CBS Gives Slanted Take on Minnesota as Model of Possible Federal Shutdown

On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Dean Reynolds highlighted sob stories surrounding the current shutdown of the Minnesota state government, providing a possible template of how the mainstream media would cover a potential federal government shutdown if the debt ceiling issue isn't resolved by August 2.

Before getting to Reynolds's report, substitute anchor Russ Mitchell played a clip from his colleague Scott Pelley's interview of President Obama, where the Democrat stated that "some courage and some tough choices" were needed to resolve the stalemate over the federal budget. Mitchell then used the President's own phrase as he introduced the situation in Minnesota: "They did not make those tough choices in Minnesota. As a result, the state government shut down two weeks ago. Like Washington, it's a budget deadlock between a Democratic chief executive and a Republican-controlled legislature. Dean Reynolds shows us what it looks like when lawmakers can't figure out how to keep a state running."

The CBS correspondent summarized the general dire circumstances in the state, where "state parks are closed. The lottery is idle. The highway rest stops are off-limits. And 22,000 workers have been laid off without pay." He then devoted the bulk of the segment to two Minnesota women who have been affected by the shutdown:

REYNOLDS: ...The effects of Minnesota's government shutdown have been even more profound at 304 Sixth Street in Waseca.

SHARON BORN: I'm mad, and I don't know if I can keep my temper.

REYNOLDS: Sharon Born runs a day care center here, and was worried for 13 days about whether she'll have her monthly state subsidy to keep her business running.

BORN: We're Minnesota- this is Minnesota. We don't turn our backs on our kids, and I'm scared to death of what's happening.

Dean Reynolds, CBS News Correspodnent | NewsBusters.orgREYNOLDS: So is Angela Noble. She sends her two sons to Sharon every day, and is worried about what she'll do without the help. She's in training for a promising job, and without day care, her career path could run off the road.

ANGELA NOBLE: This is my chance here, that I finally got in. It's in jeopardy right now if I don't have somewhere to take my boys.

After noting that the day care funding issue is "all part of the chaotic mess Minnesota's shutdown has created...due to the stalemate between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled legislature," Reynolds played a clip each from Gov. Dayton (who denounced the "extreme right wing" in his state) and Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who criticized the Democrats' proposed tax hikes.

Near the end of his report, the CBS correspondent provided an update, as well as his own two cents, on the situation in Minnesota: "Late today, a judge ruled that the day care is an essential service and that funding should proceed, which is good news for day care providers, like Sharon Born. But a sign, Russ, that in this environment, Minnesota is just sort of making it up as it goes along."

The full transcript of Dean Reynolds's report, which aired 35 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour of Wednesday's CBS Evening News:

SCOTT PELLEY (from taped interview): Tell me about these meetings that you're having. Have there been raised voices, tense moments?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, I think everybody has been professional and everybody has been polite. But I think that what we haven't seen is a recognition that, at a certain point, leave politics aside, you set aside what gives you a tactical advantage at any given moment, you leave out your ideological predispositions, and you just try to figure out a problem. And the question is, why wouldn't we try to solve it right now? And I think the vast majority of people across the country are looking to Washington to see if we can finally do something that we say is important, that people agree is important, but requires some courage and some tough choices.
                       
RUSS MITCHELL (on-camera): They did not make those tough choices in Minnesota. As a result, the state government shut down two weeks ago. Like Washington, it's a budget deadlock between a Democratic chief executive and a Republican-controlled legislature.

Dean Reynolds shows us what it looks like when lawmakers can't figure out how to keep a state running.

DEAN REYNOLDS (voice-over): On day 13 of the shutdown, the state parks are closed. The lottery is idle. The highway rest stops are off-limits. And 22,000 workers have been laid off without pay. But the effects of Minnesota's government shutdown have been even more profound at 304 Sixth Street in Waseca.

SHARON BORN: I'm mad, and I don't know if I can keep my temper.

REYNOLDS: Sharon Born runs a day care center here, and was worried for 13 days about whether she'll have her monthly state subsidy to keep her business running.

BORN: We're Minnesota- this is Minnesota. We don't turn our backs on our kids, and I'm scared to death of what's happening.


REYNOLDS: So is Angela Noble. She sends her two sons to Sharon every day, and is worried about what she'll do without the help. She's in training for a promising job, and without day care, her career path could run off the road.

ANGELA NOBLE: This is my chance here, that I finally got in. It's in jeopardy right now if I don't have somewhere to take my boys.

REYNOLDS: Because day care had been ruled a nonessential service, funding was up in the air at Sharon's. It's all part of the chaotic mess Minnesota's shutdown has created, all due to the stalemate between Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled legislature.

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR MARK DAYTON: The extreme right wing is very intractable, and the old notion that you work out a compromise and you share power responsibly is just out the window.

REYNOLDS: To close the state's $5 billion budget deficit, the governor has agreed to big spending cuts. But his plan to also raise taxes on the rich has met stiff opposition, led by House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

KURT ZELLERS: Once they get done taxing the rich people, where are they going to come? And it's right here in middle class Minnesota, middle class America, because there's more of us in that group than there is in that bigger bracket.

REYNOLDS (on-camera): Late today, a judge ruled that the day care is an essential service and that funding should proceed, which is good news for day care providers, like Sharon Born. But a sign, Russ, that in this environment, Minnesota is just sort of making it up as it goes along.

MITCHELL: Dean Reynolds in St. Paul, Minnesota, thank you very much.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center