Accuracy in Media

Coronavirus aid for tens of millions of jobless Americans has been a tough sell in Congress, or at least tougher than it should be, considering that the government is responsible for crashing the economy.

A small aid package — as small as $8.3 billion can be — passed Congress quickly at the beginning of March to help federal agencies get working on COVID-19. Since then, other attempts to help everyday Americans have been delayed, as Democrats sought to cram other priorities into bills they knew Republicans were eager to pass.

The latest iteration last week was no different, when GOP lawmakers, after a breakdown in talks for broader relief, were blocked in efforts to get $300 billion in unemployment aid to President Donald Trump.

Yet as the demise of the “skinny” COVID bill was announced by the media, Republicans again were the villains.

The common refrain was that GOP senators “failed to advance” the unemployment bill.

That was how the issue was framed on Twitter, in that exact language, on Sept. 10 by CBS News’s Face the Nation, The New York Times, CNN, CNBC, Politico and a Washington Post reporter.

Conservative columnist Stephen L. Miller tweeted screenshots of those reports and noted, “Watch how a narrative unfolds in real time.”

The reality was that Democrats blocked it.

They filibustered the bill, which required the GOP to muster at last 60 votes to muscle it through. Overall, 52 Republicans supported the proposal, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined Democrats in defeating it. If the media were interested, the Democrats’ use of the filibuster would be fodder for more coverage of their hypocrisy, since Democrats have discussed dumping the filibuster if they regain control of the Senate. 

At least some of the media got the story correct.

A USA Today headline noted, “Senate Democrats block $300 billion coronavirus stimulus package, leaving little hope for relief before November.” The Hill’s headline claimed, “Senate Democrats block GOP relief bill.” The Washington Post’s headline stated, “Democrats block slimmed-down GOP coronavirus relief bill as hopes fade for any more congressional support.”

Yet columnist Derek Hunter captured the ultimate point, writing in his retweet of Miller’s post: “‘Journalists’ never fail to advance the liberal agenda….”

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