Press Secretary Jay Carney blames birther debate on ‘certain media organizations’

In a briefing today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney revived the claim that the controversy over President Obama’s birthplace was driven by the media:

“You’re talking about the period last year where, aided and abetted by certain media organizations that considered this actual news, we did have to address the issue, and but not because we chose to, but because it was such a ridiculous distraction from the important business that we should be doing here, that the president’s committed to doing and Congress should be doing to help the economy grow and help it create jobs. We can revisit that, but I think the American people are pretty fed up with this kind of nonsense.”

In a news conference a year ago, President Obama claimed that during the budget debate “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.”

In fact, only about four percent of all news coverage that week was about Obama’s citizenship. However, the percentages were much higher on cable networks. Figures for that time provided to us by the Project for Excellence in Journalism show MSNBC devoted twice as much air time to the birther debate as Fox.

MSNBC
including “The Ed Show,” “Hardball,” “The Last Word,” and “The Rachel Maddow Show”

  • 28% of airtime studied was devoted to the 2012 election
  • 10% of airtime studied was devoted to Obama
  • A subset of that Obama airtime was coded “citizenship and religion rumors” to include “birther” coverage, which was 92% of the Obama coverage

Fox
including “Special Report w/Bret Baier,” “Fox Report w/Shepard Smith,” “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Hannity”

  • 16% of airtime studied was devoted to 2012 election
  • 5% of airtime studied was devoted to Obama
  • A subset of that Obama airtime was coded “citizenship and religion rumors” to include “birther” coverage, which was 8% of the Obama coverage

CNN
including “The Situation Room,” “John King, USA,” “In The Arena,” and “Anderson Cooper 360″

  • 11% of airtime studied was devoted to 2012 election
  • 5% of airtime studied was devoted to Obama
  • A subset of that Obama airtime was coded “citizenship and religion rumors” to include “birther” coverage, which was 100% of the Obama coverage.

At the time, Associate Director Mark Jurkowitz said MSNBC consistently devotes more of its airtime to politics, based on PEJ’s research, while CNN generally spends the least amount of time on politics of the three cable networks.

So, did Carney mean that MSNBC “aided and abetted” the birther debate?

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