CNN Frets Over 'Crime' of Gov't Shutdown's Impact on Washington Museums, National Parks

Along with other institutions and people who will be impacted by a government shutdown, CNN spotlighted, throughout the day Thursday, the "grave" plight of museums and parks that may be forced to a "screeching halt" in the "height of tourism season."

CNN devoted its entire 2 p.m. EDT news hour to the possible government shutdown and what its consequences would be. Anchor Randi Kaye began the 2:15 p.m. EDT segment casting the shutdown as a "grave" threat to the U.S. economy and tourism.

"This couldn't come at a worse time," CNN's Kate Bolduan ominously declared during the 10 a.m. EDT news hour. "This is the height of the tourist season for the Smithsonian, for Washington."

Bolduan reported live from the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, and referenced multiple times that tourists would not be happy about a shutdown. Bolduan reported that the Smithsonian museums are 70 percent funded by the government and employ federal workers as two-thirds of their work force, and that 3 million tourists visited the Smithsonian's museums last April..

"Talk about a screeching halt to your vacation," quipped anchor Carol Costello to wrap up the segment.

One man whom CNN interviewed and featured in the segment lamented the situation as a "complete disaster" and called it a "crime" that tourists couldn't enjoy free admission to the Smithsonian Museum due to a government shutdown.

During the afternoon segment, CNN interviewed a concerned spokesperson for the Smithsonian, who also talked about the 1995 government shutdown and how it affected the museum. A family vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains was also interviewed. And CNN reported that the National Zoo would be "another victim" if the shutdown were to happen.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on 10:22 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN anchor: A government shutdown ripple effect. It will impact tourists when non-essential services like parks and museums close down. CNN's Kate Baldwin is at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and Kate, what are people saying there?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN general assignment correspondent: Well, I'll tell you, we are, as you can probably see, without me even telling you, we are in the Air and Space Museum. This is the busiest of the Smithsonian's 19 museums, and that also includes, under the Smithsonian umbrella, the National Zoo. It's just after 10 a.m.. It's very busy here already, but come 10 a.m. Saturday when this museum should open up, it's possible that they will not be opening their doors if the government shuts down.

And it is not making people happy, because this couldn't come at a worse time. This is the height of the tourist season for the Smithsonian, for Washington. I'm told by the Smithsonian's spokeswoman that 3 million people visited the Smithsonian's museums and the National Zoo in the month of April last year. This weekend last year, half a million people visited the Smithsonian's museums, and they said it's not making people happy with the idea of a potential shutdown, and a shutdown of some of Washington's biggest draws. Listen here to one man.

(Video Clip)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's a complete disaster. I mean, if these politicians that we elect can't get their acts together to come together and pass a budget, the idea that all these people here enjoying the Air and Space Museum, the free Smithsonian institutions – that that wouldn't be available to the public – is really a crime. We elected these people to do some work, not to have gridlock.

(End Video Clip)

BOLDUAN: Now, the reason that this museum, and all the Smithsonian museums would be shut down – I was speaking about the entire Smithsonian institution – two-thirds of Smithsonian's employees are federal employees. 70 percent of the Smithsonian's Institution funding comes from federal funding, which gives people the opportunity to come to these museums for free, and that can all come to a very screeching halt come Saturday if the government shuts down. As the Smithsonian said – puts to me, they may be small in the world of federal employees, but they are huge in the world of tourism, and this being the height of tourism season, not making people happy. And you can see people just starting to stream in already this morning. We'll start talking to some more people today to see what they think about this whole situation.

COSTELLO: Talk about a screeching halt to your vacation.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014