CBS News political analyst Frank Luntz had a major undisclosed conflict of interest while appearing on the network. While Luntz used his pre-election platform on CBS to praise Rep. Paul Ryan, his consulting firm, Luntz Global LLC, received $40,000 in consulting and polling fees from Rep. Paul Ryan's congressional campaign.
On CBS, Luntz called Ryan a "very popular" congressman who could help Romney win Wisconsin. Luntz also used his CBS appearances to attack his client's vice presidential opponent. He claimed that Biden's debate performance was a turnoff to voters and suggested it showed that the Obama administration can't work with Congress. Luntz made eleven CBS appearances to discuss the presidential campaign from September 24 -- when Luntz's firm first received a payment from Ryan -- through November.
According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Ryan's successful 2012 congressional campaign paid Luntz Global LLC $20,000 on September 24 for "Polling: Dial Session" and $20,000 on October 9 for "Advertising: Ad Consulting." UPDATE (12/7): Following the publication of this post, Ryan's campaign filed its post-general FEC report showing an additional $5,063.39 disbursement to Luntz Global on November 6 for "Advertising: Ad consulting expenses."
Luntz is a Republican operative (despite some apparent confusion from CBS) who is perhaps best known for helping write and market Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. New York Times Magazine contributor Robert Draper reported that Luntz orchestrated a 2009 meeting where prominent Republicans, including Paul Ryan, formulated a plan to gain control of Congress and The White House.
Luntz's lack of disclosure may violate CBS Corporation's standards of conduct. The CBS Corporation Business Conduct Statement on conflicts of interest informs CBS employees, "including those employed on a temporary, freelance, intern, or per diem basis," that "in all cases" they "must disclose all potential conflicts of interest" to CBS:
Disclosing and Addressing Potential Conflicts of Interest
CBS requires that you disclose, in writing, any personal, business, or other relationship that could potentially affect your business judgment on behalf of your Company and CBS. The existence of a potential conflict of interest, such as one or more of the situations discussed below, does not necessarily constitute a violation of CBS's conflict of interest policy. Our policy is one of disclosure and review of potential conflicts and prohibition of actual conflicts of interest. In some cases, disclosure may be all that is required. In others, the situation may require additional action to avoid a conflict of interest or to remedy one. But remember, in all cases, you must disclose all potential conflicts of interest.
The document adds: "Even the appearance of a conflict of interest can undermine our integrity in the minds of our co-workers, our customers, our suppliers, or the public."
Luntz also didn't disclose his financial relationship with Ryan during appearances on Fox News. On the October 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity (via Nexis), Luntz said: "I would tell people to be watching Wisconsin even more than Ohio. Paul Ryan is very popular there. He's known state wide. His numbers are fantastic, and that's a state that has already survived a recall. There's a good Republican organization on the ground because of the Scott Walker vote. The man did even better in the recall." Luntz also conducted a live focus group on Fox following the October 11 vice presidential debate. Luntz Global states that Luntz is a Fox News contributor.
Luntz's failure to disclose his financial connection to Rep. Ryan was not his only undisclosed conflict of interest during recent media appearances. The day before the election, Fox & Friends hosted Luntz to praise a "powerful" ad from Karl Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads. Neither Luntz nor Fox disclosed that Crossroads had paid Luntz's firm more than $46,000 earlier in the year.
Requests for comment to CBS, Fox News and Luntz Global LLC were not returned.
Four of the five major Sunday morning political shows ignored the issue of job creation and economic growth, which economists and voters say are the most important economic issues facing the nation. Instead, the economic discussion on the November 11 editions of these shows focused almost exclusively on the debate over how to achieve deficit reduction.
Among the participants in the major Sunday shows, NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation, ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Fox Broacasting's Fox News Sunday, and CNN's State of the Union, only This Week guest Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out that the exit polls found that voters say the government should focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction.
By contrast, Meet the Press guest Bob Woodward identified deficits and debt as " the big issue" the government must solve. Woodward went on to suggest that Obama should be looking for a "payoff for everyone in the community, not just his base."
WOODWARD: I think the big picture here is that President Obama has got to deliver on the big issue, which is fixing the financial house of the U.S. federal government. It is in disarray. It's not just the fiscal cliff, it's $16 trillion in IOUs out in the world. In a couple of months, in February or March, they are going to have to renegotiate an authority -- lending and borrowing authority -- for another trillion or two dollars, and if the president can fix that and put us on some sort of path of restoration for the economy, that is a payoff for everyone in the community, not just his base.
And he's got to think much more broadly. The job of the president is to find the next stage of good for a real majority and he's capable of doing it.
The Associated Press analyzed data of national exit polls following the presidential election and found that 59 percent of voters interviewed listed the economy as the biggest issue facing the country. In comparison, only 15 percent said that deficits were the most important issue. Similarly, when asked about specific economic concerns, nearly 40 percent of voters said unemployment was the "biggest economic problem facing voters like them."
Economists and other experts also say that job creation and economic growth are the most important issue facing the country.
Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer slurred undocumented immigrants as "illegals," a term that has been condemned by several prominent journalistic organizations.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) appeared on Face the Nation and he said that he intended to "pass an immigration reform bill." Schieffer responded by asking "Would that mean finding some path to citizenship for the illegals that are in this country?"
The Associated Press Stylebook instructs journalists not to "use the terms illegal alien, an an illegal or illegals."
Numerous organizations and commentators have also called on the media not to use the loaded term "illegals." For instance, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has called on news media to stop using the word "illegals" as a noun. The NAHJ stated that it was "particularly troubled with the growing trend of the news media to use the word 'illegals' as a noun, shorthand for 'illegal aliens.'" The statement added that "using the word in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed." The Asian American Journalists Association's handbook implores journalists to "avoid" the word "illegals," calling it "a slur."
At tonight's presidential debate, moderator Bob Schieffer asked Mitt Romney about his statement that he would declare China a currency manipulator his first day in office: "If you declare them a currency manipulator on day one, some people are saying you're just going to start a trade war with China on day one. Is that -- isn't there a risk that that could happen?" It's curious that Schieffer characterized this criticism as coming from "some people" when it was made directly to Schieffer himself yesterday morning by none other than Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of Romney's chief surrogates.
Appearing on CBS' Face The Nation Sunday, Rubio told Schieffer regarding labeling China a currency manipulator: "A trade war is not the right way to approach it and I think that if you label them a currency manipulator, that's what it may result in, it would hurt American businesses."
Again, Rubio is a top Romney campaign surrogate and an important Republican voice on Capitol Hill. Seems like Schieffer should have mentioned the source of that China criticism.
CBS chief political correspondent John Dickerson disputed President Obama's description of Mitt Romney's tax plan as a "$5 trillion tax cut" because one of Romney's advisers suggested he would reduce the size of his proposed tax cuts if he could not pay for them. But Dickerson is ignoring the fact that Romney running mate Paul Ryan suggested last week that Romney would not reduce the size of his tax cuts because lowering taxes is his highest priority.
During a panel discussion on the presidential debate on Face The Nation, Dickerson said that it was unfair to accuse Romney of being dishonest about his tax plan. Dickerson explained that a top Romney economic adviser "said we have two goals here. One is deficit reduction, the other is reducing marginal rates. If those come in conflict our primary goal is deficit reduction and the marginal rates might not go down as much."
That stands in direct contrast to remarks by Paul Ryan, who was asked specifically if Mitt Romney would "scale back on the 20 percent tax cut for the wealthy" if the cuts could not be paid for and replied "No, no.".
Chris Wallace asked Ryan in that September 30 Fox News Sunday interview "what's most important to [Romney] in his tax reform plan?" Ryan replied, "keeping tax rates down. By lowering tax rates, people keep more of the next dollar that they earn. That matters. That is incentives." He added, "That's more important than anything."
Media figures are creating false balance in their coverage of the presidential debate by claiming both candidates lied. But the statements from President Obama they are pointing to are true.
John Fund of National Review and Jonathan Karl of ABC News both used factual statements made by President Obama as examples to claim that he "stretched the truth" during the October 3 presidential debate. Fund cited Obama's comments about the power of an advisory board created by the health care reform law, while Karl pointed to Obama's statement that he has proposed a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. In fact, both statements by President Obama during the debate were true, and have been supported by independent fact-checkers.
As a guest on CBS' Face the Nation Fund claimed "both candidates, I think, told things that stretched the truth." Fund specifically criticized Obama for saying in the debate that the Independent Payments Advisory Board instituted by the health reform law "wasn't going to make any decisions on treatment." According to Fund, that board "has unilateral power, unless Congress overrides it with a supermajority, to basically tell all doctors and hospitals this is how much money you have to treat people. That is incredible power. That is effectively the power to ration health care. So I think the President was stretching the truth in a big part of Obamacare."
During the debate, President Obama disputed Mitt Romney's statement that the health reform law "put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatments they're going to receive." Obama described the advisory board as "a group of health care experts, doctors, et cetera" who work "to figure out, how can we reduce the cost of care in the system overall? ... [W]hat this board does is basically identifies best practices and says, let's use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do."
Obama's description is accurate. The health reform law forbids the board from submitting "any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits," and multiple fact-checkers have made clear the board "wouldn't make any health care decisions for individual Americans" and "cannot by law make recommendations about what treatments people get." Instead, according to Politifact, "it would make broad policy decisions that affect Medicare's overall cost."
From the September 23 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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The major Sunday network news talk shows gave less than two minutes of coverage to Mitt Romney's invocation of the conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the United States. The New York Times reported that Romney's comment was part of a shift by the Romney campaign to a "more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters."
Face the Nation guest host Nancy Cordes falsely suggested that President Obama does not have a plan to cut the deficit. Cordes compared Obama to Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who Cordes claimed has released a plan that makes "tough choices." In fact, Obama has a detailed plan to reduce the deficit.
Cordes said to Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter:
What about this argument by Republicans who point to Paul Ryan's plan and say, "hey, it may not all be popular, but at least he's making the tough choices"? We've got a $15 trillion debt, we've got entitlements that are exploding, and at least he's willing to put his plan out on the table while the president, at least initially, did not embrace his plan, the Bowles-Simpson plan.
Cutter responded that Obama has a plan, which is available on the White House website. She added that Obama's plan "does make those tough choices," but is "not an ideological document like Paul Ryan's plan."
Later, Cordes claimed that Obama may have a plan on his website, but on the campaign trail, Obama mostly talks about "raising taxes on the two percent. Where are the other bold plans that require sacrifice from the rest of the country?" Cutter pointed Cordes again to the White House website and noted that Obama has not only talked about his budget cutting plans, he has given an address to a joint session of Congress about it.
Cutter proceeded to provide details of Obama's plan to reduce the deficit.
Fox News' Greta van Susteren last night became the sixth journalist to interview Mitt Romney without asking him about the conservative conspiracy theory alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood is using supposed ties to an aide for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to infiltrate the U.S. government. Two surrogates for Romney's campaign have defended that conspiracy during the past week, while Republican leaders like John Boehner and John McCain have condemned it.
In the wake of last week's tragic mass shooting in Aurora, CO, some in the media are distorting public opinion and election results to predict that the events will not have an impact on the debate over gun violence prevention. In fact, polls indicate public support for a broad range of stronger gun restrictions, including the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, which may have prevented the legal purchase of one of the alleged shooter's guns.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza kicked off the debate with a piece published the morning after the shooting headlined "Why the Aurora shootings won't likely change the gun control debate":
If history is any guide, however, the Aurora shootings will do little to change public sentiment regarding gun control, which has been moving away from putting more laws on the books for some time.
In 1990, almost eight in ten Americans said that the "laws covering the sales of firearms" should be made "more strict" while just 10 percent said they should be made "less strict" or "kept as they are now". By 2010, those numbers had drastically shifted with 54 percent preferring less strict or no change in guns laws and 44 percent believing gun laws should be made more strict.
By Sunday the claim that Americans don't support tougher gun laws was a regular feature on the morning political talk shows. But if Congress is not moved by this tragedy to pass new gun violence prevention laws, it won't be because the American people oppose such measures.
In fact, other polls indicate that contrary to the result of the Gallup poll Cillizza cited, Americans support the passage of an array of new, stronger firearm sale laws.
Note that this appetite among the public for stronger gun laws includes the support of more than three in five for reinstating the nationwide ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. One of the weapons used by the alleged shooter was an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, which reportedly may have been banned under that law. Members of the House and Senate have called for bringing back the ban in response to the shooting. They enjoy the support of 62 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans, according to a June 2011 Time magazine poll.
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:
Thomas E. Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, are well-respected centrist congressional experts who are often cited by the media. But their recent conclusion that Republicans are responsible for political dysfunction -- laid out in an April 29 Washington Post op-ed and their recently released book -- has been largely ignored, with the top five national newspapers writing a total of zero news articles on their thesis.
A Media Matters analysis finds that news coverage of climate change on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX has dropped significantly since 2009. In 2011, these networks spent more than twice as much time discussing Donald Trump as climate change.
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.