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Accuracy in Media: Media’s coverage of debt crisis “atrocious”

In a commentary released before the debt ceiling agreement was reached this weekend, the media watchdog group Accuracy in Media blasted media coverage of the debate.

“Most of the media constantly get it wrong,” writes AIM’s Roger Aronoff. “Is it on purpose, to mislead, or do they not understand?”

“The general performance of the media during the debt ceiling debate has been atrocious,” he notes. ”The currency of journalists consists of words, and by completely debasing that currency, they are undermining their profession. They are also making it that much more difficult for the public to understand the choices and the consequences they are facing.”

And it’s not a matter of conservative reporters versus liberal, he notes:

The constant reference to August 2nd being the date we default on our debt is utterly false. ABC has shown a “Countdown to Default” clock, ticking away to August 2nd. CNN has run similar graphics, as have all the networks, including the Fox News Channel. Even today MSNBC is showing a graphic that says, “Four Days to Default.” They have continued right through this week. Default occurs only if and when the U.S. fails to make interest payments to the bondholders on the debt it owes. Not only is August 2nd not the day the U.S. defaults on its debt, but the issue could easily be taken off the table, and President Obama could calm the markets by announcing that under no circumstances will he allow the U.S. to default, and he could assure that by saying he will definitely make that payment the highest priority until a deal is reached in Congress. Instead, he chose to have the debt ceiling “used as a gun against the heads” of Americans, which is exactly what he accused the Republicans of doing earlier this month, in language that was supposed to be no longer acceptable after the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last January.

Charles Gasparino of Fox Business News reported this week that the Obama administration has begun calling major Wall Street banks to assure them that the U.S. won’t default on its debt. Sources have told me that the administration is also trying to get the banks to lobby on its behalf.

The other egregious falsehood reveals an astounding lack of knowledge, or willingness to deceive, about the difference between the deficit and the national debt. Here, for example, from Jake Tapper of ABC News: “The president continues to push for a ‘grand bargain,’ buoyed by the bipartisan ‘Gang of Six’ proposal that would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next decade through spending cuts and tax increases.”

And here, from Stephanie Condon of CBS News: “The deal would reduce the deficit by nearly $4 trillion…”

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