The Republican Party and conservative pundits have become very skillful at adhering to talking points and rehearsing tired anti-Obama rhetoric. But for some reason they are really bad at math.Somehow when it comes time to support baseless claims with non-existent facts and figures, they have consistently been found wanting.
Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released data revealing that despite conservatives’ claims the mainstream media has a liberal bias heavily favoring the president; Barack Obama has in fact received the worst press coverage of any of the current Republican presidential candidates.
And despite recent statements from Anita Perry, the wife of candidate Rick Perry, who thinks her husband has been “brutalized” because of his faith, Perry enjoys the most positive press coverage of the entire GOP field. As I have said before, “numbers don’t lie, but politicians (and Fox News pundits) often do”:http://www.thegrio.com/politics/deficit-numbers-dont-lie-even-when-politicians-do.php.
The Pew research focused specifically on media over the past five months, and assessed negative, neutral and positive coverage. They found that negative assessments of President Obama outweighed positive by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1. As the chart below reveals, this left the president with 9 percent positive coverage against a 34 percent negative.
The study, conducted by Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, found that of the entire GOP field, only Newt Gingrich received a higher percentage of negative media, with 35 percent, but even that was offset by positive coverage of 15 percent, leaving Obama statistical at the bottom of the proverbial barrel. This places in doubt all GOP claims that the media has been largely protective of Obama, as both a candidate back in 2007 and 2008, and as now president.
America’s favorite non-candidate and prolific Fox News talking head, Sarah Palin, was the first to coin the phrase “lame-stream” media, which she presumably meant to be all news outlets not owned by her employer Rupert Murdoch.
The billionaire mogul’s vast empire encompasses the Fox Network, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and a plethora of other domestic and international brands. It is worth noting that The Economist once described Murdoch as “inventing the modern tabloid”, as he created an effective pattern for his newspapers, increasing scandal coverage and skillfully using eye-catching headlines – whether factual or not.
In line with that standard of reporting, Fox News has led the Obama attack campaign. Perhaps its greatest contribution to non-reporting has been the war on facts waged against Obama’s health care reform bill, especially false claims that it would create “death panels” that would ultimately decide when the elderly would be left to die.
Fox continued to fuel lies and innuendo, and was the most effective proponent of the Tea Party movement, before it even had political legs to stand on. Fox and its conservative pundits have played the underdog in political reporting, despite the fact that they enjoy the highest ratings of any major cable news network, and have hidden behind the claims that everyone else was decisively pro-Obama, while they were “fair and balanced”.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
And true to form, Palin as she put an end to her faux presidential candidacy earlier this month, ended with a well-rehearsed critique that President Obama had an unfair advantage as a candidate because he has “about 90 percent of the media still there in his back pocket.”
Of course, we could never expect Palin to read a Pew Research report, but what is interesting here is how easily media images become political realities, without substance to back it up.
Rick Perry is a shining example. Despite recent stumbles in the GOP debates, which have been well documented and widely reported, the numbers stand in stark contrast showing he enjoys 32 percent positive coverage, and only 20 percent negative. In spite of the scandal involving Perry’s hunting lodge with an offensive racial slur for a name, and his lackluster performance, the Texas governor remains the media darling when compared to his Republican competitors.
Luckily for President Obama, the mirror has two faces. The Pew study analyzed daily coverage from more than 11,500 news outlets — including news websites, radio and television broadcasts and transcripts, at the local and national levels.
Much of this covered Obama as the president, not as a candidate. And as president the reporting has largely been linked to the economy and persistent, high unemployment levels, making it difficult to separate the two. Controlling for that, however, Obama continues to remain exceptionally personally popular with voters. As a recent CNN/ORC poll released last month shows, the president’s likability is still at an astounding 80 percent.
At a time when the economy is struggling and millions of Americans are out of work, this kind of research may seem politically irrelevant, but it has far-reaching consequences. As the 2012 fight for the White House heats up, it is important for voters to take their blinders off. See past the Tea Party rhetoric and partisan bickering, and decipher for themselves the underlying truths.
The GOP anti-Obama machine is well-oiled. And with claims that the “lame stream media” was too supportive of the president, it has actually encouraged more critical coverage of this White House by mainstream news organizations, that would otherwise have been truly fair and balanced. That is where Palin, Bachmann, Boehner, Limbaugh, Hannity and Murdoch have succeeded: by shifting the media paradigm from journalism to propaganda.
Be that as it may, Obama remains a formidable candidate and an effective president, and perhaps all the more impressive, because of the immensity of the opposition.