Soledad O'Brien | Media Matters for America

Soledad O'Brien

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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.

  • 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 O'Brien Corrects Right-Wing Media Medicare Falsehood

    Blog ››› ››› MELODY JOHNSON

    CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien debunked the pervasive right-wing media falsehood that President Obama "stole $700 billion" from Medicare.

    Right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that the Medicare savings included in Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) "gutted" the Medicare program. However, on CNN's Starting Point, when Romney senior adviser John Sununu claimed that Obama "gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it," O'Brien was quick to correct him.

    O'Brien pointed out that Sununu's talking point has been debunked by the Congressional Budget Office, which found that the Medicare savings in the ACA are not cuts, but rather a reduction in the expected rate of growth of the program.

    O'Brien also noted that independent fact-checkers have found that the Affordable Care Act does not cut Medicare benefits. These fact-checkers also determined that the claim that hundreds of billions of dollars have been cut from Medicare is outright false.

    When Sununu continued to claim that Obama had gutted Medicare, O'Brien confronted him with even more facts, citing evidence that drug providers and hospitals agreed to the Medicare savings because their "theory is that what they're going to be able to do is make up by the number of people who come into the system. It doesn't reduce or cut the benefits. 

    The right-wing media either doesn't understand the ACA's effect on Medicare, or is blatantly misleading about it. Either way, O'Brien was correct to challenge this false claim, and it's time for the rest of the media to follow suit.

  • 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."

  • Fox, CNN Hear Same False Claim About Public-Worker Pay, But Only One Debunks It

    Blog ››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN

    This week, Fox News and CNN offered starkly differing responses to the false claim from conservatives that "the federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters, or policeman." While Fox figures failed to challenge that statement, CNN's Soledad O'Brien strongly pushed back, correctly noting that there are many federal initiatives that help local and state governments pay teachers, firefighters, and policemen.

    On June 12, Fox & Friends hosted Mitt Romney, who walked back his suggestion that we shouldn't hire "more firemen, more policemen, more teachers." In doing so, Romney claimed that the "federal government doesn't pay" for the hiring of those workers and that the idea is "completely absurd":

    BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): [President Obama] says that you're out of touch. He says that you want to cut firefighters and teachers, that you don't understand what's going on in these communities. What do you say to that, Governor?

    ROMNEY: Well, that's a very strange accusation. Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters, or policemen. So, obviously that's completely absurd. He's got a new idea, though, and that is to have another stimulus and to have the federal government send money to try and bail out cities and states. It didn't work the first time. It certainly wouldn't work the second time.

    None of the co-hosts challenged -- or even directly responded to -- Romney's statement.


    But federal dollars do help pay teachers, firefighters, and policemen. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent pointed out that "the federal government does give billions of dollars to states and localities through programs like Title 1, the COPS program, FEMA and others -- which pay for first responders and teachers." The Associated Press fact-checked the claim, too, stating that it's "simply false."

    In stark contrast to the Fox hosts, CNN's Soledad O'Brien debunked the same claim when the subject came up on her show Starting Point this morning.

  • 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.

  • CNN's Gay In America coverage continues with "The gay 'Brady Bunch' Family"

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Last night CNN aired its latest …In America special titled "Gary and Tony Have a Baby" which the cable networked described as, "Soledad O'Brien [reporting] on a gay couple's journey to have a baby. Can these men achieve a life as mainstream as their parents?"

    Today, CNN's special "Gay In America" website is up with another compelling story about an LGBT family of color described in the piece as "a modern-day Brady Bunch, with a twist."

  • Discussing new "…in America" special, CNN's O'Brien tackles Fox host Huckabee's "children are not puppies" anti-gay remark

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    During an interview with's Adam Amel Rogers about CNN's latest "…in America" special, Gary and Tony Have a Baby, Soledad O'Brien pushed back against Fox News host Mike Huckabee's recent "children are not puppies" anti-gay remark saying, "In a lot of ways, children are easier than puppies."

    Adam: Mike Huckabee recently condemned gay parents by saying "children are not puppies." Do you think there is anything in the special that will help build understanding among vocal opponents of gay parents, or do you think it will provide them with more ammunition?

    Soledad: That's never my goal. My goal, when I do documentaries is to drill down and tell the story of human beings. I guess anybody is welcome to take from it what they want to take from it. In a lot of ways, children are easier than puppies. Children grow, children respond to you, children you can shape and create and mold them and that is what is fabulous about being a mother from my perspective — I have four little kids — is that they are going to grow up and turn into adults and I get to shape the things that I want my kids to care about. Puppies — they just become big dogs. I think that it's not for me to say what someone is going to get out of the work that I've done. It's not a story about an issue, it's a story about two people and this is their life and this is their story. It's not the story of the gay community, it is not even the story of gay marriage, it is the story of a guy named Gary and a guy named Tony and they have decided to have a baby. And all the effort, the drama, the emotion, the panic, the fear, the hard work, the medical bills, the legal efforts that go into making that happen for two guys.

    The program airs Thursday, June 24th at 8:00 p.m. ET.


  • CNN reporters falsely suggested Democrats are only now talking about religious beliefs and values

    ››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

    On June 4 and 5, several CNN correspondents suggested that, until recently, Democrats have largely been silent on their religious beliefs and "values," ignoring the fact that presidential candidates, including John Edwards, and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, among other Democrats, have talked about their religious faith and values for years. Several of the Democratic candidates referred explicitly to "values" or "morals" during the June 3 presidential debate, which aired on CNN.