Following The Washington Times' retraction of an editorial falsely alleging that "Americans have a lower approval of Mr. Obama at this point than all but one president since Gallup began tracking this in 1969," will Amy Holmes, Ann Coulter, and Jim Pinkerton also retract the falsehood?
In a May 6 editorial titled, "We Were Wrong," The Washington Times retracted its false claim that "Americans have a lower approval of Mr. Obama at this point than all but one president since Gallup began tracking this in 1969." The editorial read: "We hereby retract our April 28 editorial 'Barack's in the basement' because we misapplied several polling comparisons of various presidents after their first 100 days in office." Media Matters for America documented several other media figures advancing this falsehood, including CNN political contributor Amy Holmes and conservative columnist Ann Coulter, who each cited the April 28 Times editorial. Media Matters now asks: Will Holmes, Coulter, and Fox News analyst Jim Pinkerton, who also repeated a variation of the falsehood, follow The Washington Times' example and retract the claim that President Obama's approval rating at this point in his presidency, according to Gallup, is lower than that of most or all recent presidents?
As Media Matters documented, the falsehood is based on an apples-to-oranges comparison between an April 20-21 Gallup poll question that asked respondents to "rate the job Barack Obama has been doing as president so far -- excellent, good, just okay, poor, or terrible," and the historical results of the traditional Gallup approval rating poll question that simply asked whether respondents "approve" or "disapprove" of the president's performance. Based on its traditional presidential approval poll question, Gallup itself reported that Obama's average approval rating for the first quarter of his first year in office was the highest of any president since 1969 other than Jimmy Carter, and Obama's most recent weekly average approval rating at that time was higher than the April approval ratings of every first-term president since 1969 other than Ronald Reagan.
Holmes referred to the April 28 Times editorial when she repeated the falsehood, stating that "one of the little-known facts -- The Washington Times reported this last week -- is that, actually, at this point in his presidency, Barack Obama is the fourth least popular of the past five presidents." Holmes added: "You wouldn't know that from the press coverage. And you wouldn't know that George Bush in -- you know, at this point in his presidency in 2001, after having had the recount, not even winning the popular vote, in fact had higher Gallup approvals than Barack Obama does right now."
Echoing the falsehood on Fox News' Hannity, Coulter did not refer to the Times by name, but she did state: "I linked to this on my Web page. He's actually the second least popular president, 100 days in, we've had in 40 years." The link on Coulter's website went to the April 28 Times editorial and cited the editorial's title.
From Coulter's website, accessed at 9:08 a.m. on May 6:
Retracting its April 28 editorial, the Times wrote on May 6:
We hereby retract our April 28 editorial "Barack's in the basement" because we misapplied several polling comparisons of various presidents after their first 100 days in office.
The point of our editorial was that various establishment media outlets were overstating President Obama's popularity. We continue to believe that, in terms of the tone of coverage, the point is valid. However, for data establishing that point, we followed George Mason University professor Judith Apter Klinghoffer's analysis and compared Gallup polling data for elected presidents going back to President Nixon. We did our own analysis but failed to see that some of the polls we were using did not lend themselves to direct intercomparisons.
Most importantly, we used figures for overall "approval" ratings for former President George W. Bush -- 62 percent -- and compared them to the ratings of "excellent" or "good" for Mr. Obama, which combined were 56 percent. However, when asked the same question -- approve or disapprove -- for Mr. Obama for the same three days of his first term, April 20-22, his rating actually was 65 percent, thus putting him above rather than below Mr. Bush.
In short, even if our overall figures did not compare oranges to something almost entirely different like apples, we did at least do something like comparing oranges to tangerines. But close doesn't cut it in this business. We regret the errors.