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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

JON STEWART'S MISINFORMATION

Pundit, newsman, comedian, nervous female? Jon Stewart's media identity is at stake following his appearance on "Fox News Sunday." Moderator Chris Wallace advised the Comedy Central host to get in touch with his inner journalist while fellow Fox anchor Bret Baier theorized that Mr. Stewart pines to be a political force but "when something goes wrong, he punts to 'I'm a comedian.' " Mr. Stewart, in turn, now accuses the network of editing his appearance, making him appear like a "woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown."

He also says that Fox News viewers are "consistently" misinformed, a claim that attracted the watchdog site PolitiFact. Fact checkers pored over media studies from the Pew Research Center and other sources to ultimately disprove Mr. Stewart's notion; see the bodacious report at www.politifact.com.

"We have three Pew studies that superficially rank Fox viewers low on the well-informed list, but in several of the surveys, Fox isn't the lowest, and other general-interest media outlets - network news shows, network morning shows and even the other cable news networks - often score similarly low. Meanwhile, particular Fox shows - 'The O'Reilly Factor' and Sean Hannity's show - actually score consistently well, occasionally even outpacing Stewart's own audience."

The report concludes, "The way Stewart phrased the comment, it's not enough to show a sliver of evidence that Fox News' audience is ill-informed. The evidence needs to support the view that the data shows they are 'consistently' misinformed - a term he used not once but three times. It's simply not true that 'every poll' shows that result. So we rate his claim false."

MATERNITY TOURISM

"Some pregnant foreigners arrange trips to the U.S., specifically timed so that they give birth during their stay, making any child born an automatic U.S. citizen. Do you think the U.S. Constitution should be changed to no longer allow for this?" asks a new Harris Poll. Sixty seven percent of the 2,100 respondents approve such a change, as do 81 percent of tea party supporters, 79 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of conservatives and 52 percent of liberals.

HUNTSMAN'S AMERICA

"I want you to know that I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the president of the United States. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better president; not who's the better American."

- Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman Jr., announcing his White House run Tuesday.

THE DEMOCRAT'S HUNTSMAN

"Jon Huntsman: When one direction for America just isn't good enough."

- New bumper sticker from the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

CAMPAIGNING PROWESS

The campaign trail: It's not all limousines and swank ballrooms. For Republican presidential hopefuls, it's also small towns, temporary podiums, hecklers. There is some relief, though - like the Iowa Tea Party Bus Tour, now under way, and set to end with a huge rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 2. The bus, which also provides local grass-roots training from town to town, is friendly territory. But the experience is not fancy.

Rick Santorum joined the tour at Creston on Monday, later to make an appearance at Adams Street Espresso. Herman Cain appears Wednesday in Marshalltown, poised to hold forth at Legends Bar and Grill. And come Saturday, Newt Gingrich is man of the hour in Indianola, appearing at the Pizza Ranch.

"This is the double-edged experience of the presidential trail. The big fuss of declaring their White House run is over. It's boots on the ground time, and this is their reality check," observes one hoity-toity Republican strategist, who admits preferring an office near K Street to a pizza joint in Indianola anytime.

PLEDGING TO BE FRUGAL

Clever advocacy groups once tracked which lawmakers pledged to actually read lengthy health care reform legislation before voting on it. Something similar is afoot. On Wednesday, 42 organizations - including FreedomWorks, Let Freedom Ring, Club for Growth, the National Taxpayers Union, Independent Women's Forum, Concerned Women of America and Tea Party Express - unveil another practical idea for Congress to consider.

The "Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge" requires lawmakers to oppose any debt limit increase unless Congress passes enough spending cuts to reduce the deficit. They must enforce spending caps and favor passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment, but only if it includes both a spending limitation and a super-majority for raising taxes.

The pledge has some Republican firepower. On hand in the Cannon House Office Building for its introduction: Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois. Track who signs the declaration at www.cutcapbalancepledge.com.

POLL DU JOUR

• 75 percent of likely U.S. voters are following news reports about the federal debt ceiling.

• 70 percent think it would be "bad for the economy" if the debt ceiling is not raised and the federal government defaults on loan obligations.

• 11 percent say a government default would have no impact, 7 percent say it would be good for the economy.

• 63 percent say failure to significantly cut spending is more dangerous than a default; 28 percent disagree.

• 56 percent see more short-term economic danger in failing to "significantly" cut federal spending than a government default.

• 34 percent disagree and say a default is worse.

Source: A Rasmussen reports survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters conducted June 16-17.

Misinformation, disinformation, plain old information to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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