The WaPo and Fiscal Times, Together Again

At the end of 2009, the Washington Post published an article that was produced by the Fiscal Times. As FAIR noted in an Action Alert (1/6/10):

The article, headlined “Support Grows for Tackling Nation’s Debt” (12/31/09), was a product of the Fiscal Times, described in an accompanying note as “an independent digital news publication reporting on fiscal, budgetary, healthcare and international economics issues.” More accurately, it’s a propaganda outlet created and funded by Peter G. Peterson, a Wall Street billionaire and Nixon administration cabinet member who has long used his wealth to promote cuts in Social Security and other entitlement programs.

That Post‘s Fiscal Times piece was the subject of intense criticism, which the Post‘s ombud eventually addressed. As FAIR summed it up (1/13/10), ombud Andrew Alexander criticized the paper for a “glaring lack of transparency with its readers” by not disclosing the Fiscal Times‘ connection to Peterson and his interest in the issues it covers. Alexander added that the piece “was not sufficiently balanced,” and that publishing astoryso closely aligned with theagenda of the funder ofthe project “was inviting suspicion about its motives.”

Yesterday the Post was at it again (6/20/10),publishing another Fiscal Times piece extolling work that Peterson is closely aligned with. Under theheadline”Labor Leader, Chief Executive Team Up to Reduce the U.S. Deficit,” Post readers are treated to a soft profile of two members (an “unlikely duo”) of the White House’s deficit reduction commission. Did the piece entertain serious criticism of the ideas being advanced so far by the commission (cutting Social Security, most notably)? Hardly–here’s about as close as they got:

A debate is raging in Congress and among economists about whether this is the right time to start reducing deficits. Many liberal groups worried about high unemployment argue that the economy is still so weak that the government should keep spending and deficits high to prevent a double-dip recession. But lawmakers in both parties are balking at new stimulus spending, and some economists argue that the deficit needs to be reined in sooner rather than later.

What about disclosure, then? The Post offered a note at the top of the piece, mentioning that the reporters “work for the Fiscal Times, an independent news organization that specializes in fiscal and economic matters. It is funded by Peter G. Peterson, who separately supports groups that advocate for long-term debt reduction.”

Ah, I get it.Peterson has spent many millions of dollars warning about Social Security’s threat to the nation’s finances. But the news outlet he organized and bankrolls to make these arguments in journalistic form is separate from his long-standing political interest in these topics.Huh.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.