A Media Matters review of the Sunday morning political talk shows finds that white males largely dominated the guest lists in 2013. MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry and Up with Steve Kornacki achieved greater ethnic and gender diversity than the broadcast shows or CNN's State of the Union. Overall, conservatives outnumbered progressives on the four broadcast Sunday morning shows.
CNN's State of the Union misleadingly hyped congressional Republican demands to interview survivors of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The report ignored, however, that multiple key witnesses to the attack have already testified before Congress and more are scheduled to testify in the future.
Conservative activist Grover Norquist falsely claimed that "nobody is keeping anybody out" of the Affordable Care Act and that "the idea that Republicans have not been trying to help is wrong." Norquist's rhetoric ignores Republican efforts to delay implementation of the program, attempts to repeal the law, and activist campaigns discouraging enrollment.
From the August 18 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
In fact, Republicans and conservatives have made multiple attempts to discourage adoption of the program by citizens.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Gooddell in order to dissuade the league from taking part in a public service campaign to educate consumers about the law.
The House Republican Conference suggested members engage in media tours to "to emphasize the need to repeal ObamaCare" during the August recess.
26 states with Republican governors or Republican dominated legislatures have refused to set up insurance exchanges in their states, delaying implementation of the law. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of March 2013, "10.8 million uninsured under the new Medicaid expansion limit reside in states where governors oppose the expansion or ar still weighing options."
Outside groups are also working against enrollment, as reported by Reuters:
FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative issue group financed by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, known for funding conservative causes, are planning separate media and grassroots campaigns aimed at adults in their 20s and 30s - the very people Obama needs to have sign up for healthcare coverage in new online insurance exchanges if his reforms are to succeed.
"We're trying to make it socially acceptable to skip the exchange," said Dean Clancy, vice president for public policy at FreedomWorks, which boasts 6 million supporters. The group is designing a symbolic "Obamacare card" that college students can burn during campus protests.
Furthermore, Reuters also reports that Crossroads GPS, the pressure group backed by Fox News pundit Karl Rove, plans a dishonest campaign "aimed at elderly voters" that will claim Medicare funds are being used to pay for the new law. A Crossroads spokesman told Reuters that they hope "there may be some traction to repeal the worst parts of the law and eventually repeal the law entirely."
From the May 19 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
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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.
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.
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:
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On yesterday's edition of The Five, Eric Bolling gave a decidedly skewed version of history when he said, "America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don't remember any terrorist attacks on American soil during that period of time."
Media conservatives have done this before.
Candy Crowley made a clunker of a claim in her profile of Sarah Palin on the April 11 edition of CNN's State of the Union. After noting that, as part of her "safe and lucrative" role as a Fox News commentator, Palin has "put her brand" on the show Real American Stories, Crowley said of the show: "The normal Fox News audience is reported to have doubled in the time slot."
While coming in first in its time period -- beating the Total Viewer average of the 10pm programs on MSNBC, CNN and HLN combined -- FNC's "Real American Stories with Sarah Palin" was down substantially versus the performance of "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" last Thursday as well as that program's Thursday average for the month of March. "Real American Stories" delivered 2.073 million Total Viewers and 472k A25-54 viewers, down 10% versus last Thursday among Total Viewers and down 28% in A25-54. For all Thursdays in March 2010, the "Stories" premiere was down 10% among Total Viewers and down 19% in A25-54.
Looking at quarter hour data, "Real American Stories" shed viewers from start to finish -- down 18% among Total Viewers (2.319mm vs. 1.895mm) and down 22% in A25-54 (533k vs. 418k) from the program's first to its final quarter hour.
Losing audience in the time slot is not the same as "doubling" it.
Lack of diversity on the all important Sunday morning political talk shows is nothing new. As Media Matters noted back in a 2007 report on the subject, "Not only are the Sunday morning talk shows on the broadcast networks dominated by conservative opinion and commentary, the four programs -- NBC's Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- feature guest lists that are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male."
At the time of the report's release, not one of the Sunday shows was helmed by a woman or ethnic minority. How did the guests stack up? Not well at all.
Keep in mind, these programs help shape beltway conventional wisdom for the week to come and wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the political chattering class. The lack of a seat at the table for women and ethnic minorities spoke directly to the old boys club that has long dominated Washington politics and media.
The 2007 report didn't take into account the less influential Sunday morning political talk shows on cable networks like CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC but the results -- at least when it comes to hosts -- would have been much the same. All white. All men.
This year things have changed a bit.
In February when it was announced that long-time senior political correspondent Candy Crowley would be taking over as host for John King on CNN's State of the Union it was hard to find a story that didn't make prominent mention of her recent post-campaign weight loss.
It is one thing to be critical of Crowley's past work, just as we have been from time to time. It is quite another to fixate on her physical appearance. Asked about the subject, Crowley was quoted as saying, "Would I have gotten the job without having lost the weight? I don't know. That's an X factor... Does the refrigerator light stay on when you close the door? We'll never know." She went on to say, "I readily admit I'm not the most obvious pick, from a purely cosmetic point of view... I'm not going to argue that when you turn on the TV, you basically get young, blonde, thin women. This is changing."
I certainly hope it is changing but only time will tell.
Similarly, earlier this month word came down that CNN's Christiane Amanpour would be leaving the cable network to helm ABC's This Week - the first woman ever with full-time hosting duties on a broadcast network Sunday show.
Cue the back-biting and second guessing, much of it anonymous.
As Mediaite's Steve Krakauer noted:
Then there's CNN's John King who felt the need to throw out some questions about Amanpour's selection during a recent interview stating, "There are a lot of questions. Christiane does not have a lot of experience covering American politics and so how does she fit in on ABC on Sunday morning? I'll leave that to them to figure out. It is an interesting pick, it is an unorthodox choice, I think that's just self-evident...I'll watch how it plays out with everyone else."
Get that? There are lots of questions. She's not experienced covering American politics. But I'll leave ABC News to answer these questions...questions I've just thrown out to you like red meat to the media circus lions in my best impersonation of a Fox News chyron.
Regardless of what you think of these recent hirings, they are a long overdue step in the right-direction. Women and ethnic minorities bring a different world of experience to the table. They need not be booked solely for the purpose of discussing issues important to women and ethnic minorities as is far too often the case.
The Washington press corps is change averse. It's a stodgy, self-perpetuating, conventional wisdom driven world. It could use a little more, dare I say a great deal more, change.
From the March 7 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
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