Why did Barack Obama finally request a copy of his long-form birth certificate and put an end to the silly “Birther” controversy? To hear the White House tell it, the media forced them to do it by failing to cover the really important stories, like Obama’s second try at an FY2012 budget, while the birth certificate question “dominated” the news:
“[T]wo 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.”
But as Jake Tapper pointed out a few weeks ago, that’s simply not true. Not only was the birth certificate not the top story that week, it didn’t even get a bronze medal:
According to Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, that week the dominant news story was without question the economy.
The ridiculous claims about the president’s birth certificate actually was the No. 4 story for the week – receiving about one tenth of the coverage devoted to stories about the economy.
According to Pew’s PEJ: “Hardly dipping from the previous week’s level of 40%, news about the economy was the top story in all media sectors studied, from cable TV to the Internet. And the particularly high level of coverage in cable (53%) and radio (52%), two politics-heavy platforms, indicated just how politically loaded the debate about federal spending was.
And what story actually dominated the news cycle? Analysis of Obama’s budget speech:
Much of the coverage consisted of analysis of the speech Wednesday by President Obama, one that based on listening to many press accounts renewed support for the President among much of his liberal base.
It’s more likely that Obama actually lessened the coverage of the economy by releasing the birth certificate, as the next week the economy dropped to 14% of the news coverage, while the 2012 election coverage jumped from under the radar to 8%. Guess what most of that coverage comprised?
For the week of April 18-24, the 2012 presidential race emerged as a big story, more than doubling its previous high water mark this year. It accounted for 8% of the newshole studied by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, making it the third-biggest story in the news last week. And a closely related story (at 3%) involved attention to Obama himself, with a particular focus on the “birther” movement that questions whether the president was born in the U.S.
In both cases, that was due in large part to the attention garnered by real estate developer, reality TV star and now possible presidential candidate Trump—who has embraced the birther issue and become the rising star of the GOP presidential field.
Indeed, Trump was the week’s second leading newsmaker behind Obama, registering as a dominant figure in 4% of all the week’s stories. That is six times more attention than the next most-covered potential GOP contender, Sarah Palin, generated last week.
Maybe Obama wanted a distraction from all of the focus on the economy. Given the failure of Obamanomics, who could blame him?
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