Monday, July 6, 2009

Journalistic Malpractice from George Stephanopoulos

George Stephanopoulos did a poor job of reporting on his recent interview with Joe Biden. He let a lot of Biden's false and misleading statements go unchallenged. It's one thing to let these statements slip by during a live interview; it's another to recycle them without correction in a written follow-up summary.

Stephanopoulos quotes Biden as saying, "The truth is, we and everyone else misread the economy."

No, the truth is that hundreds of prominent economists disagreed with President Obama's read on the economy and went on record advising against his massive "stimulus" package. It's irresponsible for Stephanopoulos to let Biden's statement to go unchallenged.

Stephanopoulos writes:

Biden acknowledged administration officials were too optimistic earlier this year when they predicted the unemployment rate would peak at 8 percent as part of their effort to sell the stimulus package. The national unemployment rate has ballooned to 9.5 percent in June -- the worst in 26 years.

Fair enough, but shouldn't Stephanopoulos have pointed out that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ran Obama's numbers and concluded that we'd be better off doing nothing than passing the "stimulus" plan?

Back to Biden:

We misread how bad the economy was, but we are now only about 120 days into the recovery package," he said. "The truth of the matter was, no one anticipated, no one expected that that recovery package would in fact be in a position at this point of having to distribute the bulk of money.

This is the part where Stephanopoulos should have pointed out that Obama spent weeks talking down the economy while trying to push his "stimulus" package through Congress. It's tough to buy the excuse that they didn't know how bad it was when they were daily throwing around words like crisis and catastrophe and describing this as the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Stephanopoulos should also have pointed out that one of the key criticisms opponents had of the "stimulus" package was that most of the "stimulus" wouldn't come until after the economy had recovered. In fact, the CBO concluded exactly that. For the administration to now say that it's too early to expect results because the bulk of the money hasn't been spent is pure humbug.

Remember, this is the bill Obama argued had to be passed immediately -- legislators weren't even given a chance to read it before they were forced to vote on it -- because any delay would be "inexcusable and irresponsible." Now that we aren't seeing the results they promised, it's become convenient to admit that the bill that couldn't be delayed doesn't really do much for the first year.

I don't know whether bias, laziness, or incompetence is to blame for Stephanopoulos not doing his job, but it's obvious that he didn't do it. The whole "we report; you decide" approach to journalism is damaging the country. It's a journalist's job to provide context and basic fact checking. If they won't do that, what good are they?

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