Six Months In, Media Still Do PR For Obama
By REP. LAMAR SMITH Posted Tuesday, August 04, 2009 4:20 PM PT
Mark Twain once said, "If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed." The latter might be true for those who rely on the national media for the facts.
After six months in office, the national media are still telling us how popular President Obama is. That's the national media's spin. The facts tell a different story.
A USA Today-Gallup poll found that nine of the last 11 presidents were more popular than President Obama after six months in office. A Rasmussen poll found the president's approval rating below 50%, with more people strongly disapproving than strongly approving of the president.
While the national media eagerly touted the president's approval rating when it was higher, most news outlets have ignored the president's recent slide.
The reason the president's approval numbers are sagging is that more and more Americans disagree with him on the issues.
According to the USA Today-Gallup poll, more people disapprove than approve of the way the president is handling the economy, taxes, health care and the federal budget deficit. And Americans have come to this conclusion despite the fact that the national media mostly have given the president a free pass on the issues. For example:
• The national media seldom mention that the president's budget would double the national debt in five years and triple it in 10.
• The media neglect to tell the American people that the president's cap-and-trade energy plan will cost families hundreds of dollars every year.
• The media rarely hold the Obama administration accountable for job losses, even as unemployment hit 9.5% — the highest rate in 26 years.
• Most recently, the national media have failed to fairly present both sides of the health care debate.
During a prime-time press conference last week, President Obama claimed his health care plan was "deficit neutral." The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office strongly disagrees, finding that the legislation would increase the deficit by $239 billion over 10 years. But not one reporter questioned the president about the CBO's findings.
Also, the national media frequently report that there are 46 million people in America who don't have health insurance. The administration uses this figure to justify the president's health care plan.
But the media rarely report that there are really only 10 million to 12 million uninsured, after you deduct those who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, who can afford health insurance and who are without health insurance for only a few months.
Some news outlets are blatantly one-sided in their coverage of health care. ABC News recently devoted an entire day of news programming to President Obama's health care agenda and refused to air ads critical of the administration's health care plan.
ABC invited the president's longtime physician, David Scheiner, to participate in their prime-time town hall meeting at the White House. As it turns out, Dr. Scheiner disagrees with the president's health care plan. He said, "I'm not sure (President Obama) really understands what we face in primary care."
When ABC found that out, they suddenly disinvited Dr. Scheiner. It appears ABC stacked the audience to shield the president from criticism.
This type of one-sided coverage is contrary to the journalistic code of ethics, which states that a journalist's duty is to seek truth and provide a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.
Fortunately, many Americans have seen through the media's one-sided coverage of the health care debate.
Even as President Obama and Democrats in Congress try to rush an expensive government takeover of health care through Congress, Americans say they don't agree with the president's plan.
According to an ABC News-Washington Post poll, only 44% of Americans approve of the way President Obama is handling health care. At least four other national polls have found that fewer than half of Americans approve of the president on health care.
To their credit, some media outlets have covered the president's fading poll numbers and held the administration accountable.
When the ABC News-Washington Post poll found that for the first time fewer than half of all Americans supported Obama's health care plan, the Washington Post put the poll results on its front page. After the president's press conference on health care, the Associated Press ran a fact-check article exposing some of his incorrect claims.
But these examples are far too scarce. In general, the national media have failed to report all the facts on the major issues facing Americans. Americans' approval of President Obama and his policies is waning, and the national media should take notice and report the news accurately.
Smith, a Republican representing Texas' 21st District, is chairman of the Congressional Media Fairness Caucus.