Media conservatives target the 2010 census, encourage audience not to complete forms

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

Conservative media figures and outlets have encouraged their audiences not to complete the 2010 U.S. census, stated that they would not complete it -- which would constitute a violation of the law -- or stated that the questions included in the survey are "unconstitutional."

Over the past months, several conservative media figures and outlets have encouraged their audiences not to complete the 2010 U.S. census, approvingly cited those who had decided not to complete it, stated that they would not complete it -- which would constitute a violation of the law -- or stated that the questions included in the survey are "unconstitutional." Those media figures have often cited the participation of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in the recruitment of workers who will collect data as a reason to be wary of the census. Media Matters for America has previously documented instances in which media figures spread falsehoods about the U.S. census and scapegoated ACORN in reporting on major news stories.

According to the website of the U.S. Census Bureau:

Respondents are required to answer all questions on the American Community Survey (ACS) to the best of their ability. Response to this and other Census surveys is required by law (Section 221 of Title 13, Chapter 7, United States Code). This chapter also contains information regarding offenses and possible penalties. According to Section 221, persons who do not respond shall be fined not more than $100. Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3571 and Section 3559, in effect amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221 by changing the fine for anyone over 18 years old who refuses or willfully neglects to complete the questionnaire or answer questions posed by census takers from a fine of not more than $100 to not more than $5,000.

Examples of conservative media figures and outlets attacking the census include:

  • During a June 25 interview with Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) on his Fox News show, Glenn Beck stated that "there's a lot of people that are concerned" with the census "because they don't want to fill it out. They're not comfortable with ACORN members coming to find out all this information. They don't want to give the government all this kind of information." After noting the fine for failure to fill out census forms and stating that no one had ever received that fine, he asked Bachmann, "What are the odds that they are going to impose that?" He later added that he's "considered not filling it out."
  • On the June 24 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck, guest host Judge Andrew Napolitano stated that "when people ask me what the law is, what do they have to tell the census taker, I tell them, simply this: how many people live in that house, and nothing else. It's none of the government's business when they were born, what their race is, or what they earn." Responding to Rep. Jason Chaffetz's (R-UT) description of legislation he intends to introduce to have postal workers conduct the 2010 census, Napolitano stated, "I hope this passes, because it's going to save us a lot of money. And for all of its faults in the post office, it's certainly a lot more honest than ACORN."
  • On the June 22 broadcast of Clear Channel's The War Room with Quinn & Rose, a caller stated that he wouldn't fill out the census because ACORN workers would be involved in "collecting the information." Co-host Rose Tennent stated in response that the caller had made "an excellent point." She went on to note that Bachmann reportedly said that she does not intend to complete the census and stated: "ACORN being recruited by Obama for a mission -- that is so frightening." After listing several questions included in the census, she added that "it's just so intrusive. And you're right. I mean, there's the risk of identity theft and all kinds of things. I'm just -- it scares me to think that these thugs are getting this information from us."
  • On the June 19 broadcast of his radio show, G. Gordon Liddy praised Bachmann's refusal to complete the census, stating:

Mrs. Bachmann says she's worried about the involvement of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, in next year's census. Well, good for Mrs. Bachmann. And if they've passed, as apparently they have, a statute saying they can fine you $5,000 if you don't answer questions like, "You got any guns in the house?" and, you know, other intrusive stuff like that, well, I hope that she refuses, and I hope that they charge her, and then I hope she takes that course -- that thing right up to the Supreme Court of the United States and gets this question resolved.

  • On June 18, using the headline "What Kind of Info Is ACORN Gathering for Census?" The Fox Nation linked to a June 18 Washington Times article reporting that Bachmann stated "she will not fill out anything more than the number of people in her household" for the 2010 census because "the questions have become 'very intricate, very personal' " and because "she feared ACORN."
  • In a May 26 New York Post column headlined "Uncle Sam's way-too-nosy-survey," former Bush administration speechwriter Meghan Clyne wrote that the ACS supplement is "forcing Americans to disclose sensitive information about their finances, health and lifestyles." Clyne added that while completing the census is mandatory, "[t]he good news is that I called the help number on my form and a Census representative finally conceded that the government was unlikely to pursue punishment if I didn't respond, saying it would be 'a waste of time and money.' Maybe that's enough to risk telling the government what to do with its survey."
  • In an interview with Clyne on the May 22 edition of Fox News show, Beck called the questions included in the ACS "unconstitutional," stating, "I mean, I'll tell you how many people live in my house. I don't think I need to tell you this. This is unconstitutional; I don't think I need to tell you all of this."
  • On the May 20 edition of his radio show, Neal Boortz told a caller, "I received a census form the other day asking me a whole bunch of questions about my small business. I threw it in the trash. I'm not going to answer it. None of their damn business." He later added that "the federal government and the state government, they have a legitimate reason for knowing how many people live where. They have no legitimate reason for knowing anything else. The rest of the information is -- most of the rest of the information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They're looters."

From the June 24 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

NAPOLITANO: All right. It's hard to have a vote of confidence in the 2010 census when controversial groups like ACORN are recruiting headhunters. But a freshman lawmaker says he's found a way to put confidence back into the census count while also helping our postal service dig its way out of a budget deficit. Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz is here with his solution.

[...]

NAPOLITANO: All right. So, under your proposal, would the postman or postwoman simply knock on your door and say, "How many people live in this house?" Or would they give you that four- or five- or 10- or 20-page form and ask you how many showers you have and how many bathrooms and what the educational level and income level is of the people living there and how many times you go to church during the week?

CHAFFETZ: It's not as comprehensive as the one you just articulated. But it's the basic information about the age, the number of members in that household, the race, when they were born, so we can better understand what's happening within the population as a whole. So, it's actually a fairly quick form, but, you know, if there are multiple members of your family, it's intended to be finding out what each and every member -- how old they are and what race and background they are.

NAPOLITANO: All right. I got to tell you, I hope this passes, because it's going to save us a lot of money. And for all of its faults in the post office, it's certainly a lot more honest than ACORN. But when people --

CHAFFETZ: Exactly.

NAPOLITANO: -- ask me what the law is, what do they have to tell the census taker, I tell them, simply this: how many people live in that house, and nothing else. It's none of the government's business when they were born, what their race is, or what they earn.

From the June 19 broadcast of Radio America's The G. Gordon Liddy Show:

LIDDY: Mrs. Bachmann says she's worried about the involvement of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, in next year's census. Well, good for Mrs. Bachmann. And if they've passed, as apparently they have, a statute saying they can fine you $5,000 if you don't answer questions like, "You got any guns in the house?" and, you know, other intrusive stuff like that, well, I hope that she refuses, and I hope that they charge her, and then I hope she takes that course -- that thing right up to the Supreme Court of the United States and gets this question resolved.

From the May 20 broadcast of Cox Radio Syndications' The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: Laurie is in Orlando. Hi there. Laurie?

CALLER: Yeah, sorry, sorry. I need your legal libertarian insight, please.

BOORTZ: Oh, I don't give legal advice because I'm actually not licensed to practice law right now.

CALLER: I need your good sense then.

BOORTZ: Oh, OK.

CALLER: OK. I have been chosen to take the American --

BOORTZ: You know, often those two have nothing to do with each other.

CALLER: I'm fully aware. I have been chosen to take the American Community Survey.

BOORTZ: Yeah.

CALLER: The invasive census that asks about income, mortgage payment, indoor plumbing, how many children.

BOORTZ: Yeah.

CALLER: Et cetera. I've thrown the papers away, but now they're banging on my door.

BOORTZ: Is that the noise I hear in the background?

CALLER: That's my 4-year-old.

BOORTZ: Oh, I see.

CALLER: Life goes on.

BOORTZ: Ah, yes.

CALLER: Sorry. My husband, who's out of town, and me with the two children says, "Let them arrest you," which -- he may have other reasons for that. But what do I do? Do I have to?

BOORTZ: OK. I can only tell you what I would do.

CALLER: OK.

BOORTZ: OK? I received a census -- you see, I own a small business. I received a census form the other day asking me a whole bunch of questions about my small business. I threw it in the trash. I'm not going to answer it.

CALLER: Right.

BOORTZ: None of their damn business.

CALLER: Right.

BOORTZ: But I am not giving you advice.

CALLER: I understand.

BOORTZ: My advice to you -- and to all of my listeners -- is always: Obey the law. And the law says you have to answer this stuff. OK? But, if I have received the American Community Survey and I ref-- I personally refuse to respond to it, and once every 10 years I will respond to the census, but the only information I will give them is the number of adults who live in my household and that -- or the number of people -- doesn't, you know -- the number of people who live in my household, and that is it.

And they've knocked on my door. And they've come to my door with badges. And they've come to my door and told me I could be fined. They've come to my door and they've told me that I am breaking the law. And I look at them and I say, "Two adults live here. That is all the information I will voluntarily give you. Waterboard me if you want to learn any more." But that's it.

Now, that is what I would do. But insofar as you are concerned -- you have children, blah blah, blah blah. It's -- you know, obey the law, Laurie.

CALLER: OK.

BOORTZ: OK?

CALLER: Thank you.

BOORTZ: OK.

CALLER: Bye.

BOORTZ: And good luck to you. I'm just -- I'm -- it is nobody's business but mine and somebody with a sense of urgency as to how many flush toilets I have in my house. Nobody's business.

And the Census Bureau? They just -- hey, in my household? Two adults. That's it. You need any more information? Ask my neighbors.

[...]

BOORTZ: So, the federal government and the state government, they have a legitimate reason for knowing how many people live where. They have no legitimate reason for knowing anything else. The rest of the information is -- most of the rest of the information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They're looters.

And if somebody comes to my -- if a burglar came to your house, are you going to show him where the silverware is? Maybe you will if he pulls out a gun. But if he stands at your front door and says, "Look, I'm going to burglarize your house on April the 15th. I need some information from you that'll help me get that done. How much gold do you have? How much silver do you have? Where is it stored? Thank you very much for providing that information to me. We'll be back on April the 15th to tell you how much of your loot you have to hand over to us." No.

Now, you people, you abide by the law. The looters have passed laws that say you have to help them. But I'm just fed up with it, and that ain't me. That ain't me.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.