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ABC Scurrilously Implies Trimming Federal Spending Will Lead to More Deaths

In a story which ironically included a soundbite from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan denouncing demagoguery on budget decisions, ABC's Jake Tapper on Wednesday night sank to employing some of his own by citing a local government's budget cut from two years ago for a drowning death on Memorial Day and then drawing a line to GOP efforts on the federal level to cut funds from food inspections and bomb detection methods.

Noting a White House meeting with Republicans and President Obama, anchor Diane Sawyer offered a dire warning against reducing any spending anywhere at any time: "Hovering over the meeting in that room, the stories of cuts already made and their consequences."

Tapper began: "On Monday, first responders in Alameda, California, stood by as a suicidal man walked into the Bay. Why? Due to budget cuts, they no longer train for water rescues. So they watched 53-year-old Raymond Zack drown." Tapper moved on to how "Riverside, California, has spent $105 million on a new high-tech high school, built to alleviate packed classrooms. But come fall, the school will not open" because of a lack of funds.

"The problem is even bigger on the federal level," Tapper noted, where "Republicans say with $125 billion in new federal debt each month, the federal government needs to make even deeper cuts." So, ominously, "they proposed cutting this year $35 million from the Food Safety Inspection Service, responsible for maintaining the safety of meat, poultry and eggs. And almost $53 million in transportation security grants to cities, which help fund explosives screening devices and bomb-sniffing dog teams."

This is exactly the kind of demagogic media reporting - where every minor spending adjustment is portrayed as leading to dire consequences - which makes it impossible to have a rationale political debate about budget priorities.

(CBS and NBC on Wednesday night also ran stories on the Alameda tragedy, but manged to do so without connecting the incident to Republican efforts to reduce the rate of growth in federal spending.)

After falsely stating Ryan's buget plan would "cut Medicare spending," Tapper ran a bite of Ryan admonishing, "if we demagogue each other at the leadership level, then we're never going to take on our debt," before he concluded with Obama's snide retort: "President Obama told the House Republicans he's all for a reduction in demagoguery. After all, he says, he understands the issue as the 'job-killing, death panel, probably wasn't born here' President."

From the Wednesday, June 1 ABC World News, closed-captioning corrected against the video by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:

DIANE SAWYER: Tough choices were on the table today as dozens of House Republicans went to the White House. President Obama and GOP lawmakers facing off in the epic battle over the towering U.S. deficit. As Jake Tapper reports, hovering over the meeting in that room, the stories of cuts already made and their consequences.

JAKE TAPPER: On Monday, first responders in Alameda, California, stood by as a suicidal man walked into the Bay. Why? Due to budget cuts, they no longer train for water rescues. So they watched 53-year-old Raymond Zack drown.

DEE BERRY, MOTHER OF SUICIDE VICTIM: It's damn frustrating.

CHIEF MICHAEL DORAZI, ALAMEDA FIRE DEPARTMENT: You have to make budgetary decisions based on, you know, what you have in front of you.

TAPPER: Riverside, California, has spent $105 million on a new high-tech high school, built to alleviate packed classrooms. But come fall, the school will not open. Why?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: They don't have enough money.

TAPPER: The problem is even bigger on the federal level. In Washington, D.C., Republicans say with $125 billion in new federal debt each month, the federal government needs to make even deeper cuts. They proposed cutting this year $35 million from the Food Safety Inspection Service, responsible for maintaining the safety of meat, poultry and eggs. And almost $53 million in transportation security grants to cities, which help fund explosives screening devices and bomb-sniffing dog teams. House Republicans met today to discuss spending cuts with President Obama in a meeting described as "frank."

REP. TIM MURPHY (R-PA): "Frosty" is the word. I'm a psychologist. Let me just say, I think it was good for them emotionally to talk. It's good group therapy.

TAPPER: In the meeting, Congressman Paul Ryan took issue with how Democrats, including President Obama, have fiercely attacked his proposal to cut Medicare spending.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): I just said, we got to take on this debt, and if we demagogue each other at the leadership level, then we're never going to take on our debt.

TAPPER: And, Diane, President Obama told the House Republicans he's all for a reduction in demagoguery. After all, he says, he understands the issue as the "job-killing, death panel, probably wasn't born here" President.


- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Brent Baker on Twitter.