Networks Blame Congress More than Obama For Airport Delays

Nearly three times more blame for Congress than president for FAA furloughs due to sequester.

The morning and evening news shows of CBS and NBC blamed Congress for sequester-related airport delays nearly three times more than the president on April 23 and 24. Congress was blamed 18 times, compared to just seven for Obama. ABC took a different tact, not pointing fingers but warning that an “airplane apocalypse” of ever increasing delays could be right around the corner.

BMI counted each time someone on one of the morning or evening news shows blamed Obama or Congress for the unpaid furloughs of the 15,000 air traffic controllers due to sequester-related budget cuts. According to The Associated Press, “FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees, including nearly 15,000 controllers. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week.”

Five of the six mentions that Republicans blamed Obama for the sequester were on CBS, while just two were on NBC. Correspondent Tom Costello noted on “Nightly News” on April 24 that “Republicans protest the FAA could have cut its budget elsewhere.” This was quickly followed by a clip of White House press secretary Jay Carney arguing that Republicans should have seen this coming. “They should read the law. They wrote it, they should know what’s in it. They passed it, they voted for it, they should know what’s in it.”

The other mention of blame for Obama on NBC was a quick quip by “Today” co-anchor Willie Geist that about Republicans blaming the president, “saying he actually wanted this to force someone's hand in all of this."

But the networks repeatedly pushed the Obama administration’s talking points on the sequester. “Now it’s up to Congress to look at a very dumb way of budgeting and change it,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said on CBS “This Morning” April 23.

Much to his credit, ABC’s Jonathan Karl blogged on Feb. 22 that this “raises larger questions about the government’s ability to find relatively modest savings without cutting essential services.” However, all three networks have continually hyped the damage that would be caused by the sequester, and blamed Republicans for letting it happen.