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February 17, 2009

Media Coverage of Recovery/Stimulus

-- by Dave Johnson

Media Matters took a look at media coverage of the Recovery/Stimulus package: (It passed, by the way.)



They also released some facts and figures
: (Click through for links)

JUMPING ON AN INCOMPLETE LEAKED CBO REPORT

In January, Media Matters noted several media figures falsely suggesting that a partial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the economic recovery plan was in fact a full analysis of the bill and falsely suggesting that in that analysis, the CBO found that, in the words of The Washington Post, "the majority of the money in the Democratic plan would not get spent within the first year and a half." According to the CBO's most recent analysis of the entire bill, 74.2 percent of the total package would be spent within 19 months.

MISLEADING COVERAGE ON NEW DEAL

In December, Media Matters documented columnists Mona Charen and George Will cherry-picking unemployment figures to assert that the New Deal did not reduce unemployment, continuing a trend among conservative media of attacking the New Deal and President Roosevelt in an attempt to discredit Obama's stimulus plan. Both Charen and Will ignored that unemployment fell every year of the New Deal except during the 1937-38 recession and that economists have said that it was a reversal of New Deal policies that contributed to rising unemployment in 1937-38. This cherry-picking of data continued as Obama's economic recovery package moved through the legislative process, with a number of conservative media figures making similar claims.

AMPLIFYING REPUBLICAN FALSEHOOD ON ACORN

Echoing "fast facts" released by House Minority Leader John Boehner's office, a number of media figures falsely suggested that $4.19 billion of the stimulus would go to ACORN, referring to the $4.19 billion in the bill for "neighborhood stabilization activities." This falsehood persisted after the Conference bill was released (except now purportedly appropriating only $2 billion). As Media Matters documented, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding. Moreover, ACORN has denied that it is eligible for "neighborhood stabilization funds," and has stated that it does not intend to apply for them.

FALLING INTO A REPUBLICAN MOUSE TRAP

Many in the conservative media eagerly advanced the false claim that the economic recovery package contained $30 million to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district. The story was traced back to an email from a Republican staffer that said an unnamed federal agency, when asked how it would spend its share of the stimulus money, said that $30 million would go toward wetland restoration - including work to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse. That same staffer later conceded that "[t]here is no language in the bill that says this money will go to this project."

PROPOGATING HEALTH IT FALSEHOOD SPEARHEADED BY RUSH LIMBAUGH

The week that Congress voted on the Conference version of the economic recovery package, Media Matters documented Rush Limbaugh leading several conservative media outlets in parroting former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey's falsehood that a provision in the House-passed version of the bill grants the government authority to "monitor treatments" or restrict what "your doctor is doing" with regard to patient care. In fact, the provision in question contained no such language. It grants authority to establish an electronic records system so that doctors can access complete and accurate medical information "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."

FALSELY CLAIMING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS ELIGIBLE FOR TAX CREDIT

Following a Drudge Report headline reading "HILL REPUBLICAN: STIMULUS GIVES CASH TO ILLEGALS," Media Matters documented several examples of the media falsely claiming that undocumented immigrants without Social Security numbers could be eligible for tax credits included in the economic recovery package. In fact, the legislation specifically disqualifies anyone without "a social security number issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration" from eligibility for the Making Work Pay tax credits. The Drudge Report headline had linked to an Associated Press article that cited a single anonymous "top Republican congressional official," and the article was amended four hours later, making clear that the GOP official's claim was false. Even after this correction, several media figures and outlets repeated the falsehood.

Posted by Dave Johnson at February 17, 2009 2:13 PM


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