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George Curry

Obama’s Media Coverage Half as Positive as 2008

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(NNPA) Barack Obama campaigned for president four years ago on a theme of change. Now, four years later, he has seen change in the way the media has covered him – change for the worse. That’s a major finding of an exhaustive study by the Pew Research Center titled, “Winning the Media Campaign 2012.”

The report stated, “…The starkest difference is that coverage of Obama is only half as positive this year (19%) as it was in 2008 (36%). And while his percentage of negative coverage in 2012 (31%) is only modestly larger than four years earlier (29%), neutral coverage has grown markedly, to 50% this year compared with 35% in 2008.”

Mitt Romney received more favorable treatment from the media than Arizona Republican Senator John McCain did four years ago, according to the study.

“The percentage of positive coverage about Romney is very similar to McCain’s four years earlier, but there is about one-third less negative coverage of the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign,” the report stated. “Romney has also seen considerably more neutral coverage than McCain received in 2008.”

Of the three major networks, only ABC gave Obama more positive coverage than negative (27 percent to 20 percent). CBS and NBC were essentially the same. On CBS, 17 percent of the stories about Obama had a positive tone and 28 percent were negative. Of NBC’s stories, 16 percent had a positive tone and 29 percent were negative.

Romney did not fare any better on the networks. On ABC, Romney’s negative stories outpaced his positive ones (33 percent to 18 percent). On CBS, 15 percent of the stories about Romney had a positive tone and 29 percent were negative. NBC had an identical percentage of negative stories, but a slightly higher percentage of stories with a positive tone (18 percent).

The high-octane, opinion-driven cable networks provided decidedly partisan coverage of the two presidential candidates, with Fox favoring Romney, MSNBC backing Obama and CNN sandwiched between the two.

After studying the tone of coverage between April 27 and October 21, 2012, the Pew report found that 46 percent of the stories about Obama on Fox were negative and only 6 percent were positive. On MSNBC, by contrast, 39 percent about Obama were positive and 15 percent were negative. More negative than positive stories about Obama appeared on CNN, but only by a margin of 21 percent to 18 percent. Of the stories about Romney on Fox, 28 percent were positive and 12 percent were negative.

There was a huge imbalance on MSNBC, with 71 percent of the stories about Romney negative and only 3 percent positive. There were three times as many negative stories than positive about Romney on CNN (33 percent to 11 percent).

“MSNBC was especially negative in its treatment of Romney’s policy prescriptions,” the Pew study found. “Fully 75% of the stories focused on Romney’s policies were negative compared with 1% that were positive. For Obama, by comparison, 32% of policy stories were favorable while 18% were negative.”

The report stated, “Fox aired more negative stories about Obama than positive on every aspect of campaign coverage. When it came to policy, 6% of the stories on Fox about Obama were positive and 51% were negative.

“Fox also focused much more on Obama than on Romney. The Democratic Party nominee was a significant figure in 74% of Fox campaign stories compared with 49% for Romney.”

Unlike Fox and MSNBC, CNN devoted a similar amount of time to both candidates (63 percent to Obama and 59 percent for Romney.

“The biggest change in CNN coverage from four years ago is the number of stories with no clear positive or negative tone,” the report said. “In 2008, about a quarter of the stories for Obama (25%) and McCain (26%) were mixed in tone. In this campaign, the count of balanced stories has more than doubled in 2012, fully 61% of Obama’s stories were mixed compared to 53% for Romney.”

The report found social media far more critical of the candidates than mainstream media. On Twitter, 48 percent of the discussions about Obama were negative, compared with 58 percent for Romney. On Facebook, 53 percent on Obama were negative versus 62 percent for Romney. Comments about Romney on blogs were slightly more negative than those about Obama (46 percent to 44 percent).

“Throughout the eight-week period studied, a good deal of the difference in treatment of the two contenders is related to who was perceived to be ahead in the race. When horse-race stories—those focused on strategy, tactics and the polls—are taken out of the analysis, and one looks at those framed around the candidates’ policy ideas, biographies and records, the distinctions in the tone of media coverage between the two nominees vanish,” the report stated. “With horse-race stories removed, 15% of campaign stories about Obama were positive, 32% were negative and 53% were mixed. For Romney it was 14% positive, 32% negative and 55% mixed.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge

The End of Republicans' "Whites Only" Strategy

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(NNPA) This will probably be the last presidential election in which Republicans can afford to ignore issues of paramount importance to Blacks and Latinos and expect to have a remote chance of winning the White House. Obama v. Romney is the political equivalent of Brown v. Board of Education. A separate and unequal approach to national politics is in its final days.

The U.S. is becoming increasingly diverse. The numbers tell the story. People of color, about one-third of the population, are expected to become a majority of the population in 2042 and 54 percent of the population by 2050, according to the Census Bureau. Latinos are expected to make up the largest share of that growth, tripling from one in six residents to one in three.

Meanwhile, Blacks and Asians are expected to grow at a rate of 60 percent by 2050. The Black share of the U.S. population will increase from 14 percent to 15 percent and Asians are projected to grow from 5 percent to 9 percent. By contrast, the non-Hispanic White segment will fall from 66 percent of the population to 46 percent.

As the country grows increasingly diverse, the Republican Party has made a narrow appeal to Whites and is viewed as hostile to the interests of Blacks and Latinos. For example, on the most recent NAACP Legislative Report Card covering the 112th Congress, every Republican in the United States Senate and House of Representatives earned an “F.” By contrast, 159 Democrats in the house earned As and only four received Fs. In the Senate, no Democrat earned an F and 47 got As.

At a time when the GOP could have expanded its appeal among voters, it has chased out White moderates in the mold of former Connecticut Sen. Lowell Weicker and former New York City Mayor John Lindsay and is now captive of the ultra-conservative Tea Party wing of the Party.

That is also true for race-sensitive Black Republicans. Former Assistant Secretary of Labor Arthur Fletcher, former Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, and former Secretary of Treasury William Coleman were Black Republicans who never turned their back on African Americans or the Civil Rights Movement. Now, Black moderates such as Colin Powell are shunned . Today’s GOP embraces the likes of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), a Black conservative who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in opposition to the University of Texas’s modest affirmative action program now under review by the Supreme Court.

Given the GOP’s sharp turn to the far right – it is so extreme that former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said even Ronald Reagan would not be welcome in the Republican Party today – it is not surprising that Mitt Romney’s strongest support is among White men.

According to a recent ABC News poll, Romney has a 65-32 percent lead over Obama among White men. That gap is twice as large as John McCain’s 57-41 percent margin over Obama among White men in the 2008 exit poll.

Obama outpolled McCain among White women by 13 points. He is leading Romney among that group by 15 percent, according to the ABC News poll. Still, that’s enough to give Romney 59 percent of the White vote.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post poll showed Obama getting 80 percent of the non-White vote. Romney has made no inroads among African-American voters, who are solidly for Obama, and is expected to receive a lesser share of the Latino vote than John McCain. Both Obama and Bill Clinton were elected with a minority of the White vote.

In addition to denouncing Obama’s handling of the economy, Romney has gone after Obama on food stamps. Romney said, “Forty-seven million now on food stamps. When he came to office there were 32 million. He’s added 15 million people.” Obama countered by saying the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, saw its greatest expansion under George W. Bush. Given the state of the economy, Obama said it is only natural that more people would need to rely on food stamps.

Like Ronald Reagan did while campaigning for president, Romney has injected welfare into the debate. He ran an ad in August saying the Obama administration had adopted “a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.” The ad also said that under the plan, “you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job.”

FactCheck.org said Obama’s plan, which gave states more latitude to revise work requirements, neither gutted welfare nor eliminated the work requirement. The fact checker for the Washington Post gave Romney’s ad four Pinocchios , representing its biggest lie.

Of course, talk about welfare and food stamps is a subtle and supposedly respectable way to make an appeal based on race. We’ll see on Tuesday whether it works in this election. Whether it works or not, Republicans will have to find a different song in 2016.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Romney Continues Campaign of Lies

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George E. Curry(NNPA) As we have seen during three presidential debates and in his campaign speeches, Mitt Romney will say anything – even when he knows it is untrue – in his effort to dislodge President Obama from the White House.

Romney charged in the second presidential debate that “it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.” Obama denied it, urging Romney to “Get the transcript.”

FactCheck.org observed. “The transcript does show that Obama said in a Rose Garden speech on Sept. 12: ‘No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.’”

In the same debate, Romney said a gallon of gasoline in Nassau County, N.Y. was $1.86 when Obama took office. It’s now “4 bucks a gallon.”

As fact checkers for USA Today stated, “Gas prices were going through a period of exceptional volatility when Obama took office – largely because, as Obama noted, gas prices plummeted as the recession took hold and people drove less…But gas prices are still 34 cents below their all-time high during the Bush administration. In the summer of 2008, the national average hit $4.05 a gallon.”

FactCheck.org noted, “Mitt Romney falsely claims in a series of TV ads that President Obama ‘will raise taxes on the middle class by $4,000.’ That’s nonsense. The ads cite a conservative group’s study, but even the group itself doesn’t say Obama will raise taxes on middle-income taxpayers. It says his budget could result in a ‘potentially higher tax burden’ over the next 10 years.

“In fact, the group’s study considered two other budget scenarios – current law (allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire as scheduled at the end of this year) and current policy (extending current policies into 2013, including extending the Bush-era tax cuts) – and determined that Obama’s budget ‘provides a middle ground between these two extremes.’”

Romney said during a Republican debate on Feb 22: “I said today that we’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.” However, during a debate with Obama, he said, “I’m not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people.”

In that same debate, Romney said: “In the – in the last four years, women have lost 580,000 jobs. That’s the net of what’s happened in the last four years. We’re still down 580,000 jobs.”

FactCheck.org found: “Actually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the net loss of women’s jobs since January 2009, when the president took office, is 283,000. Even the 283,000 figure is an overstatement. The BLS also has announced that its routine annual benchmarking process will result next year in adding 386,000 total jobs – men and women – to the official historical figures. It did not say how many of those would be women’s jobs, but about 49 percent of total employment is currently accounted for by women. So about 190,000 will probably be subtracted from the 283,000 figure. That would put the current loss at 93,000, making Romney’s figure six times too high.

“We assume Romney’s reference to ‘four years’ was meant to cover only Obama’s term. For the record, the number of women’s jobs lost in the last four months of the Bush administration was 833,000, according to the BLS. So the total over four years would come to 1.1 million, with the large majority lost before Obama was sworn in.”

Romney has repeatedly charge that Obama has “cut Medicare by $716 billion to pay for Obamacare.”

But FactCheck.org concluded: “Various incarnations of this claim have cropped up in Romney’s campaign speeches – including claims that Obama is ‘cutting’ ‘funneling’ or ‘raiding’ $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the health care law. But Medicare money isn’t being taken away. The Affordable Care Act calls for a $716 billion reduction in the growth of Medicare spending over 10 years, a move that – if successful – would keep the hospital insurance trust fund solvent for an additional eight years… Furthermore, as we explained in detail in our story ‘Medicare’s ‘Piggy Bank,’ “ Medicare doesn’t have $716 billion sitting around that could be ‘raided.’ The president can’t take money out of the trust fund – which had $244.2 billion at the end of 2011.”

Even on those rare occasions when Romney is telling the truth, there is deception. For example, he claims that he will create 12 million new jobs in his first term.

But as fact checkers for USA Today pointed out, “Romney’s pledge to create 12 million jobs has been hotly contested in large part because economic forecasters, including Moody’s Analytics, predict roughly 12 million jobs will be created over the next four years – no matter who is elected president.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul.

University of Texas' History of Racism

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(NNPA) The affirmative action program at the University of Texas now under review by the United States Supreme Court should not be looked at in isolation. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in Grutter V. Bollinger, an affirmative action case involving the University of Michigan, “context matters when reviewing race-based governmental action under the Equal Protection Clause.”

An amici curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief filed by the Advancement Project, an equal opportunity advocacy group, in support of the University of Texas provides excellent context of how the issue of race has played out in Texas and the University of Texas for decades.

“UT is the progeny of a state that seceded from the Union in 1861 with the explicit goal of preserving ‘negro slavery’ for ‘all future time,’” the brief observed. “Even after rejoining the Union and despite passage of the Reconstruction Amendments, Texas sought to implement its goal of excluding blacks from public life and political personhood. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the Court repeatedly struck down Texas statutes designed to deny blacks full citizenship.”

The brief noted, “Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536 (1927), ranks among the many Texas-based cases that illustrate the state’s relegation of blacks to second-class citizenship. The litigation involved Dr. L.A. Nixon, a black physician in El Paso, Texas and a member of the Democratic Party. Dr. Nixon filed suit claiming he was unlawfully excluded from participating in the Democratic Party primary elections. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for a unanimous Court, held that Dr. Nixon’s rights had been violated under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Despite the ruling, Texas refused to allow Dr. Nixon to participate in the political process. He appeared before the Supreme Court again five years later and got another ruling that forced Texas to comply.

Higher education was also subject to state-mandated segregation.

“Texas’s flagship university was founded by white Texans for white Texans,” the Advancement Project brief stated. “UT categorically barred black Americans from the University and from its graduate and professional schools.”

In one of the most famous Supreme Court cases, Sweatt v. Painter, the court forced the University of Texas Law School to admit Herman Sweatt, a qualified African-American who had graduated from Jack Yates High School in Houston and Wiley College.

“As the public face of the struggle against segregation in higher education, Sweatt faced harassment, on and off UT’s campus,” the brief recounted. “During Sweatt’s first semester at the law school, a cross was burned on the law school grounds. Opponents of integration threatened Sweatt’s life, in person and by mail. Vandals defaced his home and threw rocks, shattering windows. Sweatt fell ill and struggled academically, financially, and personally. Life at UT became unbearable. Sweatt eventually dropped out of school—a “physical and emotional wreck.”

Blacks who followed Sweatt at the University of Texas also faced barriers.

“UT excluded blacks from living in the on-campus dormitories designated for whites and specifically forbade all black students from entering the living quarters of white women,” the brief recounted. “UT established separate and inferior residential housing for blacks. UT barred black students from intercollegiate athletics, excluded them from extracurricular activities such as music and theater, and permitted segregated fraternities and sororities. UT even banned black students from using the same bathroom facilities as whites. All told, in Sweatt’s wake, blacks faced an all-encompassing stigma, purely on account of race.”

Not surprisingly, the Brown decision was not well received in Texas.

“One of the most significant racial flare-ups in recent years at UT concerned a campus landmark built in 1954 and named in honor of William Simkins, a professor at UT’s law school from 1899 until his death in 1929,” the brief stated. “Within five weeks of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, UT named its new dormitory in honor of Simkins …

“Simkins was not merely a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He, along with his brother Eldred James Simkins (a regent of UT from 1882 to 1896), was ‘a criminal and a terrorist, a gun-toting, mask-wearing, night-riding Klansman who headed a group in Florida that murdered 25 people in three years in just one county.’”

The Advancement Projected brief stated, “Black students continued to experience a hostile environment. In 1969, for example, Professor Robert Hopper greeted black sociology major Rosetta Williams on the first day of class in a most unwelcoming way. ‘I want feedback from the students because I don’t want you sitting around like a bunch of niggers nodding your heads not saying nothing.’”

A campus statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was defaced in 2003 and again in 2004. The Daily Texan, the campus newspaper, came under fire earlier this year when it published a cartoon that mocked the killing of Trayvon Martin, unarmed Florida teenager, and ran a feature referring to him as “a colored boy.”

As Justice O’Connor stated, context matters.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Maxine Waters Case: A Political Train Wreck

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By George E. Curry

NNPA Columnist The headlines proclaim that Rep. Maxine Waters, the outspoken Democrat from California, has been cleared of charges that she violated House ethics by advocating on behalf of a Black bank in which her husband held a substantial investment. The real story, however, is that Waters case serves as Exhibit A for how a Black elected official who has done nothing wrong can have her name smeared for several years largely because of partisan politics. Although the official report is filled with carefully calibrated references that downplays the infighting and partisanship that characterized the investigation,  it is clear from the report that when the investigation commenced, it was obvious that Waters had never tried to hide her husband’s participation in OneUnited Bank, the Boston-based institution at the center of the investigation, and that she believed she was acting on behalf of the National Bankers Association, an organization of Black banks, when she arranged between a group of bankers and then-Secretary of Treasury.

OneUnited, a member of the National Bankers Association, was in danger of closing its doors and was seeking $50 million in federal bailout money to stay afloat. Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams, a former board member of OneUnited, owned bank stock valued at $350,000 that he would have lost if the bank had tanked. House conflict-of-interest rules prohibit members of Congress from using their official position on behalf of an entity in which they have a personal interest. In Waters’ case, as a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and a strong advocate for Black banks, it was not uncommon for her to arrange meetings between federal officials and the National Bankers Association.

According to the report “Outside Counsel concluded that Representative Waters reasonably believed, at the time she requested the meeting, that the  attendees would be speaking on behalf of minority banks generally.  While it appears that all of the minority bankers who attended the meeting were associated with OneUnited, and that OneUnited was alone in requesting substantial financial assistance from the Treasury Department at the meeting, the record indicates that Representative Waters did not have reason to know of either of these facts when she arranged the meeting.”

Waters made no secret of her husband’s involvement in OneUnited. She made it part of her public financial disclosure reports. In addition, according to the Ethics Committee finding, “it appears that Representative Waters recognized and made efforts to avoid a conflict of interest with respect to OneUnited. She informed the then-Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee that she was ‘not going to be involved in’ OneUnited’s request for assistance from the Treasury Department, and then relayed this decision to her COS [Chief of Staff].” House Republicans were aware of the pertinent facts but decided to pursue the case against Waters anyway. The final report noted that there was “an extended, and at time contentious investigation of the allegations.” The committee hired William “Billy” Martin, a respected African-American attorney, to serve as outside counsel.  His investigation found that some staff members communicated only with members of one party without communicating with the rest of the committee and that one staffer had made comments that were “racially insensitive and completely inappropriate.” Although Martin did not name the specific party in question, it is easy to deduce that staffers were communicating with Republicans, who hold a majority on the committee, and not Democrats. In addition, Republican committee members were also communicating with House leadership about the investigation, which was supposed to be non-partisan. The investigation became so tainted that, in what they described as a move to assure that Waters was being treated fairly, the entire 10-member panel and staff investigating Waters were replaced. And it was this new committee, working with Martin, that exonerated Waters. “Outside Counsel recommended and the Waters Committee concluded that Representative Waters did not violate any House Rule, law, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct,” the report stated.

It did not reach the same conclusion about Mikael Moore, the congresswoman’s chief of staff and grandson.

The report said, “However, the Waters Committee finds that Representative Waters’ COS violated House rules by taking specific actions that would accrue to the benefit of OneUnited, a bank Representative Waters had a significant financial interest in and which interest could have been significantly impacted by the actions.” The committee found Moore’s testimony on the matter lacked credibility and issued him a letter of reproval. Congress prohibits its members from hiring of close relatives, a definition that does not include grandchildren. Because of the Waters case, however, the committee members think that time has come to broaden the definition of close relatives to include grandchildren. Waters contended all along – and the evidence was there to support her assertion – that she had done nothing improper. But House Republicans were intent on dragging her name through the mud. This is one of the few times that they have been fully exposed. How many other Black lawmakers have been subjected to the same treatment, but that information never became public?

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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