Wallace, Stephanopoulos, wires did not rebut first lady's false claim that Bush's high poll numbers were never “on the front page”

Neither Fox News' Chris Wallace nor ABC News' George Stephanopoulos corrected a claim by first lady Laura Bush that when President Bush's poll numbers were high, the press did not put them “on the front page.” Nor did the Associated Press or Reuters challenge Laura Bush's claim in articles reporting it.

On the May 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace did not rebut a claim by first lady Laura Bush on the broadcast, that, when President Bush's approval ratings were “really high, they weren't on the front page” of major newspapers. Similarly, during an interview with Laura Bush on the May 14 broadcast of ABC News' This Week, chief White House correspondent and host George Stephanopoulos also did not correct her when she repeated her claim that, “when poll numbers were good,” the press did not put them “on the front page.” Nor did the Associated Press or Reuters, both of which reported Laura Bush's claim, note that it was false.

In fact, as The American Prospect's Greg Sargent noted on the Prospect's Tapped weblog, The New York Times and The Washington Post published numerous front page stories touting President Bush's formerly high approval ratings and his lead in polls taken during the 2004 presidential campaign. These include:

  • January 29, 2002, the Post: Bush and GOP Enjoy Record Popularity; Poll Finds Broad Support Despite Doubts on Economy
  • March 11, 2002, the Post: Poll: Strong Backing for Bush, War; Few Americans See Easy End to Conflict
  • July 17, 2002, the Post: Poll Shows Bush's Ratings Weathering Business Scandals
  • Dec. 17, 2003, the Times: Bush's Approval Ratings Climb In Days After Hussein's Capture
  • Dec. 23, 2003, the Post: Bush Gets Year-End Boost in Approval; Poll Shows Dean Surging Among Democratic Rivals
  • March 22, 2003, the Times: Support for Bush Surges at Home, but Split Remains
  • April 20, 2004, the Post: Poll Shows New Gains For Bush; Lead Over Kerry Widens On Issues of Security
  • Sept. 10, 2004, the Post: Bush Support Strong After Convention; Kerry Favorability Rating Plunges in New Survey
  • Sept. 28, 2004, the Post *: Poll Shows Bush With Solid Lead; Despite Worries, Voters Cite Lack of Clarity From Kerry

During the same Fox News Sunday interview, Wallace advanced the dubious claim that Americans are only “beginning” to lose confidence in Bush. In fact, Bush's approval ratings in Fox News polls have remained well below 50 percent since March 2005.

*Sargent misattributed this article to the Times.

From the May 14 AP article by staff writer Hope Yen:

“I don't really believe those polls,” said Bush, who added that the news media seem to have “a lot of fun” writing front-page stories when ratings are low but ignoring the numbers when they are high.

“As I travel around in the United States, I see a lot of appreciation for him. A lot of people come up to me and say, 'Stay the course,'” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

From the May 14 Reuters article:

Mrs. Bush complained that when her husband's popularity was high, newspapers did not put that on the front page. Now it was low, they took great delight in highlighting the fact.

Asked if she thought the media had been unfair, Mrs. Bush said: “No, I don't think it's necessarily unfair. I think it's just, you know, I think they may be enjoying this a little bit.”

From the May 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: As someone whose, I'm sure you know, approval ratings are double your husband's, why do you think the American people are beginning to lose confidence in your husband?

BUSH: Well, I don't think they are, and I don't really believe those polls. I travel around the country. I see people. I see their response to my husband. I see their response to me.

There are a lot of difficult challenges right now in the United States. We face many, many challenges, unprecedented challenges, when you think about the huge area of destruction after Hurricane Katrina or a “war on terror.” All of these things are new, really, for the American people.

The idea of a terrorist attack on September 11th and then this huge hurricane that devastated the entire Mississippi coast and, of course, New Orleans, one of our great cities -- all of those decisions that the president has to make surrounding each one of these very difficult challenges are hard. They're hard decisions to make.

And of course, some people are unhappy about what some of those decisions are. But I think people know that he is doing what he thinks is right for the United States, that he's doing what he -- especially in the “war on terror,” what he thinks he is obligated to do for the people in the United States, and that is to protect them.

And as I travel around the United States, I see a lot of appreciation for him. A lot of people come up to me and say, “Stay the course.” And I think, right now, what we're seeing with these poll numbers is a lot of fun in the press with taking a poll every other week and putting it on the news, on the front page of the newspaper. When his polls were really high, they weren't on the front page.

From the May 14 broadcast of ABC News' This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about inside the White House? How do you see your role? And has there ever been a moment particularly in the last year where you've woken up and said, “You know what, we've got to get a handle on this, we have to turn things around” ?

BUSH: Well, sure, of course, I wake up and think that a lot when I see the bad poll numbers on the front page of the newspaper. I didn't -- back when poll numbers were good, I don't think they put them on the front page, but now, the bad ones are there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think the press has been unfair?

BUSH: No, I don't think it's necessarily unfair. I think it's just -- you know, I think they're maybe enjoying this a little bit. I mean, that's what it seems like.


BUSH: That's what it seems like a little when I read it in the paper. Because it isn't really what I see everywhere. I mean, I travel all around our country. I go to every part of our country, and what I see is that Americans are standing with our troops. They want them to succeed. They want them to be successful. They want the Iraqi people to be successful. They want the people in Afghanistan to be successful, and they want to rebuild the Gulf Coast. I mean, that's what I see everywhere in our country.