Political Correction

House Republicans Forming "Media Fairness Caucus"

June 04, 2009 8:54 am ET - by Matt Finkelstein

The GOP has been getting a lot of bad press recently, but Republicans in Congress are convinced that it's not because of their obstruction or lack of ideas.  Rather, they say, it's all the media's fault.

As reported by Newsmax, House Republicans are set to form a new caucus devoted to fighting "liberal media bias." The group will be led by Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, who calls media bias "the greatest threat to our democracy today":

Headed by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the Media Fairness Caucus will point out unfair stories, meet with members of the media, and write op-eds and letters to the editor to highlight media bias.

For the past two years, Smith has conducted his own campaign against unfair coverage in weekly one-minute speeches on the House floor. The caucus is intended to broaden and fortify the effort.

Smith added, "I want the American people to get the facts and then be allowed to make up their own minds, not be told what to think." However, Smith's evidence of bias is pretty unconvincing. For example, Smith is outraged that news outlets dare to acknowledge President Bush's role in creating the economic crisis, rather than blaming President Obama for an inherited situation he's had just a few months to address. When April's unemployment numbers were better than expected, Smith complained that the media's coverage wasn't negative enough.  And Smith has repeatedly grumbled about the media's unwillingness to adopt his anti-immigrant attitude. The laundry list of absurd grievances goes on and on.  Here are a few highlights:

Rep. Smith Complained That Media Doesn't Blame President Obama For Economic Crisis:

"Last week the Obama Administration increased its budget deficit projection to more than $1.8 trillion - and then promptly blamed the deficit on former President Bush. Most of the national media have blindly accepted this false charge, despite facts to the contrary. President Obama didn't inherit the current budget, which spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much. But he did vote for last year's budget as Senator. President Obama didn't inherit the $787 billion so-called stimu­lus package. He authored it. President Obama didn't inherit out-of-control govern­ment spending. He has presided over it. At some point the national media need to hold the current Administration accountable for its own spending and the ballooning deficit, which will increase inflation and slow economic growth."

Rep. Smith Complained When Media Accurately Reported That April's Unemployment Numbers Were Better Than Expected:

"The Department of Labor last week reported that there were 539,000 job layoffs in April. Despite their negative slant on economic news during the Bush Administration, the national media put a positive spin on last week's jobs report. The New York Times headline read, 'US Jobless Rate Hits 8.9%, but Pace of Losses Eases.' The Associated Press headline was, 'Layoffs slow to 539K in April; jobless rate rises.' CNN.com's headline was, 'Job losses ease, but unemployment rate up.' In contrast, when national payrolls declined by 533,000 last November before President Obama was inaugu­rated, the national media had a much more negative spin on the news. For example, The New York Times wrote of 'a giant job loss' explaining that it as the 'biggest monthly decline in a generation.'"

Rep. Smith Complained About Journalists Taking Jobs In The Obama Administration:

"The news industry faces a new threat to its job force - the Obama Administration. A senior pro­ducer at CNN announced last week that she will take a press secretary position in the Obama Administra­tion. She joins at least nine other reporters from such news outlets as The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, CBS News, ABC News, and CNN who have left their jobs to join the Administration. It will be an easy transition for these former journalists since their primary job responsibility - supporting the Obama Administration - remains essentially the same. The bad news for Ameri­cans is that the line between objective journalism and partisan politics continues to be blurred. If the media want to restore their credibility, they should act as objective observers, not seek jobs in the Obama Administration."

Rep. Smith Complained About Media Not Calling Obama "Liberal" Enough:

"A Media Research Center (MRC) analysis of ABC, CBS and NBC evening news coverage of President Obama's first 100 days in office shows network reporters have showed a pro-Obama bias. MRC's key findings:

Rep. Smith Complained That Michelle Obama Didn't Receive "Hard-Hitting" Questions Like Laura Bush Did: 

"During an interview with First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday, Robin Roberts, co-host of ABC's 'Good Morning America,' avoided tough issues and instead asked questions such as 'What does [the first lady] do for relaxation in the evening, away from the public?' In contrast, during an interview with former First Lady Laura Bush in October of last year, Roberts challenged Mrs. Bush on a number of issues.  During another interview with Mrs. Bush in November 2005, 'Good Morning America' reporter Jessica Yellin asked, 'Have you ever met with a mother whose own loss has made you question, even for a moment, whether the U.S. should be in Iraq?' Mrs. Obama received no such hard-hitting questioning from 'Good Morning America.'"

But Smith is grasping at straws.  The economy crumbled under President Bush and the job losses last fall were the worst in over 30 years. On the other hand, April's rise in unemployment was less severe than expected.  It's also pretty unremarkable that a lot of the First Lady's early interviews would focus on the adjustment to life in the White House. 

Simply put, Rep. Smith does want the media telling the public what to think; he just wants them pushing his anti-Obama agenda.

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**Update: ThinkProgress has more on the media's supposed "bias."

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