How out of whack, at times, was CNN's coverage of the GOP's radical move to shut down the government and to flirt with defaulting on American's debt? So puzzling that when news broke on October 16 that a deal would be struck to avoid a catastrophic default, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield turned to her guest, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, and blamed him for the two-week shutdown [emphasis added]:
BANFIELD: Forgive me for not popping the champagne corks, because while we're celebrating this breaking news that there's a deal, it's just a temporary deal. We're still nowhere near a solution to the crisis that the United States of America finds itself in because of people like you and your other colleagues on the Hill.
It's well known that when confronted with political turmoil created by Republicans, the Beltway press prefers to blame both political parties. (i.e. "Congress" is dysfunctional!) That way journalists are not seen as taking sides, and they're inoculated from cries of liberal media bias. But if ever there were a test case for when it was plain both sides were not to blame, the shutdown was it.
Engineered entirely by Republicans, Democrats like Clyburn were forced to become spectators as they watched a civil war unfold within the Republican Party between its far-right Tea Party allies, who insisted on adopting a radical strategy, and the rest of the GOP. Or course, several prominent Republican politicians pinned blame squarely on their colleagues for the recent mess.
The shutdown was a crisis orchestrated by Republicans. Period.
Congressional Democrats played virtually no role in the procedural sabotage, except as shocked observers. Yet there was Ashleigh Banfield blaming a Democrat (as well as all Democrats and Republicans) for causing so much turmoil inside Washington, D.C. The skewed commentary fit in with the fact that CNN regularly suggested President Obama was a central cause of the tumultuous shutdown because he wasn't willing to just sit down and work out a deal with his political foes.
CNN occupies an important place within the media landscape. Priding itself on a down-the-middle approach to news and political commentary, the channel helps shape conventional wisdom and sets the common boundaries for news events. But by so effortlessly adopting the Republican spin that Obama and Democrats shouldered all kinds of blame for the shutdown, CNN became part of the media problem.
Media outlets continue their campaign of false equivalency to misleadingly assign President Obama an equal share of the blame for not negotiating with Republicans to repeal, defund, or delay the Affordable Care Act to end the government shutdown. But polls show the American people overwhelmingly disapprove of GOP actions that led to the shutdown.
Major media outlets are pushing the narrative that the United States Department of the Treasury could prioritize payments to bond holders and select groups of recipients in lieu of an increase of the federal borrowing limit, also known as the debt ceiling, beyond October 17. This ignores Treasury Department officials and other experts who explain such prioritization is unworkable and legally dubious, and that default would still happen.
From the May 19 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
Loading the player reg...
Broadcast and cable Sunday political talk shows featured previously debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
CNN's Candy Crowley asked Sunday if President Obama pursued immigration reform "at the risk of not focusing on the economy," ignoring the fact that experts agree immigration reform will strengthen the economy, leading to higher wages, more jobs, and more tax revenue.
On CNN's State of the Union, Crowley pointed to the contraction in GDP in the last quarter of 2012 and the small increase in unemployment in January, and implied President Obama was not focused on these issues, saying "we've heard since the beginning of January gun control and immigration reform ... Does the President pursue immigration and gun control at the risk of not focusing on the economy?"
In fact, experts agree immigration reform will strengthen the economy. According to UCLA professor and immigration expert Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, passing comprehensive immigration reform would add at least $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy over ten years, generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue, and create 750,000 to 900,000 new jobs. Labor economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University also found that higher levels of immigration coincide with lower levels of unemployment, and a Brookings Institution report concluded that immigrants raise the standard of living of American workers "by boosting wages and lowering prices."
In a post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog, Ezra Klein pointed out that immigration could ease many of the economic problems associated with an aging population and low birth rate:
The economic case for immigration is best made by way of analogy. Everyone agrees that aging economies with low birth rates are in trouble; this, for example, is a thoroughly conventional view of Japan. It's even conventional wisdom about the U.S. The retirement of the baby boomers is correctly understood as an economic challenge. The ratio of working Americans to retirees will fall from 5 to 1 today to 3 to 1 in 2050. Fewer workers and more retirees is tough on any economy.
There's nothing controversial about that analysis. But if that's not controversial, then immigration shouldn't be, either. Immigration is essentially the importation of new workers. It's akin to raising the birth rate, only easier, because most of the newcomers are old enough to work. And because living in the U.S. is considered such a blessing that even very skilled, very industrious workers are willing to leave their home countries and come to ours, the U.S. has an unusual amount to gain from immigration. When it comes to the global draft for talent, we almost always get the first-round picks -- at least, if we want them, and if we make it relatively easy for them to come here.
President Obama has proposed immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, better enforcement of immigration laws, and reforming the legal immigration system. According to recent polls, a majority of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, favor allowing undocumented immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens.
CNN's State of the Union downplayed the economic consequences of not raising the debt ceiling, claiming "there is a way" for the federal government "to pay the bills." Economists, however, have warned that a default would have catastrophic effects. Moreover, even if the federal government could stave off default by prioritizing interest payments, the decline of government spending would create "a massive demand shock to the economy."
On State of the Union, during a discussion of the consequences of failing to raise the debt ceiling, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore downplayed the impact of a default, arguing: "There's no default. The Treasury bills get paid before anything else does." Host Candy Crowley responded by saying, "There is a way to pay the bills, but it is unsettling, you would agree."
But in fact, economists have warned that not raising the debt ceiling would be economically calamitous for the United States. Following Republican threats not to raise the debt ceiling in 2011, Moody's analytics chief economist Mark Zandi warned of the economic ramifications of a possible default, writing that "financial markets would unravel and the U.S. and global economy would enter another severe recession." A June 2011 letter to congressional leaders, signed by 235 prominent economists, warned of the deleterious impact to the U.S. economy if the debt ceiling was not raised:
Failure to increase the debt limit sufficiently to accommodate existing U.S. laws and obligations also could undermine trust in the full faith and credit of the United States government, with potentially grave long-term consequences. This loss of trust could translate into higher interest rates not only for the federal government, but also for U.S. businesses and consumers, causing all to pay higher prices for credit. Economic growth and jobs would suffer as a result.
The Economic Policy Institute noted that even if the federal government were able to prevent default by prioritizing interest payments on the debt, the resultant ceasing of government spending would create "a massive demand shock to the economy." EPI explained:
Even if the Treasury were able to avoid officially defaulting on the debt by prioritizing interest payments, the government would have to immediately cut expenditures by roughly 10 percent of that month's GDP, and more than that as time went on. This means Social Security checks would be cut, doctors would not be reimbursed in full for seeing Medicare and Medicaid patients, and private contractors doing business with the federal government would not be paid. All of this would constitute a massive demand shock to the economy.
A Treasury Department report, titled "Debt Limit: Myth v. Fact," stated that efforts to prioritize payments on the national debt above other legal obligations "would not prevent default, since it would seek to protect only principal and interest payments and not other legal obligations of the United States from non-payment":
Suggestions that Congress could somehow evade responsibility for raising the debt limit by passing legislation to "prioritize" payments on the national debt above other legal obligations of the United States are simply not true. This would not prevent default, since it would seek to protect only principal and interest payments and not other legal obligations of the United States from non-payment. Adopting a policy that payments to investors should take precedence over other U.S. legal obligations would merely be default by another name, since the world would recognize it as a failure by the United States to stand behind its commitments. It would therefore bring about the same catastrophic economic consequences.
CNN host Candy Crowley gave cover to the Republican claim that Americans don't support increasing taxes, allowing Representative Marsha Blackburn to say that Americans "don't want our taxes to go up." In fact, a majority of Americans support increasing taxes on upper-income earners.
On State of the Union, Blackburn (R-TN) argued against President Obama's plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, claiming he does not have support for his proposals. Blackburn said that, in re-electing a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, "the American people have clearly said, we don't want our taxes to go up."
Crowley made no effort to point out that a majority of Americans support increasing taxes on wealthier Americans, a fact her own network has previously noted.
On December 6, CNN reported that a majority of Americans support raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 per year as part of a deficit reduction deal.
Furthermore, national exit polling from the 2012 election revealed that six in ten voters favor increasing taxes. That echoed an October 12 Pew Research Center survey finding that 64 percent of Americans support increasing taxes on households making more than $250,000, and a December 2011 survey concluding that 57 percent of Americans feel the wealthy don't pay their fair share of taxes.
The Washington Post, citing a Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll, reported that "nearly 2 to 1" of Americans will blame Republicans, not Obama, if a deal to avoid the automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled for January is not reached.
Question: If the snap polls, along with the pundit consensus, had indicated Mitt Romney had won Tuesday's debate, would anyone on Fox News have cared what moderator Candy Crowley said while the two candidates discussed last month's terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya?
The hysterical, and at times deeply disturbing, reaction to Crowley's moderator role only erupted as way to explain away Romney's poor showing. Angry that Romney's weak performance might hurt his November chances, conservatives lashed out at the nearest target, Crowley. ("Shut your big fat mouth, Candy.")
But conservatives didn't simply condemn Crowley's performance as a journalist. ("Disgraceful"!) They spent the week turning her into a mythical figure of liberal destruction; a potentially violent agent (a "suicide bomber") sent by Obama to dismantle the Republican campaign for the presidency. In doing so, unglued commentators attached Crowley to a sweeping campaign conspiracy.
Is criticizing a debate moderator out of bounds? Of course not. Media Matters found fault with Jim Lehrer's performance at the first presidential debate this year. Is it completely insane to denounce a moderator by likening him or her to a political killer?
Fox aired an inaccurate timeline of what President Obama said about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Fox's timeline left out a key date, September 13, when Obama labeled the attack an "act of terror" twice.
The right-wing media have repeatedly made the false claim that Obama did not call the Benghazi attack an act of terror until well after the attack. Mitt Romney repeated the falsehood in the second presidential debate. After moderator Candy Crowley fact-checked his error, she was attacked by the right-wing media.
But Crowley's correction didn't put the issue to rest for Fox. Here is their bogus timeline:
The second presidential debate, moderated by CNN's Candy Crowley, featured a question and extended discussion on the potential reinstatement of an assault weapons ban. Previously, debate moderators in 2008 and Jim Lehrer of PBS' NewsHour, the moderator of the first presidential debate, had ignored the issue of gun violence prevention.
Introducing the town hall participant who asked the candidates what they would do to limit the availability of assault weapons, Crowley noted that the topic of gun violence is one "that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd."
CROWLEY: Because what I -- what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.
GONZALEZ: President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
CNN's Candy Crowley is giving cover to the Republican claim that businesses will not hire due to "uncertainty" over the implementation of the health care law, which has now been endorsed by all three branches of the federal government. In reality, the only uncertainty surrounding the law is being created by Republican threats to repeal it.
On State of the Union, Crowley aided National Republican Senatorial Committee Vice Chair Carly Fiorina's claim that uncertainty over Obamacare would continue to prevent companies from hiring. Crowley said, "And this has been part of the Republican mantra was that big business doesn't know where tax reform is going, they don't know how much new regulation is going to cost them, what kind of infrastructure they'll have to put into their own -- so they're kind of sitting on all this money and not hiring."
By contrast, a June 28 Associated Press article noted that "the health industry -- and company stocks -- still face uncertainty, at least until the November's presidential election. Republicans want to scrap the law."
Furthermore, economists and small business owners say a lack of demand is holding back hiring, not uncertainty.
From the May 20 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
Loading the player reg...
If I ever have children, I'll be able to tell them about the day in May 2012 when the President of the United States finally endorsed marriage equality. Unfortunately, I'll also be able to tell them that the leader of a hate group was given a prominent platform in the wake of the president's announcement to say on national television that same-sex marriage "runs counter to nature" and threatens "religious freedom," "the family," and "the education of our children."
In November 2010 the Southern Poverty Law Center determined that the Family Research Council (FRC) is an "anti-gay hate group" because it seeks to "defam[e] gays and lesbians" by making "false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science." Given FRC's record of spreading bogus information, it's risky for news organizations committed to accuracy to give FRC access to their audience. Nevertheless, FRC has repeatedly been presented as a legitimate and mainstream voice by every major cable news network.
Today both CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley and CBS' Face the Nation hosted FRC president Tony Perkins to comment on same-sex marriage and presidential politics. On CNN Perkins was balanced by ... Gary Bauer, another evangelical conservative who shares Perkins' anti-LGBT views. Perkins said that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a matter of "defending the family, the cornerstone of civilization," adding, "it's more than marriage. It's about the education of our children. It's about religious freedom. It's about public accommodations."
On Face The Nation, Perkins was outnumbered on the panel by those who support marriage equality, but he was never actually confronted about his group's record or the lack of evidence for his claims about dire consequences of same-sex marriages. Host Bob Schieffer did not challenge Perkins' claim that parents will "lose the right to determine what their children are taught in school. Religious organizations forced to recognize or allow their facilities to be used for weddings such as this." During the segment Perkins said we should "allow all sides to have the debate" and, addressing Schieffer, added, "I'm glad that's what you're doing here this morning."
By contrast, some media figures including a few of Crowley's colleagues at CNN, have apparently recognized the absurdity of dancing around the house of cards underlying Perkins' views. Just as history will not judge Perkins well, neither will it be kind to those in the news media who facilitated his struggle on behalf of discrimination.
From the April 22 edition of CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley:
Loading the player reg...