03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fact Checking the Sunday Shows

Every Sunday morning, some of the country's most powerful and influential legislators, government officials, journalists, and newsmakers appear as guests on network talk shows. The programs -- ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- occupy a unique place in our media landscape. As the agenda-setters for the next week's worth of political news, they shape conventional wisdom and determine the terms of debate on crucial issues.

These shows also present a critical opportunity to educate the public and correct damaging misinformation -- a responsibility that too often fails to be met. As New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen has explained, the Sunday show format is broken. Shows like Meet the Press and Face the Nation routinely serve largely as hyper-partisan forums that provide little in the way of fact-checking.

To begin addressing these problems, Rosen offered a simple and valuable suggestion: in order to hold politicians and media figures accountable, the networks should produce mid-week fact-checks of the statements made on their Sunday shows. It was an idea that quickly received the support of CNN's Howard Kurtz.

We're not holding our breath while the network heads decide whether or not to act. Instead, we're announcing the creation of a new Media Matters product. Every Monday morning, the Media Matters Action Network will publish a memo correcting the conservative misinformation that was left unchallenged the day before. Over time, we hope that our work will help contribute to a culture of accountability that is currently lacking on Sunday morning.

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Media Matters Action Network
SUBJECT: Fact Checking the Sunday Shows
DATE: 1/11/10

On yesterday's political talk shows, America bore witness to the predictable screed of worn-out falsehoods from Washington conservatives. Below is Media Matters Action Network's introductory fact check of conservative political figures that appeared on the Sunday shows.

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: RNC Chairman Michael Steele falsely claimed the Obama administration has not focused on, nor created, jobs:

STEELE: We have no jobs, no health care, $13 trillion worth of debt, and no sense of direction in terms of how we're going to create those jobs. And so Americans are very concerned right now... This is, what, the third pivot back to jobs? Remember, this administration came in saying we're gonna deal with jobs, but then they pivoted to health care. Then they pivoted from health care to jobs. Then they pivoted from jobs to national security, then they pivoted back to jobs, to Nat - uh - now they're gonna go back to jobs? I mean, it's - you get confused in the process. You're either gonna create jobs, or you're not. And this administration, in a year, has not.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has created up to 1.6 million American jobs. The CBO wrote:

CBO now estimates that in the third quarter of calendar year 2009, ARRA's policies raised real GDP by between 1.2 percent and 3.2 percent, lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.3 and 0.9 percentage points, and increased the number of people employed by between 600,000 and 1.6 million compared with what those values would have been otherwise.

In fact, appearing on Meet the Press, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded the Recovery Act:

SCHWARZENEGGER: I think the stimulus was very helpful for California and I think - I was a big supporter of the stimulus package. I think they've given us money, if it has to do with transportation or with high technology, and with all kinds of different things with our universities, and so we were very appreciative.

CLAIM: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) baselessly criticized the Obama administration for not obtaining useful intelligence from detained terrorists:

SEN. JON KYL: I don't blame the people in the CIA, for example, or the counter terrorism center, as much as I blame the heads of those groups who obviously are reflecting the sentiments of the President, which is, "we can just treat these people as common criminals and forget the intelligence they can provide to us and still win a war," as he says that we're in.

FACT: Collecting intelligence from detained terrorists is exactly what the Obama administration is doing. As reported this week by Reuters:

A Nigerian charged in the incident, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, spent months in Yemen and told investigators he had trained with al Qaeda militants who took refuge there to plot attacks against Americans.

The White House says he is already providing useful information. "Abdulmutallab spent a number of hours with FBI investigators in which we gleaned usable actionable intelligence," spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday.


That could be valuable in light of reports that Abdulmutallab, who attempted to blow up a transatlantic airliner as it approached Detroit, told investigators after he was captured that more attackers like him were on the way.

"We are continuing to look at ways that we can extract that information from him," Obama's top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said on Sunday. "I think we have to assume that there are others out there."

Meet the Press

CLAIM: RNC Chairman Michael Steele falsely claimed Republicans were not politicizing terrorism:

DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Is the Republican Party guilty of politicizing terrorism right now?

STEELE: Oh, absolutely not. Oh my goodness, no.

FACT: That is far from the truth. For example, Rep. Pete Hoekstra used the attempted attack on Christmas to bash "weak-kneed liberals" in a December 2009 campaign fundraising appeal:

These are the same weak-kneed liberals who have recently tried to bring Guantanamo Bay terrorists right here to Michigan! ...If you agree that we need a Governor who will stand up the Obama/Pelosi efforts to weaken our security please make a most generous contribution of $25, $50, $100 or even $250 to my campaign.