CNN Catches Dems for False Accusation, but Networks Missed the Story

CNN's Anderson Cooper twice nailed Democrats in the last week for falsely accusing Republicans of waging war on women's health, but the three major networks either ignored the story (ABC) or skimmed over the details without fact-checking the Democratic accusations (CBS, NBC).

Cooper aired a critical "Keeping Them Honest" report on April 27 and another one on Thursday May 3, refuting Democratic complaints that Republicans were unfairly targeting women's health through preventative care cuts. On the weekend of April 27-29, NBC and CBS covered the preventative care cuts but simply aired soundbites from both parties without investigating the validity of the Democratic accusations.

The cuts came when House Republicans passed a bill to keep the student loan rates the same, and paid for it by nixing preventative care funding in ObamaCare. Democrats, led by Minority Leader Pelosi, cried foul and accused the Republicans of unfairly targeting women in the cuts.

Cooper found this claim to be unsupported by the numbers, since the preventative care funding included items that benefitted all the public, not items specifically for women like mammograms or prenatal care. Furthermore, the "women's health" money that would enter the fund next year, reported Cooper, amounts to a negligible amount -- "two-tenths of one percent" of the entire fund.

"Does that add up to a war on women? The cuts under today's bill are drastic, there's no doubt about it," Cooper reported. "But do they target women specifically as the Democrats are now saying and attacking the Republicans on? And the evidence doesn't seem to support that."

Cooper then grilled one of the Democratic congresswomen who had cried out at the GOP, asking her "How can you claim this is specifically an assault on women's health?" He also told her that she had voted to take money from that same preventative care fund to pay for the payroll tax cut. "But if the Republicans had then said that was a war on women by the Democrats, would that have been accurate?" he asked.

Meanwhile, ABC ignored the conflict altogether and NBC and CBS simply reported what both parties had to say, thus giving some credence to the Democrats' false charge. On April 27, both NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News played the clip of Pelosi charging Republicans with taking money from "women's health."

A partial transcript of Anderson Cooper's report, which aired on April 27 on Anderson Cooper 360 at 8:00 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

[8:00]

ANDERSON COOPER: We begin tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," with a fight over student loans. Specifically with Democratic charges that the Republican solution to this problem pays for it by waging war on women's health. That it's part of what they're calling, the Democrats are calling, the GOP war on women. Now, is that a fair accusation? Stay tuned on that.

Today, the House with 30 Republicans and 14 Democrats switching sides, voted to extend the law keeping interest rates on student loans from doubling.

(...)

COOPER: But the bill they passed today is paid for by eliminating preventative care funding in the Health Care Reform act. House Democrats wanted to tax oil companies. That's how they wanted to pay for it. Some members, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others, also calling the GOP funding plan another attack on women.

(...)

COOPER: So "Keeping Them Honest" on this issue, who's right?

Well, we looked at what the House bill eliminates. It's called the Prevention and Public Health fund. About a billion dollars this budget year. The categories include tobacco prevention, HIV screening, nutrition programs, hospital and infection control, immunization, increases in the number of doctors and doctors' training. But no line items for things like mammograms, pap smears, prenatal care, any other specific women's health issues with the exception of breast-feeding.

(...)

We found a report from the Center for Disease Control, the CDC, that says low-income breast and cancer screening programs would be jeopardized if the prevention fund is eliminated. That's absolutely true.

Currently though, those services are paid for under a different program but are scheduled to come into the prevention fund next year. "Keeping Them Honest," though, that's only about two-tenths of one percent of the billion dollar fund. So, it's a tiny, tiny fraction. Does that add up to a war on women? The cuts under today's bill are drastic, there's no doubt about it. They do a lot of things, none of them especially good for public health. That's not the argument.

But do they target women specifically as the Democrats are now saying and attacking the Republicans on? And the evidence doesn't seem to support that. There's also this. House Democrats who now oppose the cuts didn't always consider the prevention fund off-limits.

"Keeping Them Honest," in fact, they agreed under Republican pressure to use some of the fund to pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut earlier this year. And when Minority Leader Pelosi was asked why it was okay then but not okay now, she answered, and I quote, "Good question, and all the more reason why we shouldn't be taking any more money out of it." She went on to say, she didn't favor doing it then, but said it was the only way to get the tax cut done.

(...)

COOPER: (to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)) How can you claim this is specifically an assault on women's health?

(...)

COOPER: But with all due respect, Republicans are saying -- they could say the exact same thing about you, that if you're serious about making a compromise, don't politicize this and say – attack the Republicans saying this is a war against women, when it doesn't seem like there's evidence to back it up.

(...)

COOPER: But congresswoman, no one ever acknowledges that their side also politicizes things, and you seem unwilling to do that as well. You say Republicans are politicizing it. I just want to ask you one more time. Are Democrats at all politicizing this?

(...)

COOPER: It was the President, though, who opened up the idea of taking money from this fund earlier this year to pay for the payroll tax, which was also what you voted for.

(...)

COOPER: But if the Republicans had then said that was a war on women by the Democrats, would that have been accurate?
 

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