Many in the media have proclaimed the GOP the winner in the "stimulus message war" over President Obama and congressional Democrats. But they often do so with no self-reflection or acknowledgment of their cohort's role in advancing the Republicans' side in the debate through the credulous repetition of falsehoods and other Republican talking points.
The AP uncritically reported that Sen. Mitch McConnell and "other Republicans" stated that the economic recovery bill "allows Democrats to go on a spending spree unlikely to jolt the economy." But the AP did not point out that the Congressional Budget Office "anticipates that implementation of H.R. 1 would have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years," or that CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said the bill "would provide a substantial boost to economic activity over the next several years relative to what would occur without any legislation."
A Drudge Report headline stated "HILL REPUBLICAN: STIMULUS GIVES CASH TO ILLEGALS" and linked to an AP article that reported that "[t]he $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants, a top Republican congressional official asserted Thursday." A revised version of the article made clear that the claim is false, but the Drudge Report did not remove the headline and link to the original version of the article until roughly four hours after the new version was available.
Matt Drudge featured a report on his website under the headline, "Gore Hearing On Warming May Be Put On Ice," stating that "Al Gore is scheduled before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday morning to once again testify on the 'urgent need' to combat global warming. But Mother Nature seems ready to freeze the proceedings." However, climate scientists -- including at least one who has disputed aspects of the scientific consensus on global warming -- completely reject the notion that short-term changes in weather, let alone an individual winter storm in January, bear any relevance to the global warming debate.
During her January 7 interview on NBC's Today, Ann Coulter falsely claimed that "the Drudge Report has never had to retract a report." In fact, the Drudge Report has a track record of posting items that were false on their face or were subsequently exposed as false, and in 1997, issued a retraction regarding a false allegation he posted on his website.
Media critics have recently postulated that while Matt Drudge may have once set the media's agenda, his influence has waned and his efforts to inject himself in the media's coverage of the presidential election have largely fallen flat. This election season, Drudge has posted a long series of items that were false on their face or turned out to be false, making the strong case that, if his influence is not in fact waning, it should be.
The Drudge Report and the National Review's Rich Lowry falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama didn't vote to condemn MoveOn.org's 2007 newspaper advertisement critical of Gen. David Petraeus. In fact, Obama did vote for an amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer that condemned the ad, as well as other attacks on past and present members of the armed forces, as the USA Today blog post to which the Drudge Report linked points out.
The Drudge Report ran the headline "West Virginia country folk keep distance from Obama: 'I heard he's a Muslim ...' " in linking to a Financial Times article. The article quoted a West Virginia resident stating, "I heard Obama is a Muslim and his wife's an atheist." But Obama is, in fact, not a Muslim. While the article characterized the rumors of Obama's religion as "unfounded," it did so 12 paragraphs after quoting the "I heard he's a Muslim" assertion and did not report that the Obamas are both Christians.
While discussing the news that Sen. Hillary Clinton had replaced her campaign manager, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer asked Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: "[T]he Drudge Report has a headline that reads, quote, 'Adiós: Clinton's Top Latina Sidelined.' Are you concerned at all about the way Hispanic voters might interpret this shakeup heading into Texas?" Neither the Drudge Report nor MSNBC offered any reason why Solis Doyle's replacement as campaign manager might have anything to do with her being Latina or any reason why Latino voters might react in any way to the staff change.
A January 22 headline on the Drudge Report baselessly suggested that the children's psychiatric unit at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center closed because Sen. Hillary Clinton was "neglecting" New York. The Buffalo News article that the headline linked to contained no mention of Clinton; rather, it reported that hospital officials attributed the closure to problems surrounding the way Medicaid is administered by Niagara County.
Several media outlets -- following the lead of Internet gossip Matt Drudge -- have presented Obama's comments on not wearing an American flag pin as a recent decision made by the candidate, and not an explanation of something he chose to do several years ago. CNN, ABC, and Fox News have reported on the "controversy," providing a platform for several conservatives to attack Obama's patriotism. As NBC News' Chuck Todd put it, "this was the media getting a classic case of the Drudges."
The Drudge Report and ABCNews.com both highlighted an Associated Press article that cited an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that, the article said, "found that fully one-quarter of all Americans said that the prospect of having at least 24 straight years of a President Clinton or Bush would be a consideration in their vote for president in 2008." But the AP left out the data on other responses to the question -- that a majority of respondents, 54 percent, said it would "not be a consideration at all." Nor did the AP report that the poll also found that 42 percent of respondents "feel positive" that former President Bill Clinton is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) husband, while only 28 percent "feel negative" about it.