Starting Point

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  • Media's Heavy Focus On Nonexistent Debt Crisis Ignores Economic Reality

    Blog ››› ››› ALBERT KLEINE

    Media figures have repeatedly forwarded the notion that the United States is currently facing a debt crisis. However, leaders of both parties agree there is no immediate crisis, and by focusing attention too heavily on deficit and debt reduction, the media distract from the more imminent problem of growth and jobs.

    Throughout news coverage of recent budget negotiations, media figures have consistently framed discussions around the notion that the country faces a debt crisis, an assertion that is often presented uncritically and accepted as an indisputable fact. Since discussions are predicated on the assumption that a debt crisis exists, ensuing analysis of budget proposals is often solely focused on how far they go in reducing short term deficits and debt.

    While media are convinced that a debt crisis exists, leaders of both parties have made explicit statements to the contrary. In a March 12 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, President Obama claimed that "we don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt," a statement that was immediately criticized by conservative media. When asked if he agreed with Obama's statement regarding debt on the March 17 edition of ABC's This Week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) conceded that there is no immediate crisis. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made a similar admission on CBS' Face the Nation, saying "we do not have a debt crisis right now."

    The Congressional Budget Office supports the view that there is no immediate crisis, noting that debt as a percentage of GDP is projected to remain relatively stable over the next 10 years. 

    Furthermore, the media's focus on a "debt crisis" has necessarily steered the debate about budgets toward how the parties will sufficiently address short term deficits. Economists, meanwhile, have repeatedly argued that undue focus on deficits and debt distracts from the more pressing need for economic growth and reduced unemployment.

    The bipartisan admission that there is no immediate debt crisis provides media with an opportunity to reframe their budget negotiations coverage around economic growth.

    Video by Alan Pyke.

  • As Sequester Looms, Media Silence Economists

    Blog ››› ››› ALBERT KLEINE & ALAN PYKE

    Media ignored economists in their reports leading up to the initiation of the economically damaging across-the-board spending cuts commonly known as sequestration.

    If Congress fails to act by midnight, across-the-board spending cuts of up to $85 billion in 2013 alone will take effect. While sequestration is inherently an economic issue, media are ignoring the last chance to have economists weigh in on the consequences.

    Media Matters reviewed news coverage leading up to the sequestration deadline, specifically the February 28 evening news broadcasts; March 1 reports from The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times; and the March 1 morning news programs on the major cable and broadcast networks. We found that economists have been almost completely shut out. Of 122 total guests and quoted figures appearing in a total of 43 articles or television segments, one lone economist was mentioned, Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner in a report from the Journal.


  • CNN Hosts Richard Land, Who Says Being Gay Is A "Sin," To Discuss Boy Scouts Ban

    Blog ››› ››› MIKE BURNS

    CNN hosted Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to comment on the upcoming vote by the Boy Scouts of America to drop its ban on gay scouts and leaders. CNN's decision to give Land a platform comes in spite of Land's history of anti-gay rhetoric.

    During an interview Tuesday on CNN's Starting Point, Land pushed the widely debunked myth that allowing gay men to participate in the Boy Scouts would raise the risk of child sexual abuse. Land said that he was "not accusing homosexuals of being pedophiles," but added: "I'm accusing homosexuals of being what they say they are -- attracted to males. How many people that are listening to me would allow their teenage girls to go on campouts and engage in camping activities with heterosexual males?"

    Land went on to say:

    LAND: Heterosexual males would not be allowed to be girl scout masters. Why? Because they're attracted to girls, to young women -- in the same way homosexual males -- I'm not talking about pedophiles. Now, I'm talking about -- homosexual means attracted to the same sex.

    Do parents really want to allow their teenage boys to go on campouts with men who are attracted to the same sex. They wouldn't let their girls go on campouts with men who are attracted to women. This is -- this is -- this verges on being beyond the realm of the rational. 

    Land continued: "It's gonna lead to human tragedy, and the human tragedy's gonna be, sadly, boys and men who are going to end up in relationships that are going to be tragic."

    During the segment, CNN's Brooke Baldwin noted that "studies show that homosexuals are no more pedophiles than heterosexuals." 

    While hosts Baldwin and John Berman pushed back against Land's outrageous comments, CNN must have been aware of Land's history of anti-gay rhetoric. Land has claimed that gay people are working to usher in the "full-blown paganization" of America and are "recruiting" children, saying this is "really child abuse." Land has also claimed that being gay is "one sin that I know about that I find totally incomprehensible." 

  • CNN Witnesses GOP Intransigence On Taxes First Hand

    Blog ››› ››› REMINGTON SHEPARD

    CNN's false storyline that Democrats are the main obstacle preventing elected officials from reaching a budget deal disintegrated before its eyes. The network hosted two Republicans who made clear that they would not allow tax rates to increase for the wealthiest Americans no matter how many concessions Democrats made.

    During the November 28 edition of Early Start, CNN repeatedly falsely portrayed disagreement over changes to the federal budget as being exclusively due to Democrats' reluctance to cut social safety net programs. But CNN hid the fact that Republican resistance to allowing for tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest Americans is a major obstacle to a compromise to avoid tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to occur in the next year.

    But during the November 29 edition of Early Start and the following show Starting Point, Republicans Congress members gave CNN a first-hand illustration of their party's refusal to compromise.

    On Early Start, guest co-host Christine Romans interviewed Republican Representative Phil Gingrey (GA), asking him if he would accept an expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy, even if Democrats agreed to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Gingrey replied that while this might be good politics, he and other conservative Republicans could not agree to that. Gingree stated that he would not "waffle or waiver" on that issue:

    ROMANS: Yeah. So would you -- look you talk about raising taxes. Those were temporary tax cuts. Those Bush tax cuts were extended a couple of times. And those were temporary tax cuts. I mean couldn't you live with allowing those temporary tax cuts for the richest to go away, keeping them for the middle class and then getting some of that entitlement reform you want. Wouldn't -- could you live with that?

    GINGREY: You know Christine, you make that point. And from a political perspective, the optics of that, you know, might look good. And maybe the Democrats feel they have an advantage politically. But we Republicans, we conservative Republicans, fiscal conservative Republicans, feel that, that, we are right on this, that we can't allow -- because of politics -- to waffle or waiver on something we know will get this country back on the right track, will stimulate the economy. The darn stimulus sure didn't. $850 billion. So we know that lower, broader reform tax code and more people working, that's what it's going to take to finally lower the deficit and get this debt down below $16 trillion. Can you believe that?

  • Right-Wing Media's Libya Consulate Security Mythology Falls Apart

    Blog ››› ››› REMINGTON SHEPARD

    The conservative media talking point that the White House abdicated its responsibility to secure the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, took a hit Wednesday when CNN's Soledad O'Brien pressed Congressman Jason Chaffetz to acknowledge that he joined House Republicans in voting to cut funding for embassy security.

    Since the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the right-wing media have attacked the Obama administration for supposedly not having enough security at the compound. That myth is undermined by a State Department explanation that "no reasonable security presence could have successfully fended" off the attack.

    Chaffetz, a surrogate for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign who is helping to lead an investigation into the attack, appeared to discuss that investigation on CNN's Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien. During the interview, Chaffetz echoed the right-wing media talking point that security was insufficient in Benghazi. But O'Brien pointed out the fundamental hypocrisy in this argument by noting that Chaffetz, like other Republicans in the House, voted to cut funding for embassy security.

    O'Brien asked: "Is it true that you voted to cut the funding for embassy security?" Chaffetz responded: "Absolutely. Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country."

    Indeed, Republicans, including Chaffetz and other House Republicans, voted in 2011 and 2012 to give the State Department far less than it requested for embassy security.

  • CNN's Soledad O'Brien Downplays GOP Obstructionism On Immigration Reform

    Blog ››› ››› MIKE BURNS

    CNN's Soledad O'Brien dismissed GOP obstructionism on immigration reform, downplaying the filibuster of the DREAM Act by Senate Republicans and suggesting the Obama administration didn't do enough on immigration issues.

    In an interview today with Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), O'Brien said:

    O'BRIEN: When I was talking to [Romney adviser] Carlos Gutierrez -- who was representing the Obama campaign [sic] -- yesterday, his consistent message to me was, Forget about Mitt Romney. Let's talk about what Obama has done. Or hasn't done maybe is a better way of putting it. Doesn't he have a point? You look at immigration reform. There was an opportunity; it was not done. When you look at the record number of people who are being deported, that's something the president has done. Isn't this on immigration kind of a mixed bag for the president.

    After Van Hollen pointed out that Democrats tried to pass the DREAM Act but were blocked by Senate Republicans, O'Brien played a clip of Carlos Gutierrez, an honorary co-chair of Mitt Romney's Hispanic Steering Committee, accusing Obama of "fail[ing] to provide leadership" on immigration issues and said:

    O'BRIEN: You're specifically talking about the DREAM Act, but what [Gutierrez is] talking about is there was an opportunity early on and it was not done. Could have been done and was not done.

    Van Hollen responded by again pointing out that Republicans blocked the DREAM Act and saying that "if you can't even pass" the DREAM Act, "how can you talk about doing comprehensive immigration reform?"

    In 2010, despite nearly unanimous opposition from Republicans, the DREAM Act passed the House. It died in the Senate, however, even though three years earlier, a dozen Republican senators had supported the bill. ABC News wrote at the time: "By a vote of 55 to 41, the bill -- the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act -- failed to win the 60 votes needed to break a GOP filibuster, even though the measure passed the House last week."

  • CNN Demonstrates The Importance Of "Providing Context" When Hosting Tony Perkins

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    In the wake of President Obama's declaration of support for marriage equality and the passage of North Carolina's anti-gay marriage amendment, CNN broadcast a variety of segments focusing on the historic implications of this week's events. Three of CNN's most recognizable faces hosted Tony Perkins, president of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss the issue of same-sex marriage.

    Although Piers Morgan, Wolf Blitzer, and Soledad O'Brien failed to identify Perkins as a hate group leader, they did challenge him on several of his anti-gay talking points. O'Brien and Morgan were particularly assertive in challenging his failed logic.

    Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's Morgan on Tuesday:

    Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's Blitzer on Wednesday:

    Watch Perkins being interviewed by CNN's O'Brien on Thursday:

    Hernon Graddick, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), published a column Thursday criticizing CNN's decision to welcome the hate group leader, arguing that the media needs to do a better job of providing context for Perkins' appearances:

    [W]ith a wealth of political thinkers, analysts and strategists to go to -- why has CNN turned to Tony Perkins three times in the last few days to represent the "other side?" He was on with Piers Morgan Tuesday night to talk about the vote in North Carolina. He appeared with Wolf Blitzer Wednesday evening to talk about the President's support for marriage equality, and then was interviewed by Soledad O'Brien Thursday morning on the same topic.

    All of this is fine, as long as Perkins is put into the proper context. Which he sort-of was by Morgan and O'Brien, but Blitzer didn't even come close.

    Here's the crux of the problem -- and the exact reason why GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project was born. Tony Perkins and others of his ilk cannot be used to exemplify those who simply oppose marriage equality. CNN is more than welcome to interview him on the issue of marriage equality, of course. His is unquestionably one of the loudest voices in the nation speaking about the issue.

    But when Perkins gets interviewed, a responsible journalist needs to tell the audience exactly who Perkins is speaking for. Based on his own statements -- Tony Perkins represents people who believe supporting LGBT equality is akin to being a terrorist. Who believe marriage equality is the same as bestiality. Who say that gay people are "vile," "hateful," "spiteful" "pawns of the enemy." Tony Perkins does not represent people who oppose marriage equality. Tony Perkins represents those who oppose LGBT people -- period.

    If CNN wants that side represented in this discussion, then Perkins is absolutely the right man for the job. But they need to make it clear to the audience that that's what he's there for. And by not doing so, they have not told the whole story.

    On Thursday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews demonstrated a good example of how cable news hosts should handle Perkins when he appears on their shows.