The research consistently cited by media figures to support cutting government spending has recently been invalidated, raising questions about how mainstream coverage of economic policy promoted incorrect data.
In January 2010, economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff released a study that suggested when countries reach debt levels of 90 percent relative to GDP, economic growth would be compromised. Conservatives in politics and media alike repeatedly cited the figure in discussions about the economy.
A study released on April 16, however, found that the conclusions reached by Reinhart and Rogoff were based on data that was riddled with errors. Reinhart and Rogoff's response to the critique -- in which they maintain they never implied that rising debt caused lower growth, just that the two were associated -- shows that media's handling of the figure was wrong all along.
These new developments show that media consistently used an apparently incorrect figure for the past few years to call for austerity measures. Here's a look back at how major cable networks cited the figure in its coverage of the budget and economic policy:
Video by Alan Pyke.
CNN's Erin Burnett suggested that media "on the left" may have failed to cover the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell for political reasons -- even though Burnett herself had never previously covered Gosnell's story.
Gosnell is currently on trial for murder, accused of grotesque behavior in providing illegal late-term abortions. Conservative media have been engaged in a campaign to pressure the media for providing what they consider insufficient coverage to the trial.
On the April 12 broadcast of her show, Burnett hosted a segment to examine why the story "hasn't gotten much attention in the media at all, it seems." While discussing the trial with Salon reporter Irin Carmon, Burnett said:
BURNETT: [T]here are many people out there, as you're aware, on the right who are saying, "Look, it's pro-choice people on the left who aren't going to cover this story, because they're pro-choice and this hurts their agenda. It's such an awful, horrific thing. It'll make people more adverse to abortion. That's bad for them, so they're not covering it." What do you say to those people as someone who reports on this issue?
Burnett then acknowledged that CNN's own research showed there were almost no media outlets that had run stories "which mentioned [Gosnell's] name more than three times," indicating that the story wasn't being covered "only on the right, obviously."
Yet moments later, she asked guest Donna Brazile, "Do you reject the argument that is being made by many on the right ... that, they say, the mainstream media and those who are pro-choice have ignored this story because it makes abortion look horrific?"
According to a Nexis search, Burnett's own show has never, before this broadcast, covered Gosnell's story.
CNN host Erin Burnett didn't ask NRA board member Ted Nugent a single question about his recent violent remarks concerning gun policy, which included doubling down on his previous claim that he would be "dead or in jail" if Obama was reelected.
Burnett hosted Nugent on the April 11 broadcast of her show Erin Burnett OutFront to discuss pending gun safety legislation.
At no point did Burnett ask Nugent about comments he made during an April 8 interview on NRA News, when he complained that not enough was done to stop Obama's reelection and asked, "When I kick the door down in the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?" Nugent clarified that his reference to shooting people was "a metaphor" and that he's "not recommending shooting anybody." He also doubled down on his claim last year that he would be "either dead or in jail" in a year if the president was reelected.
Nugent is not a credible voice in the gun policy debate, as evidenced by his long history of inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation about gun violence. Nevertheless, Burnett has attempted to mainstream Nugent before. In February, Burnett's show featured an interview with Nugent where he suggested the government could confiscate firearms, a conspiracy theory that Burnett and CNN reporter Deb Feyerick later treated as a serious argument.
During the April 11 interview, Burnett experienced some of Nugent's inflammatory rhetoric firsthand when Nugent asked Burnett if she would "support my recommendation that we arrest Eric Holder" in order to "stop gun trafficking."
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent will reportedly appear tonight on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront to discuss firearm policy, despite his history of inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation about gun violence. In February, OutFront featured an interview with Nugent where he suggested the government could confiscate firearms, a conspiracy theory that host Erin Burnett and CNN reporter Deb Feyerick later treated as a serious argument.
Nugent's appearance comes just days after he doubled down on his infamous comments that he would be "dead or in jail" because of President Obama's gun policies. During that interview on NRA News, Nugent also complained that not enough was done to stop the reelection of Obama, asking, "When I kick the door down in the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?" Nugent clarified that his reference to shooting people was "a metaphor" and that he's "not recommending shooting anybody."
Nugent is not a credible figure in the debate over gun laws.
In a February 13 column for birther website WND, Nugent revived false reports to allege that the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre used handguns rather than an assault weapon during his attack. Nugent's claim was based on an erroneous news report often cited by individuals promoting the conspiracy theory that the mass shooting was a hoax. In that same column, Nugent also downplayed the damage done by assault weapons by falsely claiming the AR-15 has more in common with a "squirrel rifle" than a military assault rifle.
In addition to his long history of hateful rhetoric on the topic of race, Nugent has compared the alleged plight of gun owners to civil rights icon Rosa Parks and blamed gun violence on "leftist stooges." By contrast, Nugent has also compared Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder to serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer after they were chosen to lead the administration's gun violence prevention efforts. No stranger to violent rhetoric, Nugent claimed in January that the Obama administration "is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George" and that "if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies."
Despite the clear scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and that humans are causing it, CNN's Erin Burnett treated climate change as the subject of debate.
Throughout the segment, Erin Burnett OutFront aired a badly misleading graphic suggesting that global warming is "on ice" because public opinion has changed. The phrase carried a question mark during most of the discussion, but eventually dropped it:
In contrast, here's a chart from the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change showing the long-term change in global temperature:
Last year was also the hottest year on record in the U.S.
From the January 23 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront:
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From the January 23 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront:
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CNN contributor Erick Erickson criticized early voting, claiming that the practice could make Americans less likely to vote. But on October 18, Erickson boasted of voting early for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
On CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, host Erin Burnett kicked off the discussion on early voting by saying we should get rid of it and suggested moving Election Day from a Tuesday to another day when Americans could all vote on one day.
Erickson replied by noting that Tuesday as Election Day dates back to the country's founding but added that as a former election lawyer, "I've always had a concern with when you make it too general and too broad and too vote-anytime-you-want, then suddenly it becomes less of a civic national commitment."
Yet yesterday, Erickson exercised his civic duty by voting early for Romney:
From the October 12 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront:
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CNN's Erin Burnett hosted the Rev. Robert Jeffress to discuss the role of social issues in the campaign. But Burnett ignored Jeffress' history of inflammatory rhetoric, including attacks on gays and Muslims.
On the September 26 edition of CNN's OutFront, Burnett interviewed Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, about the role of social issues in the 2012 presidential campaign. During the segment, Jeffress repeatedly stated that Mitt Romney should embrace extreme right-wing social policies in order to draw evangelical voters to the polls, and that Romney should use the upcoming debates to clearly state his opposition to abortion and gay marriage.
While Burnett acknowledged that Jeffress once called Mormonism a cult, she didn't disclose his history of vicious attacks on gays, Muslims, and members of other religions -- a history that should disqualify him from being mainstreamed on media outlets such as CNN.
In 1998, Jeffress attempted to prohibit public libraries from lending books about children with gay parents. A New York Times article written at the time quoted Jeffress as justifying his protest because homosexuality causes "the death of tens of thousands every year through AIDS."
Since then, Jeffress has continued his anti-gay campaign. In a recent statement on his radio program, Jeffress claimed that there are "a disproportionate amount of assaults against children by homosexuals than by heterosexuals, you can't deny that, and the reason is very clear: homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person's mind and if a person will sink that low and there are no restraints from God's law, then there is no telling to whatever sins he will commit as well." Jeffress also recently called homosexuality a "miserable lifestyle" and equated it with bestiality, incest, and pedophilia.
In addition, Jeffress has a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric. In 2010, Jeffress called Islam an "evil" and "violent" religion that "promotes pedophilia." In his 2011 speech at the Values Voter Summit, Jeffress not only attacked Islam as "a heresy from the pit of hell," he also attacked Mormons and Judaism:
JEFFRESS: I think part of the problem is we're in this consumer mentality as a church where we have the idea that our job is to build as big of a church as we possibly can. And if we get into that idea and fall into that trap, then we say then we can't say anything that's going to offend people, why, if we preach that homosexuality is an abomination to God we better not preach that because that's going to offend the gays or people who know gay people, if we tell people what the Bible says that every other religion in the world is wrong: Islam is wrong, it is a heresy from the pit of Hell; Mormonism is wrong, it is a heresy from the pit of Hell; Judaism, you can't be saved being a Jew, you know who said that by the way, the three greatest Jews in the New Testament, Peter, Paul, and Jesus Christ, they all said Judaism won't do it, it's faith in Jesus Christ.
CNN's Erin Burnett cherry-picked numbers to claim that the health care reform law was "a massive fail" because medical costs are expected to grow more in 2014 than they did in 2010.
But the massive fail here is on Burnett: health care costs in 2010 grew at historically low rates as the country emerged from a deep recession, making it an inappropriate point of comparison.
Discussing the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, Burnett claimed that "we're all losers" under the health care reform law because it will not reduce health care spending. Burnett explained:
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health spending in 2010 grew about 3.9 percent from the year before. But in 2014, when the president's health care law takes full effect, spending will jump 7.4 percent.
But the very research that Burnett cited, a June report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, explains that unusually slow cost increases in 2010 was a historic anomaly explained by the recession:
[T]he continuing impact of losses in employment and health insurance coverage associated with the recession helped to limit growth in private spending. Private health insurance spending growth is estimated to have been just 2.6 percent in 2010 as the number of people enrolled in private plans fell by roughly 5 million. Moreover, out-of-pocket spending climbed just 1.8 percent (after 0.4 percent growth in 2009) as many people continued to restrain their use of health care goods and services.
A June 12 Wall Street Journal article reporting on the CMS estimates explained that the 2010 figures were "a short-term trend" tied to the recession:
Consumers have been cutting back on doctors' visits and employers have trimmed insurance since the U.S. first fell into a recession. National health-care spending growth was 3.8% in 2009, the smallest increase on record, and was followed by a similar 3.9% in 2010.
Burnett's massive failure only begins with her cherry picking 2010 for her point of comparison. Her second point of comparison is 2014, which is when CMS researchers said the "largest impact on the growth of health spending is expected to occur."
So Burnett took one of the lowest rates of health spending growth on record and compared it to the year that will bring the largest impact on growth, and declared that everybody loses.
CNN's viewers most certainly did.
As automakers are starting to bring electric vehicle (EV) technology into the mainstream, conservative media outlets have repeatedly misled consumers about electric cars by trying to paint them as environmentally harmful and unsafe, among other false claims.
Everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone acknowledges when it's time to apologize. That time is now for Erin Burnett.
CNN's new evening anchor made a mistake this week when she aired a cheap-shot report about the Occupy Wall Street protests, mocking activists for being uniformed about big banks, and for being hypocrites in general. (They're anti-big business but they use laptops!)
The segment, as has been widely discussed this week, was an embarrassment. Not because anchor Burnett aired an opinion or that her opinion was at odds with the populist movement still unfolding in the Financial District. It was embarrassing because of how smug Burnett's critique was.
In her first week on the job at CNN, Burnett quickly became a symbol of how media elites tend to instinctively write off liberal activists as being not important; as being naive to how the world really works. (One phrase for you: WMD.)
And yes, the fact that Burnett was mocking Occupy Wall Street activists while her bosses at CNN had just taken the unusual step of co-sponsoring a GOP presidential debate with a splinter (conservative) political group, the Tea Party, only opened her up to obvious charges of a political double standard being used at CNN.
When Burnett aired her now infamous report, she stressed that Occupy Wall Street had started off as "less than a dozen college students" camping in the park, and that it had since expanded to "hundreds" of participants. By Wednesday night an estimated 10,000 people took part in an Occupy Wall Street march in New York City, with similar protests now spreading nationwide.
For that reason alone, Burnett should revisit her report and concede she was wrong to portray Occupy Wall Street as a fringe movement. But more importantly, she should simply apologize to viewers for so rudely dismissing the emerging movement, and put the unfortunate incident behind her.
From the November 4 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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From the June 15 edition of CNBC's Street Signs:
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