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MSNBC Leads “Birther” Talk

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Posted on April 28 2011 6:30 pm
Accuracy in Media is a citizens' media watchdog whose mission is to promote accuracy, fairness and balance in news reporting. AIM exposes politically motivated media bias; teaches consumers to think critically about their news sources; and holds the mainstream press accountable for its misreporting.
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From Accuracy in Media‘s Don Irvine:

President Obama incorrectly accused the media of placing talk about his birth certificate above what he considered more important news. But regardless, the biggest culprit may have been a leading liberal cable network:

…two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.

According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, “birther” talk accounted for 3% of news stories during the last week and was dwarfed by the Middle East unrest at 15% and the economy at 14%. So “birther” talk hardly dominated the news.

Maybe Obama was confused by all the coverage that Chris Matthews and MSNBC devoted to the issue.

The PEJ also studied coverage by the cable news networks. Here are their findings:

MSNBC
including “The Ed Show,” “Hardball,” “The Last Word,” and “The Rachel Maddow Show”

  • 28% of airtime studied was devoted to the 2012 election
  • 10% of airtime studied was devoted to Obama
  • A subset of that Obama airtime was coded “citizenship and religion rumors” to include “birther” coverage, which was 92% of the Obama coverage

Fox
including “Special Report w/Bret Baier,” “Fox Report w/Shepard Smith,” “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Hannity”

  • 16% of airtime studied was devoted to 2012 election
  • 5% of airtime studied was devoted to Obama
  • A subset of that Obama airtime was coded “citizenship and religion rumors” to include “birther” coverage, which was 8% of the Obama coverage

CNN
including “The Situation Room,” “John King, USA,” “In The Arena,” and “Anderson Cooper 360″

  • 11% of airtime studied was devoted to 2012 election
  • 5% of airtime studied was devoted to Obama
  • A subset of that Obama airtime was coded “citizenship and religion rumors” to include “birther” coverage, which was 100% of the Obama coverage.

Not only did the media not spend a great deal of time on the issue, but in fact the cable network that was leading the charge and helping to keep the story alive was none other than the very liberal MSNBC.

Chris Matthews has been particularly obsessed with “birthers” and “birtherism.” And while he has spent his time attacking anyone who has raised questions about Obama’s birth certificate or his legitimacy as a natural born citizen, just by talking about it he has helped fuel the controversy and kept the issue alive.

Last night, following the release of Obama’s birth certificate, Matthews spent all but five minutes of his show talking about it, praising Obama and attacking his critics. Compare that to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly who spent about a quarter of his program on the issue.

Time will tell whether or not Obama put this matter to rest, but I can’t help but feel that Chris Matthews isn’t done talking about it quite yet.

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