The Republican Party Turns the Page on Truth – And the Media Helps

The Republican Party Turns the Page on Truth – And the Media Helps
“They’re actually buying this stuff!”

In the wake of three days of lies at the Republican National Convention we should take stock of what we have been told. It’s bad, folks. It’s very bad, as Jason Easley has shown here with regards to Paul’s Ryan’s lies and Mitt Romney’s subsequent lies.

It was so bad that The Week quipped that Ryan’s speech left the media scrambling “to find 15 euphemisms for ‘lying’.” I mean, come on, the First Amendment grants us free speech but it doesn’t encourage us to lie.

Even a Fox News columnist, Sally Kohn (she is also published by the Washington Post and USAToday), was moved to say of Paul Ryan’s speech that, “to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.” When you read something like that on Fox News, you know the lying has broken the lie meter.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of dishonesty” has become the Republican motto, and one increasingly shared by the mainstream media.

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Media Matters for America examines two Romney lies circulated by television ads leading up to the convention; lies repeated at the convention that we are sure to hear more of leading up to Election Day, and determines that not only does the Republican Party lies with impunity but that its lying is actually enabled by the mainstream media.

On August 30 the Media Matters report revealed that where the two lies are concerned, that Obama has removed the work requirements from welfare and that Obama’s healthcare reform cut $716 billion from Medicare, the so-called liberal media elite is playing hit and miss with journalistic standards, often letting proven falsehoods pass without challenge. Media Matters signaled out – unsurprisingly – Fox News and the Wall Street Journal as repeat offenders.

The two lies:

Romney Ad: “Under Obama’s [Welfare] Plan, You Wouldn’t Have To Work … They Just Send You Your Welfare Check.” A Romney ad released on August 6 claimed that “on July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check, and ‘welfare to work’ goes back to being plain old welfare.” [MittRomney.com, accessed 8/29/12]

PolitiFact Rates Romney Ad’s Claim “Pants On Fire.” In an August 7 post, PolitiFact noted that the July 12 memo from the Department of Health and Human Services was intended “to give states more flexibility in meeting those [work] requirements” of the welfare program. The post called Romney’s ad “a drastic distortion of the planned changes” and concluded that:

By granting waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them. What’s more, the waivers would apply to individually evaluated pilot programs — HHS is not proposing a blanket, national change to welfare law.

The ad tries to connect the dots to reach this zinger: “They just send you your welfare check.” The HHS memo in no way advocates that practice. In fact, it says the new policy is “designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.” [PolitiFact, 8/7/12]

and,

Romney Claims Obama “Has Cut Medicare Funding By $700 Billion.” During his August 11 remarks in Norfolk, Virginia, announcing his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney said that he and Ryan would “preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security” “[u]nlike the current president who has cut Medicare funding by $700 billion.” [MittRomney.com, accessed 8/29/2012]

PolitiFact Rates Romney’s Claim “Mostly False.” In an August 15 post, PolitiFact rated as “mostly false” Romney’s claim on CBS’ 60 Minutes that Obama “robbed Medicare” of “$716 billion.” PolitiFact wrote that “[n]either Obama nor his health care law literally cut a dollar amount from the Medicare program’s budget” and continued:

[…]

The only element of truth here is that the health care law seeks to reduce future Medicare spending, and the tally of those cost reductions over the next 10 years is $716 billion. The money wasn’t “robbed,” however, and other presidents have made similar reductions to the Medicare program. [PolitiFact, 8/15/12]

The surprise here is CNN, commonly thought of as a sort of Fox News Jr by Democrats. According to Media Matters, “CNN debunked the [welfare] claim in 69 percent of its segments that mentioned it, and MSNBC debunked the claim in 87 percent of such segments. Fox News, however, debunked the claim in only 17 percent of such segments.”

Print media did not escape scrutiny in this study. “The New York Times debunked the [welfare] claim in 78 percent of the articles that referenced it, and The Washington Post debunked the claim in 64 percent. The Associated Press, however, debunked the claim in only 48 percent of its articles that mentioned it, and The Wall Street Journal debunked it in 25 percent — just one of its four articles mentioning the claim.”

In examining Romney’s Medicare lies, Media Matters found that, “Among the cable networks, MSNBC debunked the claim in 84 percent of segments that discussed Romney making it, while CNN debunked the claim in 44 percent of relevant segments. Fox News did so in just 4 percent of relevant segments.”

The print media was even worse: “No print outlet in Media Matters’ study debunked Romney’s Medicare claim in the majority of relevant articles. The Associated Press debunked the claim in 45 percent of its relevant articles, and The New York Times did so in 37 percent of its articles; The Washington Postdebunked it in only 28 percent of articles mentioning Romney’s Medicare claim. No Wall Street Journal article that mentioned the claim debunked it.”

Republicans frequently excoriate the New York Times but the Times only stuck up for the truth 37 percent of the time?

Ironically, a New York Times editorial this morning states unequivocally, “Mr. Romney Reinvents History,”  particularly Romney’s claim – which the Times calls a  “extraordinary reinvention of history” – that “his party rallied behind President Obama when he won in 2008, hoping that he would succeed.”

The Times points out that this is not true, and goes even farther than that:

The truth, rarely heard this week in Tampa, Fla., is that the Republicans charted a course of denial and obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated, determined to deny him a second term by denying him any achievement, no matter the cost to the economy or American security — even if it meant holding the nation’s credit rating hostage to a narrow partisan agenda.

Another exception to the rule is a piece by Rekha Basu appearing in the Des Moines Register, which asserted that “half the truth often is a full lie for Paul Ryan. Basu pointed out that “the Republican vice presidential nominee’s speech Wednesday stood out for its shameless rewriting of history.”

As Sally Kohn at Fox News says,

“The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.”

When Romney says it’s time to “turn the page” he is talking about more than turning the page on Obama; he is talking about turning the page on the truth, and with some exceptions the mainstream media seems happy to go along with that.

David Bartonism has infected not only the Republican Party but the mainstream media on a grand scale. This egregious reinvention of history by the Republican Party, aided and abetted by the media that same Republican Party incessantly labels as hostile, is a pox on the American people. The American voter deserves better than euphemisms for lying.

We expect Fox News as the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, to disseminate falsehoods. It’s what they do. But we have a right to expect better of other media outlets. We expect them to show some adherence to journalistic integrity. That they fail so consistently to appeal to the facts in their reporting is a real source of disappointment.

In the cases where media outlets did refute Romney’s lies they do not deserve thanks. It is only what they should be doing, after all. But as this study shows, causes for shame compile faster than any opportunities for praise, should it be given.

It is central the Republican narrative that President Obama be portrayed as anti-white, as a welfare president, as a man determined to spread dependency on the government as a panacea of cures for what ails you. And despite incessant attacks on Medicare, the GOP has now decided to present Obama as the enemy of Medicare and they its champions, perhaps realizing that the only demographic they have any hope of retaining are those over 60.

Rekha Basu wrote that, “Whatever your political leaning, no one wants to be lied to” but I am far from certain that can be said of the Republican faithful, according to a reading of the National Review Online, and the crowd on the convention floor who greeted three days of lies with thunderous applause.

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