On CBS Sunday morning, Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer gave a free pass to Mitt Romney's on his changed position on whether an individual mandate should be part of federal health insurance reform.
Schieffer's interview was the first Sunday morning interview Romney has done this campaign cycle with a show other than Fox News Sunday.
Schieffer asked Romney to respond to the assertion that the federal Affordable Care Act enacted by Obama is essentially the same as the plan that Romney enacted in Massachusetts. Romney responded that he believed an individual mandate at the federal level is "unconstitutional."
However, in a 2009 USA Today op-ed, Romney advocated for a federal individual mandate, expressly stating that the federal government follow his Massachusetts law as a model, a fact Schieffer did not bring up.
As TPM explained:
In July 2009, Mitt Romney called on President Obama to require Americans to buy insurance as part of his health care plan, using "tax penalties" as a backstop -- in other words, the individual mandate that Republicans virulently oppose.
In a USA Today op-ed titled "Mr. President, what's the rush?," which is also available on MittRomneyCentral.com, Romney urged Obama to "learn a thing or two about health care reform" from his Massachusetts plan that contained the same policy, and touted it as effective.
"First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance," Romney wrote. "Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages 'free riders' to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others."
The revelation could damage the GOP presidential frontrunner, who has been attacked by conservatives for enacting a similar law as "Obamacare," but has defended himself by saying such an approach is acceptable on a state level, not a federal level.
Watch the interview from CBS's Face the Nation:
Yesterday's Face The Nation certainly did not reflect CBS's best efforts in terms of showcasing serious people discussing American politics, or in terms of holding guests accountable for their outlandish attacks on the president.
As Media Matters noted, CBS on Sunday aired an interview with Donald Trump who claimed, yet again, that he was kind of/maybe thinking about running for president as an independent. (Or he might just endorse one of the current GOP candidates; he's not sure.) Why Trump's self-promotion would still pass as news in 2012 remains a mystery.
Worse, Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer never asked Trump about the thoroughly debunked, Obama birther conspiracy theory that the businessman proudly hyped last year only to watch it collapse in spectacular fashion.
What else transpired on Face The Nation yesterday? Discussing this week's Florida Republican primary, the program hosted Rep. Allen West (R-FL), who is widely known for using slanderous, AM radio-style hate rants against Democrats.
In fact, here' what West told a partisan crowd the day before he appeared on Face the Nation:
We need to let President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, (audience boos) and my dear friend the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, we need to let them know that Florida ain't on the table," West said. "Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.
On Face The Nation though, host Schieffer never asked West why he had demanded that Obama, Reid and Pelosi "get the hell out" of the country.
It's possible Schieffer didn't know about West's comments, even though they were reported the night before Sunday's Face The Nation aired. Either way, CBS ought to know better than to treat reckless name-callers (and freshman Congressmen) like West as a important voices in American politics.
Not so long ago, periphery players like Trump and West would have been shunned by the Beltway press and treated as the not-serious people they are. Today, the Obama-bashing duo have been mainstreamed thanks to outlets like Face the Nation that refuse to hold guests accountable for their radical attacks on the president.
This morning, CBS' Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer interviewed Donald Trump about the businessman and reality television star's consideration of a possible independent run for president (consideration that, coincidentally, comes shortly before the season premiere of The Apprentice and publication of Trump's new book). Viewers learned that Trump doesn't want to run for president because he would "rather do what I'm doing now," but if he doesn't see a Republican nominated who he thinks can beat President Obama, he "would certainly think about doing it after the show ends."
CBS viewers heard nothing, however, about Trump's history of pushing debunked birther conspiracy theories. Somehow, in an interview almost entirely concerned with Trump's presidential aspirations, Schieffer did not ask a single question about the central facets of the pseudocampaign for the Republican nomination Trump ran in the spring of 2011: Trump's repeated suggestion that President Obama may not have been born in the United States (and thus could not hold the presidency under the Constitution) and his demands that Obama "show his birth certificate."
On this week's Face The Nation, host Bob Schieffer welcomed a "cross-section of Republicans" for a round table about the state of the GOP campaign season. However, the unbalanced format also allowed Republicans to launch attacks on liberals and President Obama without having anyone on the show present to rebut the allegations.
For instance, addressing the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations, former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie told Schieffer "conservatives believe that liberals" have "a special disdain for black conservatives." He also insisted, "People are fed up with what's going on in Washington and they're frustrated with the Obama economy."
Republican Ken Blackwell attacked the president's "inability to create jobs." And conservative strategist Liz Cheney claimed Americans are "afraid that this president wants higher taxes and more spending and bigger government." (She also insisted Obama had "inherited a victory in Iraq" from president Bush.)
For the record, following the GOP panel discussion, Schieffer then interviewed Republican candidate Jon Huntsman's three daughters, which meant Face the Nation welcomed eight guests to its program this week, seven of which had direct ties to the Republican Party or its campaigns.
The only non-Republican Face the Nation guest? Non-partisan journalist John Dickerson who was addressed just once during the program.
On today's edition of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked an odd question of guest and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons: "Do you think, looking back on it, the president would have been better off if he had simply concentrated first on jobs and then moved to some of these other issues like health care?"
Schieffer seems to have forgotten that within a month of taking office, President Obama had pushed through a stimulus package to "stop the downward spiral" and save or create millions of jobs, with the support of only three Republicans. Schieffer repeatedly described the legislative package as "enormous" back in February 2009. In July 2009, eight months before Obama signed the health care reform bill, Schieffer said that Obama had "embarked on all these different programs to improve the economy."
Many private analysts agree that the stimulus significantly raised employment over what it would be otherwise, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in August that as of the second quarter of 2010, the stimulus has "[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million."
Even Rush Limbaugh agrees that fixing the economy was a higher priority at the start of the Obama administration than health care; the Washington Examiner's Byron York quoted Limbaugh on July 24, 2009, as saying that "we better thank our lucky stars that they did the stimulus first. Because if they had done [health care] first, it would be signed into law already. He would have gotten it." York added, "there's no doubt that the president spent much of his early political capital on the stimulus, and now he needs it back -- badly."
The health care reform debate was certainly more drawn-out and visible than that over the stimulus. Indeed, the quick passage of the stimulus resulted in part because it was such a high priority and Obama's team began drawing it up before he took office. But it's misleading to suggest that just because Obama passed health care reform this year, the economy and jobs weren't his first priority. This type of media coverage might help explain why so few Americans realize that the stimulus package cut their taxes.
From the July 25 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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On July 25, Face the Nation will host Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, who has pushed phony allegations that the Justice Department engaged in racially charged corruption in the New Black Panther Party case. Fund has a long history of pushing trumped up and made up charges against Democrats and progressives.
Over the years, we've done a variety of reports documenting the lack of progressive voices as well as gender and ethnic diversity on the all-important Sunday morning network political chat shows. As Media Matters' Jamison Foser noted earlier this week:
Politico reported a finding by American University's Women & Politics Institute that "female lawmakers have composed 13.5 percent of the total Sunday show appearances by all representatives and senators this year." (That finding was consistent with a 2007 Media Matters study that examined all Sunday show guests -- not just lawmakers -- in 2005 and 2006, finding that about 80 percent of guests were men and roughly 90 percent were white.)
The reason for this disparity is simple: the Sunday shows do not prioritize the diversity of their guest lists. This is true of gender diversity, racial and ethnic diversity, and, too often, diversity of viewpoints and policy positions. (In the run-up to the Iraq war, for example, Meet the Press hosted nearly three times as many Democrats who supported the Congressional measure authorizing the use of force as Democrats who opposed it -- despite the fact that a majority of Congressional Democrats opposed the measure.)
He goes on to note that the network's responsible for the disparity are offering nothing but excuses saying, it is "quite revealing that a Sunday show producer defends her team's efforts to book women by saying they've tried 25 times to book one woman, rather than saying they've tried to book 25 women." He continues:
If you were trying to increase the number of women who appear on your Sunday show, would you A) keep inviting the same woman over and over again, despite the fact that she has declined 25 invitations and despite the fact that you think she is "just unwilling" to be your guest, or B) Find other women to invite?
It's not the first time the networks' have offered up hollow excuses for their lack of diversity.
When Media Matters released its first Sunday show report looking at "nearly 7,000 guest appearances during President Bill Clinton's second term, President George W. Bush's first term, and the year 2005," there were several startling findings:
The networks responded with, you guessed it, excuses. Representatives from the CBS and NBC Sunday shows said that the party in the White House would undoubtedly hold a booking edge because they have so many more newsmakers. This particular excuse ignored the many advantages Republicans and conservatives had during President Clinton's second term. The shows then argued that it was because Republicans controlled Congress. Okay, so how would the right's booking advantage be affected when Democrats won the House and Senate in 2006?
Media Matters' follow-up report found that although control of Congress had switched hands, network practices remained largely unchanged with conservatives and Republicans holding many of the same advantages they had for so many years.
The dreadful Sunday show excuse parade doesn't only march surrounding questions of diversity.
After Jake Tapper -- interim host of ABC's This Week -- began working with PolitiFact.com on a trial basis to provide a weekly fact-check of the network's Sunday show, two of his rivals swatted away suggestions that they too take up the practice.
David Gregory -- host of NBC's Meet the Press -- said of fact-checking his program, "people can fact-check Meet the Press every Sunday on their own terms."
Bob Schieffer -- host of CBS' Face the Nation -- struck the same chord saying, "everybody's welcome to fact-check us all they want" adding "I kind of think that by the time we get around to fact-checking, we'd already be fact-checked."
Yep, people upset with the lack of accountability (and journalism) dolled out on Sunday are free to do their own fact-checking. Talk about avoiding responsibility.
I guess, If It's Sunday, It's Excuses.
CBS host Bob Schieffer falsely claimed that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan would not allow military recruiters on campus when she was the dean of Harvard Law School. In fact, Harvard students had access to military recruiters during Kagan's entire tenure as dean, and Harvard's data show that her actions did not hurt military recruitment.
On Friday, Christiane Amanpour left CNN after 27 years at the network. As we noted in March, the cable news mainstay is set to pick up hosting duties for ABC's This Week later this summer taking over for ABC News' Jake Tapper who will continue to fill-in as host until Amanpour's transition is complete in August.
For his part, Tapper has partnered with PolitiFact.com to offer a weekly fact-check of This Week -- something other Sunday show hosts like NBC's David Gregory and CBS' Bob Schieffer have declined to do thus far instead leaving it up to their viewers.
Amanpour will be the only woman hosting one of the all-important Sunday morning network political talk shows -- an accomplishment to be sure. It remains to be seen however, if she will continue Tapper's trial partnership with PolitiFact.com. Should she continue such a partnership, and I'm hoping that she does, it will further distinguish This Week from its more reticent rivals.
More news in the continuing saga of fact-checking the Sunday shows. A brief recap:
Now, CBS' Bob Schieffer -- host of Face the Nation -- has weighed in with his thoughts. Yahoo! News media writer (formerly of Politico) Michael Calderone reports:
Bob Schieffer, host of CBS' "Face the Nation," similarly described his role as "the front line on fact-checking," when a guest makes a dubious claim, he's there to ask follow-up questions.
And if an inaccurate statement slips by, Schieffer said he expects that viewers and media-monitoring groups on the left and right will call attention to it quickly, noting that "everybody's welcome to fact-check us all they want."
"I kind of think that by the time we get around to fact-checking," he added, "we'd already be fact-checked."
Last week, we noted that ABC's This Week would begin working with PolitiFact.com to provide a weekly fact-check of the Sunday show. Said PolitiFact.com's Bill Adair in making the announcement:
Jake Tapper, the interim host of This Week, liked the suggestion and asked us to fact-check the show on a trial basis. So starting this Sunday, we'll be fact-checking the newsmakers who appear on the program. We'll post the items on our home page and on the show's Web site. The items will also be archived on PolitiFact's This Week page, so you'll be able to check back periodically and see how the newsmakers are doing.
Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's Colbert Report, isn't pleased. As he puts it:
I don't care about facts. I gut-check my show. I say, "gut, does that feel true to you," and gut says, "yes it does Stephen, let's get a grilled cheese sandwich."
Colbert also ribbed David Gregory, host of NBC's Meet the Press, for this disappointing statement:
People can fact-check Meet the Press every Sunday on their own terms.
I hope Gregory will come to his senses. It would do all Sunday show viewers a great deal of good if Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday (and the cable/syndicated ones too) followed This Week's lead rather than Colbert's, which is how they seem to do it now.
In a triumph of synergy, Bob Schieffer hosted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on yesterday's Super Bowl Sunday edition of CBS' Face the Nation. Goodell's solo interview lasted about ten minutes; he was followed by a panel of CBS' NFL analysts.
Look, I love the NFL (Go Giants!). If Schieffer had contained his interview with Goodell to the amazing season the league just finished, whether he thinks Brett Favre is going to retire again (and whether it will stick this time), the NFL's next generation of stars, whether he thought the Colts made a mistake by not going for a perfect season and football immortality, and his prediction as to whether we'd see the triumphant return of the Manning Face before the day was over (answer: yes), the show would have been the perfect start to a great day of football.
But that's not what happened. Instead, Schieffer opened the interview by basically giving Goodell five minutes to spout the NFL owners' talking points about negotiations for their next contract with the NFL Players' Association:
Goodell used that time to play down the NFLPA's concern that the owners will lock them out for the 2011 season (thus making management seem more reasonable) while simultaneously suggesting that the players are receiving too high a percentage of revenues and will need to give some of that up in their next contract, because the owners need to be better recompensed for their investments in new stadiums. According to Goodell, if that happens, "everyone benefits."
Somehow, I don't think NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith would agree with that. Smith might have pointed out that the owners make their own decisions about whether to build massive monuments to their egos, and should suffer if they make poor investments. He could have noted that most NFL players have short careers, high risk of life-altering injury, and can be fired virtually at-will, unlike athletes in the other major American sports.
But Schieffer didn't give equal time to labor and management, he just let management give its side unanswered.
From the January 31 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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From the January 17 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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