AP ignores criticism

AP IGNORES CRITICISM…. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that the House Democratic health care plan cost “$1.5 trillion.” By the afternoon, the AP reporting didn’t attribute the price tag to anyone; it just stated the figure as fact.

House Dems threw a fit, which was understandable — the day before the AP blasted the $1.5 trillion figure to the world, the Congressional Budget Office pointed to a roughly $1 trillion cost over 10 years. The AP not only went with the much higher figure, it made no reference to the CBO score.

That, however, was yesterday. I’d hoped the AP would at least notice the criticism, and clarify the issue in the future. No such luck — this AP report ran about a half-hour ago.

Votes were planned Thursday in the Education and Labor and Ways and Means committees on a $1.5 trillion plan that majority House Democrats presented this week.

No source, no reference to the CBO figure released Tuesday, and no mention of the fact that House Democrats reject the “$1.5 trillion” figure.

Naturally, others are picking up on the AP’s reporting, and relaying the disputed figure. Time‘s Mark Halperin noted this morning that House committees are expected to vote today “on the Democrats’ $1.5 trillion plan.”

I don’t mean to sound picky, but reporting like this not only misinforms news consumers, it also has the potential to adversely affect the larger policy debate. If the AP is intent on using the $1.5 trillion figure, it could at least add some language to reflect the concerns, such as “a number Democratic leaders dispute,” or, “though the CBO puts the figure closer to $1 trillion.” Something.

I realize that the exact price of the proposal is unclear at this point. We’re dealing with estimates on legislation that’s still being shaped, and it’s possible the final figure may exceed, or not, the current figures. But in light of the published CBO score, the AP’s reporting is sloppy and incomplete, and runs the risk of undermining reform efforts.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.