Mainstream outlets are using Republican talking points to frame their coverage of the coronavirus response bill
The New York Times and The Washington Post borrow GOP framing to dump on Senate Democrats, ignoring important context
Senate Republicans failed to advance their nearly $2 trillion coronavirus response bill again on Monday. The 49-46 cloture vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to move the bill along to a final debate. While both parties expressed favor for passing an expansive bill aimed at offsetting some of the economic losses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats had objected to the GOP’s inclusion of a $500 billion fund for President Donald Trump’s administration to distribute to businesses and states with very little oversight.
Republicans framed the Democrats’ reservations as obstructionism, and mainstream news outlets were more than happy to adopt that very same viewpoint. Following Monday’s vote, The Washington Post and The New York Times both published tweets and articles that buried the reason for Democratic resistance.
The Washington Post story cited “partisan anger” in its headline announcing that Senate Democrats had rebuffed McConnell’s attempts to push the bill through.
Similarly, The New York Times tweeted the contextless line, “Senate Democrats have again blocked action on a $1.8 trillion economic stabilization package as talks continue with the Trump administration.”
In the story itself, it’s not until the ninth paragraph that the Times bothered to note why Democrats “blocked action” on the bill:
At the heart of the impasse is a $425 billion fund created by the bill that the Federal Reserve could leverage for loans to assist broad groups of distressed companies, and an additional $75 billion it would provide for industry-specific loans. Democrats have raised concerns that the funds do not have rules for transparency or enough guardrails to make sure companies do not use the funds to enrich themselves or take government money and lay off workers. They also argue the measure would give [Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin too much discretion to decide which companies receive the funds, calling the proposal a “slush fund” for the administration.
As the legislation is currently written, Mr. Mnuchin would not have to disclose the recipients until six months after the loans were disbursed. Some Democrats also objected to loopholes in the legislation they said could allow Mr. Trump’s real estate empire to take advantage of the federal aid.
The Democratic leader told reporters shortly after midnight that the bill as currently written would give bailouts to major corporations without accountability and that it would not provide enough funding to health care workers on the front lines.
After an earlier vote failed on Sunday, CNN prominently featured Republicans’ spin on the bill, complete with an on-screen chyron reading “Senate Dems Block $2 Trillion Stimulus Plan” and an online article headlined “Senate GOP ramps up pressure on Democrats over coronavirus stimulus package with Monday vote.”
Between scant coverage of Republican senators’ insider trading scandal and a recurring failure to check the president’s lies before pushing them out to viewers, some mainstream media have a less than stellar record so far in this pandemic.