for 40 years. It worked like a champ.

From the November 20, 2008, broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: You know, if you go back and you actually can find some objective history of the Great Depression and FDR, there are many indications that FDR -- I mean, the New Deal did not fix the Great Depression; it made it worse. The New Deal prolonged it. But in the process, FDR secured massive power for himself as well as his party. And Obama has indicated that his model is FDR.

CLAIM: Fiscal stimulus in Japan failed during the "lost decade" of the 1990s

On October 22, 2008, the Republican caucus of the House Budget Committee released a report citing "Japan's policy responses during its so-called 'lost decade' of the 1990s" as evidence that economic stimulus plans supported by Democrats in Congress would be ineffective. Both Limbaugh and Hannity have similarly cited Japanese fiscal policy in the 1990s in arguing against a large-scale economic recovery plan to combat the current recession in the United States. However, prominent economists have stated that economic conditions did improve when Japan undertook fiscal stimulus policies but that reversals of those policies hindered Japan's recovery. On February 6, for example, Krugman said: "[I]t's clear. The Japanese -- when they were really pushing hard, when they had strong programs, when they spent a lot on trying to buck-up their economy -- it actually did grow. What happened was they chickened out very early in the process, said, 'OK, let's cut back, let's raise interest rates, let's raise taxes, let's cut back on those public works.' And they lost momentum, and they never got it back." Similarly, Adam Posen, deputy director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, wrote in his September 1998 book, Restoring Japan's Economic Growth, that Japan's "1995 stimulus package ... did result in solid growth in 1996, demonstrating that fiscal policy does work when it is tried. As on earlier occasions in the 1990s, however, the positive response to fiscal stimulus was undercut by fiscal contraction in 1996 and 1997." He concluded:

Similar contractions undertaken both openly and by hidden means in 1994, 1996, and 1997, with reference to announced but unimplemented spending, had destructive effects. Future government packages must recognize that when the Japanese government paid for fiscal stimulus in 1995, it got economic growth, and that when it mistakenly pursued fiscal austerity in most of the remainder of the 1992-97 period, it got economic contraction.

From the January 27 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: If government spending solved recessions, we'd never have a recession, now would we? If it was so good, why didn't it work for Japan when they had eight stimulus plans back in the '90s? Why did the Treasury secretary under FDR say, "We spent all of this money and it didn't work" seven years into the New Deal if this is such a great program?

[...]

HANNITY: I don't think anyone could make the case that FDR's plan, New Deal, actually saved us from the Depression. I don't think that the stimulus that the Japanese government spent in the '90s actually saved them from their economic slowdown; it actually hurt them. Why do we seem to be batting our heads against the wall and wanting to revisit things that have failed in the past?

From the January 27 edition of Hannity:

HANNITY: David, I believe in free-market capitalism.

DAVID BOIES (attorney): Right. I do, too.

HANNITY: $1.1 trillion. You know, historically, FDR's Treasury secretary said seven years into spending, [Henry] Morgenthau, he said it didn't work. It didn't work for Japan. It hasn't worked in --

BOIES: Well, Japan didn't try it.

HANNITY: They had eight stimulus plans.

From the January 23 edition of Hannity:

GIULIANI: And if -- if you think you're going to get your way out of this recession by all kinds of social programs, welfare programs, you're just going to make it much worse.

HANNITY: Well, in the 10 years that the Japan -- the Japanese economy was suffering in the '90s, they had eight separate stimulus packages that created, in their history, massive debt. It was unprecedented.

GIULIANI: Right.

HANNITY: And it didn't work. And you're right, historically --

GIULIANI: And the actions of the New Deal, which may have had other reasons for them, did not work from the point of view of solving the Depression. In fact, by 1936, '37, '38, the Depression was arguably just as bad as it was in 1929.

HANNITY: Yeah, it's true.

From the January 7 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: And all of this, this trillion-dollar stimulus, this deficit, annual deficit of over a trillion dollars, that's being tacked on top of the certain bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare. Massive debt that cannot be repaid. Got us where we are just two months ago. And yet everybody seems to be clapping their hands: "Yeah, yeah, we got a stimulus coming, man. We're gonna get out of this."

We're quintupling our problem. This is so obviously stupid and we've got a guy who's trying to replicate FDR here. We've got the Great Depression, the Japanese economy in the '90s as a guide. We know this public works spending does not work.

CLAIM: Economic recovery bill amounts to spending more than $200K per job created

A January 15 "Stimulus Quick Facts" press release issued by the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee falsely asserted that "President-elect Obama has said that his proposed stimulus legislation will create or save 3 million jobs. This means that this legislation will spend about $275,000 per job." Both Limbaugh and Hannity have echoed this false talking point. But by calculating the per-job cost by dividing the estimated total cost of the recovery bill by the estimated number of jobs created or saved -- and thus suggesting that the sole purpose of that package is to create jobs -- Hannity and Limbaugh joined other media figures in ignoring other tangible benefits stemming from the package, such as infrastructure improvements and investments in education, health, and public safety.

Moreover, economists, including Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, have presented another criticism of the claim. In a January 24 post on The American Prospect's Beat the Press blog, Baker wrote: "The Republicans have become fond of saying that President Obama's stimulus package will cost $275,000 for every job created. The media have been typically derelict in simply reporting this number without making any assessment to evaluate it -- as though readers in their spare time are supposed to determine whether it is accurate or not." Baker continued:

Okay, let's do the reporters' work for them. First, where do the Republicans get this number? They divide the the $825 billion cost of the stimulus by 3 million jobs that President Obama had originally pledged.

Their arithmetic is right but both numbers are wrong. First, the projections from the Obama team is that their package will create 4 million jobs, not 3 million. Furthermore, it is important to note that this over 2 years, not one year.

The cost is also wrong, or at least misleading. If we assume that the stimulus will work as planned, then it will boost GDP by approximately 1.5 times the amount of spending or $620 billion a year. If GDP rises by this amount, then it will translate into roughly $155 billion a year in higher taxes/lower spending than if we didn't do the stimulus. This is money that should be subtracted from the cost to the taxpayers.

So, if net out the increased revenue from the growth generated by the stimulus we end up with a 2-year cost of $515 billion which will generate roughly 8 million job-years. That comes to about $65k per job year, less than one-fourth of the Republicans' number.

Similarly, in his January 25 New York Times column, Krugman wrote, "As the debate over President Obama's economic stimulus plan gets under way, one thing is certain: many of the plan's opponents aren't arguing in good faith. ... The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 -- and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts."

From the January 28 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: This Heritage article, "Why Government Spending Doesn't Stimulate Economic Growth," I found it. Found it on their website, AskHeritage.org. They are producing new information and analysis on these spending bills daily.

For example, if an $800 billion stimulus plan is approved and 3.7 million jobs are really created, that's about $217,000 per job. Now, I know that everybody who gets a new job under this plan is not going to get paid $217,000, so where the hell is the rest of it going?

The SCHIP program, the State Children's Health Program. If that's approved, that effectively puts more kids in America on government health insurance than in private insurance. And it, by the way, classifies kids as up to 30 years of age. Now these are facts.

From the January 26 edition of Hannity:

HANNITY: They're going to spend more in a week than they spend usually in a year, Dick.

DICK MORRIS (Fox News contributor): That's right.

HANNITY: And they're going --

MORRIS: It's incredible.

HANNITY: -- if, on the high side, we reached their job-creation number of 4 million, that's going to cost $217,000 to get that job.

MORRIS: Yeah. And we're not going to do that.

CLAIM: $4 billion for ACORN

A January 23 "Leader Alert" from House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) office claimed that the economic recovery bill "could open billions of taxpayer dollars to left-wing groups like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)." At least one Republican senator has made similar claims. Limbaugh and Hannity have embellished this claim, asserting that the language of bill contains $4.19 billion going directly to ACORN. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding, and it requires that the $4.19 billion it allocates for "neighborhood stabilization activities" be distributed through competitive processes. Moreover, ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis wrote on The Huffington Post that "ACORN isn't getting any of this money" because "we aren't eligible for it in the first place."

From the January 27 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: What do I think about this stimulus? It's like my brilliant proposal yesterday. Why do we have to have this money washed by the money launderers in Washington? Why don't they just let them keep -- people who are producing it keep it and stimulate the economy themselves? Why does it have to go to Washington for these bigwigs to sit around and ponder who's going to get it? Do you know that in the Obama stimulus package, $4.19 billion is going to ACORN? Obama's community organizing -- you -- would somebody tell me what the stimulus is in that?

Oh, it's not called "ACORN," it's called "neighborhood stabilization programs." Now, would somebody explain to me what in the name of Sam Hill -- and there was a Sam Hill; I looked it up -- would somebody explain to me what in the name of Sam Hill $4.19 billion to a voter-fraud organization has to do with stimulus?

From the January 27 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: If this stimulus package is passed, it's only going to make things worse. "Well how could you say that, Hannity? Thirty-five percent of this is tax cuts. You conservatives say you want tax cuts." Well, if you define tax cuts as giving a check to people who don't pay taxes. I actually define that as a new welfare program. That is a big part of this stimulus package. How many of you know that in this stimulus package, $4.19 billion to ACORN. You know, the group that could be eligible for billions of dollars as they have -- $4.19 billion to quote, "neighborhood stabilization activities.

[...]

HANNITY: I look at this as smother the private sector in terms of a stimulus package. I don't see this as a stimulus package and when I look at the tax cuts, as you point out have historically gotten us out of recessions, in this plan they're anemic. They don't cut corporate tax rates, they don't cut capital gains tax rates. It's a lifeline that the private sector I think needs -- you know, that they need to stabilize. They need to invest. They need job growth. They're the ones that create jobs, and I think they're using this to advance a political agenda. You know, $4 billion for ACORN? I mean, even the Congressional Budget Office, the so-called gold standard, says it's not going to work, Neil, so what's our worst-case scenario here?

Limbaugh's and Hannity's sway on the media

The congruity between Limbaugh's, Hannity's, and the Republicans' attacks on the economic recovery package may also impact press coverage of the debate on the economic recovery bill. Indeed, on January 29, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Limbaugh on the economic recovery package in which he offered his own "Bipartisan Stimulus" plan for the economy. Limbaugh's op-ed drew praise from CNBC host Erin Burnett, who said Limbaugh had "serious things to say" and offered "interesting ideas," such as "cutting the corporate tax" and "slashing capital gains [taxes]." Unmentioned by Burnett were the numerous economists who do not view corporate tax rate cuts and capital gains tax rate cuts as particularly "serious" or effective methods for stimulating the economy. In addition, on January 29, under the headline "Limbaugh Wants Meeting With Obama," Time editor-at-large Mark Halperin stated on his Time.com website, The Page: "The talk radio king says Thursday he wants to personally present a stimulus proposal to the president." Halperin frequently publishes snippets of Limbaugh's commentary on his Time.com website, The Page.

In June 2008, The New York Times Magazine published a lengthy profile of Limbaugh, written by a reporter who said of his subject: "I'm not an apologist for Rush Limbaugh, but I'm a little bit defensive because I think that the liberal media takes such an unfair view of him."

NBC News managing editor and Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has previously said, "I think it's my duty to listen to Rush," adding: "I think Rush has actually yet to get the credit he is due." As Media Matters noted at the time, Limbaugh was repeatedly featured on the MSNBC and CNBC programs Williams hosted before Williams became Nightly News anchor. In 2006, Limbaugh was one of the first persons featured on The CBS Evening News' short-lived "Free Speech" segment, in which he attacked unnamed Americans who did not conform to his definition of "patriotism." In February 2007, ABC News highlighted Limbaugh as an "observer" who "questioned" what then-presidential candidate Joe Biden meant when he described Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Unmentioned by ABC News was Limbaugh's history of racially charged comments, including comments about Obama.

Hannity also enjoys the attention of mainstream media personalities. ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos appeared on Hannity's radio program on April 15, 2008, during which Hannity suggested to Stephanopoulos that he ask Obama at the Democratic presidential debate the following evening about his "association with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist from the Weather Underground." Stephanopoulos assured Hannity that he was "taking notes right now," and followed through on Hannity's suggestion at the debate (though he later denied that Hannity had exerted any influence on his questioning).

Hannity has hosted other prominent journalists as well. In October 2006, Halperin appeared on Hannity's radio program and agreed wholeheartedly with his host that "the liberal media does exist" and that the "old media is liberal." Halperin told Hannity that conservatives have "[e]very incentive to listen to your program, to go on the Drudge Report, because when they read The New York Times, or listen to ABC, they just feel alienated, like these organizations are out to get them." According to a Nexis search, CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer appeared on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes at least five times since 2004 to discuss politics or his books. And on January 28, Hannity hosted ABC Good Morning America co-host Chris Cuomo to discuss the economic recovery package.

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Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh
Show/Publication
The Sean Hannity Show, The Rush Limbaugh Show, Hannity
Stories/Interests
Economic Recovery Plan
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