Media Blackout: Nets Ignored Popular Cut, Cap, Balance Bill

July 22nd, 2011 3:54 PM

ABC, CBS, and NBC ignored the existence of the Cut, Cap and Balance (CCB) bill until last week, a Nexis search revealed, despite multiple polls demonstrating overwhelming public support.

In addition to the blackout, none of the broadcast networks ever mentioned the positive polls in their coverage of the bill, even though 65 percent of the public backed a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget in a Mason-Dixon poll from May and 72 percent approved of such a measure in a Fox News poll from June.

Since the networks started paying attention to CCB last week, CBS has discussed its dim prospects on the "Early Show" and "Evening News" six times, and CBS and ABC have both mentioned the bill only once.

At CBS, correspondent Whit Johnson on the July 17 "Evening News" was the first to write CCB's obituary without acknowledging public support: "They want immediate cuts, an aggressive cap on future spending, and constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget." Senate Democrats say the proposal has no chance."

Correspondents Bill Plante and Nancy Cordes joined the hit parade in the following days, mimicking each others reports on the "Early Show" and "Evening News."

On the July 18 "Early Show," Plante called CCB "dead on arrival," failing to mention the favorable polls: "It would revert spending back to 2008 levels and cap the budget at eighteen percent of gross domestic product. It also calls for a balanced budget amendment, a provision Democrats say is dead on arrival."

The next day, Cordes parroted Democrats on the "Evening News" who claimed the bill "wastes time at the 11th hour" and didn't mention public approval: "Conservatives call the bill they're voting on tonight Cut, Cap and Balance because it cuts spending this year and then caps it at 2005 levels. Democrats call it a one-sided approach that wastes time at the 11th hour."

NBC's only mention of the popular proposal occurred on the July 19 "Today," with Ann Curry admonishing it in two interviews and Natalie Morales disregarding it in a news brief.

Interviewing NBC Congressional correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, Curry scolded: "The president has already said that he's going to veto it. Do we really have time for a plan that is really just show, Kelly?"

ABC's Jonathan Karl mentioned CCB during a round table discussion on the July 17 "This Week," suggesting that "nothing can pass" both chambers of Congress at the moment, including CCB. ABC's senior political correspondent could have acknowledged that while neither President Obama's original plan to have a clean debt ceiling vote nor the Republicans' CCB plan had high hopes of passing, the American people support the House GOP plan.

The only time CCB was mentioned on air by any of the major networks before July 5 was during "Early Show" co-host Chris Wragge's interview with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), when the freshman senator brought it up on his own and wasn't asked to elaborate.

On the cable side, MRC analyst Matt Hadro reported that CNN ignored the findings of its own poll released Thursday demonstrating broad support for capping spending and implementing a balanced budget amendment.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.