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The Media's Spotty Track Record on the State of the Union

WASHINGTON - On Tuesday night, all eyes will be on
President Obama as he delivers what is effectively his first State of the Union
address. Media Matters for America has
documented serious flaws in the
media's coverage of the financial crisis and the economic recovery package.
Similarly, in their coverage of recent State of the Union addresses, the media
have, in numerous instances, advanced Republican talking points, and offered panels that
sharply skewed conservative.

"Media Matters will
closely be watching coverage of the president's speech to ensure that the
media are not using Republican terminology, or unfairly stacking panels with
Republicans as they have done in the past," said Erikka
Knuti, a spokeswoman for Media
. "Regardless of who our president is or what political
party holds a majority in Congress, the public deserves a balanced and diverse
discussion of one the most important speeches the president of the United States
gives every year."

Some of the themes Media Matters has
documented in previous State of the Union coverage include:


Pre-State of the Union Hardball featured 6 Republicans, 1 Democrat

The February 2, 2005, edition of MSNBC's Hardball, which devoted the entire hour to discussing
then-President Bush's State of the Union address, featured six Republican
officials and pundits and one Democratic pundit.

Republicans dominated 11-2 in MSNBC's State of the
Union coverage

Following President Bush's 2005 State of the Union address and the
subsequent Democratic response, Republican officials and conservative pundits
far outnumbered Democrats and progressives on MSNBC, which featured five
Republicans and conservatives compared to only one progressive.


In State of the Union coverage, media adopted term
"personal accounts"

The media coverage and analysis of Bush's 2005 State of the Union
address and the Democratic response indicated that the Bush administration's
pressure on reporters
-- to use the term "personal accounts" rather than "private
accounts" in discussing Bush's social security privatization plan --
worked. As Media Matters noted, polling
showed that the public
responded less
favorably to the term "private accounts," a term Bush himself used in
the past.

Matthews and crew pushed Bush administration's terminology
on Social Security privatization

On the February 2, 2005, edition of Hardball
preceding Bush's State of the Union address, host Chris Matthews adopted Bush's
preferred terminology for his plans to partially privatize Social Security by
referring to "personal accounts," rather than
"private accounts" or "privatization." After stumbling
on the previous evening's Hardball
and acquiescing
to the Bush administration's pressure
on the media to abandon the term "private accounts" in favor of
"personal accounts," Matthews spoke again of "personal
accounts" on at least four separate occasions, and then-NBC White House
correspondent David Gregory also used the term. Later, then-Newsweek chief political correspondent
Howard Fineman stated that Democrats "refuse to call it 'personal
accounts' -- for them it's always 'private accounts.' "

For more
information on the media's coverage of previous State of the Union speeches, please visit:


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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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