Media Fail to Stimulate Honest Debate

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brandon Hersh (202) 471-3205
bhersh@mediamatters.org

Media Fail to Stimulate Honest Debate

After weeks of advancing false and dubious conservative talking points, media declare Republicans winner in the recovery message war

WASHINGTON - While the debate on the economic recovery package has been raging on
Capitol Hill, Media Matters for America
has documented numerous media figures naming Republicans as the winner in
the "stimulus message war."

In declaring the Republicans as the "winner," though, they
have ignored the role their colleagues played in advancing conservative talking points
about the economic recovery package, including falsehoods and claims that have
been completely rejected by economists. Republicans have also had more than
their fair share of airtime to repeat these talking points, outnumbering
Democrats by a ratio of 2 to 1 on the cable news and business networks,
according to Think Progress.

"With a 2-to-1
advantage in television appearances for members of Congress and a slew of
commentators uncritically repeating right-wing talking points, it is not
surprising that the media has declared the Republicans the 'winner'
in the stimulus message war. Unfortunately, it is the American people who have
lost,"
said Karl Frisch,
a Senior Fellow at Media Matters.
"It is time for the media to give the
public what it deserves --
an intellectually honest debate on the economic recovery package."

Howard Kurtz, who hosts a news program about the media on CNN, claimed
Republicans "did manage to take control of the [stimulus] debate."
Jeanne Cummings, the Politico's
chief lobbying and money correspondent, wrote that
Obama is "losing [the] stimulus message war." They are far from
alone: The Wall Street
Journal
, the Los
Angeles Times
, and Newsweek have
all declared Republicans as winning the message war on the economic recovery
package without noting the role the media has played in advancing that message.

Additionally, ThinkProgress released two
reports,
analyzing the number of television appearances by Members of Congress on the cable
news and business networks and found that, in recent weekday coverage,
Republicans have outnumbered Democrats by a ratio of 2 to 1. In an article that
discussed this advantage, Politico's
Michael Calderone asserted that "with so much
network attention being paid to the Obama administration -- including roughly
40 minutes a day devoted to Robert Gibbs' press briefing -- it's understandable
that bookers would seek out House Republicans to provide a
counterbalance."

However, Republicans have also enjoyed an advantage on the
networks' influential Sunday morning talk shows going back to 1997. Two reports issued by Media Matters analyzed the political
ideology of guests on those programs and
found that conservative voices outweighed progressive voices -- no matter what
political party held the majority.

BACKGROUND

Media Matters has
documented the following examples of media echoing, repeating, or advancing
variations of Republican talking points about the economic stimulus plan, many
of which are false or misleading:

The
bill will not stimulate the economy

Government
spending in the bill is not stimulus

There
is no reason for stimulus after a turnaround begins

Corporate
tax rate cuts and capital gains tax rate cuts could provide substantial
stimulus

Undocumented
immigrants without Social Security numbers would be eligible for the
"Making Work Pay" tax credit

CBO
analysis found the majority of stimulus won't take effect for at least a year
and a half

Food
stamps and/or unemployment payments are not stimulus

The
economic recovery bill would amount to spending more than $200K per job created

Up
to $4.19 billion of stimulus bill "would go to" ACORN

Family
planning provision is like China's
"one-child policy"; could allow government "to regulate the
amount of kids people might be in the moods for"

It
"may take years before the stimulus plan spurs real job growth" or
the plan may not "create any new jobs"

For more information on
the media's coverage of the economic recovery plan, visit www.mediamatters.org.

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Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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