On Wednesday's Morning Edition, NPR followed the example of its Big Three counterparts in failing to cover a new ad from a pro-Obama super PAC that points the finger at Mitt Romney for a woman's cancer death. Instead, the liberal radio network sent correspondent Ari Shapiro to "do some truth squadding" about the Romney campaign's latest ad slamming the Obama administration on welfare reform.
Shapiro slanted towards the Democratic campaign's spin of the Romney ad, and concluded that the White House's move on welfare work requirements was "poor form by the Democrats, perhaps, but not the same at gutting welfare reform."
Host Renee Montagne outlined in her introduction for the correspondent's report that "the latest clash between President Obama and Mitt Romney is over an issue dating to the 1990s: Bill Clinton's welfare overhaul. That law has a work requirement, which is supposed to help move people off welfare and into jobs. Mitt Romney is now accusing the Obama White House of undermining the law, which the Obama administration calls an outright lie. We asked NPR's Ari Shapiro to do some truth squadding."
Shapiro first noted that "the Romney campaign's new TV ad says Barack Obama has gutted the welfare law." After an excerpt from the spot, he claimed that it contained "a potent accusation with deep roots." He continued with a soundbite of Romney forwarding his campaign's latest attack, but then played back-to-back clips of Obama flacks disputing the charge:
SHAPIRO: At the White House yesterday, spokesman Jay Carney accused the Romney campaign of lying.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (from press briefing): This advertisement is categorically false, and it is blatantly dishonest.
SHAPIRO: The Obama campaign followed up in a call with reporters. They explained that last month, the Department of Health and Human Services gave states something that governors of both parties have wanted for years - a way out from under some of the welfare law's strict rules. But these state waivers don't end the work requirement. In fact, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter says it's just the opposite.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN DEPUTY MANAGER: States that get waivers have to increase job placement by 20 percent.
SHAPIRO: So states won't get a waiver unless they show that they can do a better job putting people back to work than under the existing program. Cutter pointed out that Mitt Romney himself asked for similar changes as governor of Massachusetts.
During the reminder of the segment, the NPR journalist continued his slant against Romney, with three clips from a former Republican staffer who now works for the left-leaning Brookings Institution, versus just one clip from the GOP presidential candidate:
SHAPIRO: ...When a Fox interviewer challenged Romney on the hypocrisy charge yesterday, the candidate stuck to his guns.
ROMNEY (from interview on Fox News Channel): I'm all in favor of flexibility for states. I'm not in favor of reducing the work requirement.
SHAPIRO: So, what's the truth? Does this change to the law make it easier for people to get welfare checks without seeking a job? Here's one of the Republicans who helped write the law.
RON HASKINS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: There no plausible scenario under which it really constitutes a serious attack on welfare reform.
SHAPIRO: Ron Haskins was a senior congressional staffer in 1990s, and now, he runs the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution.
HASKINS: First of all, the states have to apply individually for waivers, and they have to explain in detail - sometimes using data - why this approach would lead to either more employment or better jobs for people who are trying to stay off welfare or get off welfare.
SHAPIRO: Now, he's not sure the Obama administration had the authority to make these changes. He thinks it probably should have been left up to Congress.
HASKINS: So, it was kind of like, you know, Democrats sticking their finger in the Republicans' eye because they just did a sneak attack, didn't consult, and so forth.
SHAPIRO: Poor form by the Democrats, perhaps, but not the same at gutting welfare reform.
Note how Shapiro didn't identify Brookings' liberal ideology. Also, he failed to mention that one of the main sources for the Romney ad was The Heritage Foundation. On Wednesday, the conservative think tank countered the Obama administration's latest claims about its revision of the welfare reform law.