By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
In a clear case of the media’s double standard, CNN has been chasing around Congresswoman Michele Bachmann regarding her CPAC comments on the President’s lavish lifestyle. This, when the majority of her speech focused elsewhere: on Benghazi, the federal debt, medical innovations, and cyber attacks.
And while CNN insists on piling it on, they bring ridicule on themselves by being guilty of what they accuse Bachmann of doing. CNN’s Dana Bash chased the Congresswoman down the hall to ask her about her comments. The Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave her four Pinocchios in response to her speech. And, to give the liberal meme credence, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly condemned the Congresswoman as lacking focus with the conclusion, “Two words: Not Good.”
“Congresswoman Goes Rogue: Independent fact check finds Bachmann wrong” ran the banner underneath the CNN broadcast. But a closer look at the facts shows that the media themselves are omitting key information about Bachmann’s comments.
Kessler quotes Representative Bachmann at length, writing:
“A new book is out talking about the perks and the excess of the $1.4-billion-a-year presidency that we’re paying for. And this is a lifestyle that is one of excess. Now we find out that there are five chefs on Air Force One. There are two projectionists who operate the White House movie theater. They regularly sleep at the White House in order to be readily available in case the first family wants a really, really late show. And I don’t mean to be petty here, but can’t they just push the play button? We are also the ones who are paying for someone to walk the President’s dog. Paying for someone to walk the President’s dog? Now, why are we doing that when we can’t even get a disabled veteran into the White House for a White House tour? That isn’t caring!”
However, Kessler omits key sentences with which Bachmann prefaced her criticism of the President: “Now we all believe that the President and the First Family, with all seriousness, do deserve the best security and the very best protection that we can get them,” began Representative Bachman. “They deserve to live in the White House. They deserve to fly on a private plane.”
“There is a problem,” she asserted. And that problem is that their “excessive” lifestyle included, for example, five chefs, sleepover projectionists, and paid walking of Bo, the dog.
In his fact check, Kessler finds that President George W. Bush spent nearly $1.6 billion in 2008 on the First Family and its security. He says that half of that was for the Secret Service. “Moreover, the money spent on the presidency and the so-called perks she describes appear to be no different for Obama than for Bush or other presidents,” reports Kessler. “It’s absurd to suggest otherwise.”
Kessler points to two sources for Representative Bachmann’s comments: Presidential Perks Gone Royal, by a Republican lobbyist, and The 1.4 Billion Dollar Man: Costs of the Obama White House. In the latter book, author John F. Groom writes that “Despite having a vacation resort at Camp David reserved for the President’s exclusive use—at taxpayer cost of $8 million a year—the Obama family has spent tens of millions more on their taxpayer-subsidized vacations to Hawaii, Spain, Vail, Cape Cod, Africa, and South America.”
“At huge taxpayer expense, they take a date night to New York, as if the capital of the nation was devoid of suitable restaurants or entertainment.”
“Groom’s figures include a number of somewhat fishy guesstimates (‘unreimbursed campaign expenses’), but as it happens, a much more credible scholar—former White House aide Bradley H. Patterson Jr.—attempted to figure out the tab for the White House for a book, To Serve the President, published in 2010 by the Brookings Institution,” writes Kessler (emphasis added).
CNN’s Anderson Cooper insinuated that Presidential Perks Gone Royal is also not a credible source because it is self-published and without resources. “Congresswoman Bachmann apparently got her information from a 131-page self-published book by a long-time Republican lobbyist,” said Cooper on CNN. “The book provides no specific sourcing for the claims it makes, no sourcing.” Actually, according to Kessler the book has a list of resources that were consulted but not cited throughout the book. “It provides no specific sourcing for any of its claims, though in the back it provides a list of articles and books that presumably the author consulted,” writes Kessler.
Representative Bachmann may have relied upon poor sources for her information, but did she actually say anything false? Four Pinocchios seems a bit harsh if she didn’t.
“And as for Bo the dog, he has no designated walker,” said Cooper on CNN. “None.”
“The White House gardener actually walks the dog. It turns out the guy likes dogs and has walked presidential dogs for the last eight administrations,” says Cooper. But Representative Bachmann didn’t say that there was a dog walker for the President. She said that “We are also the ones who are paying for someone to walk the President’s dog, paying for someone to walk the President’s dog?” In other words, she never asserted that someone had been hired for this purpose, but that they were paid to do it. As for the “five chefs” the media has insisted on calling them five “cooks.” Does this semantic difference really resonate with an American public struggling to get by?
An active duty member of the Air Force called in to the Chris Plante show on WMAL in Washington to point out that those five would be insulted to be called “cooks,” and that they are in fact high quality chefs. Plante, a great local radio host who precedes Rush Limbaugh for three hours every day, skewered CNN, where he worked for many years, and the Post’s Fact-Checker Glenn Kessler, for getting it wrong by misquoting and mischaracterizing what Bachmann had actually said. They were the ones who got it wrong. Again, Bachmann said, “We are also the ones who are paying for someone to walk the President’s dog,” which Cooper, himself, confirmed when he referred to the person as a gardener, though he is actually the groundskeeper. Dana Bash ran up to her, however, saying, “What I want to ask you about is the fact that you said, you talked about the excesses that he’s engaged in. The fact that he has a dog walker, which is not true.” Bachmann didn’t say “he has a dog walker.”
As Chris Plante asked, will we ever see Dana Bash chasing after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calling him on his false implication that the sequester was what caused seven Marines to die in the training accident that took place this week in Nevada?” The question answers itself.
Regarding the projectionists, the press has asserted multiple times that Jimmy Carter watched movies hundreds of times while at the White House. The estimates range from 450 to 480 movies during his one term in office. As Plante pointed out, that is the equivalent of nearly 1,000 hours, or twenty 50-hour work weeks. Could that explain his dismal performance in office? How does this respond to the allegation that these days two projectionists sleep over at the White House to perform their duties, when, according to Rep. Bachmann, the First Family could have just pressed the “play” button? Technology has come quite a long way since the Carter Administration.
In his comments, O’Reilly proves without a doubt that he did not listen to Rep. Bachmann’s original speech. He accuses her of lacking focus. “But Mr. Obama is entitled to protection, convenience, and comfort, as he runs the nation,” said O’Reilly. Indeed, Rep. Bachmann prefaced her comments on this same point. “Congresswoman Bachmann and all opponents of Obama should zero in on what’s really important,” asserts O’Reilly, “the President’s failure to deal with out of control spending and his core belief that America is not a fair country” (emphasis added).
“That’s what’s important, not who’s walking the Presidential dog.” Perhaps O’Reilly should scold the media for focusing on the President’s dog, not Congresswoman Bachmann.
Rep. Bachmann’s speech did focus on a variety of issues, including the debt, Benghazi, cyber attacks, the “war against the young,” bureaucratic salaries, medical innovations, and “over-zealous regulators.” “It’s time we cared,” Rep. Bachmann asserted. She called the current financial situation “a generational injustice of epic proportions.” Perhaps what upset the media most was that she accused the President of being uncaring for multiple reasons, not just his perks.
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.