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Financial Non-Accountability At CNS, Pandemic Edition

Throughout 2020, editor Terry Jeffrey continued to fret about growing federal deficits driven by coronavirus relief -- but he still refused to call out the Republican president and Republican Senate under which they occurred.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/11/2021

Terry Jeffrey

The last time ConWebWatch checked in with editor in chief Terry Jeffrey, he was finishing 2019 in his usual fashion: obsessing over documenting federal budget deficits but refusing to call out President Trump and Senate Republicans for their roles in creating them over the past few years, all while staying silent about a massive year-end spending bill he would have certainly squawked about if a Democrat was president.

Jeffrey came into the new year with two more articles about federal deficits. The first, on Dec. 31, asserted:

The federal debt increased by a record $10,796,419,662,320 in the decade that is coming to a close today, according to data published by the U.S. Treasury.

This was the first decade in the history of the nation when increases in the federal debt averaged more than $1 trillion per year.

As usual, Jeffrey did not mention Trump's name, though he also did not mention President Obama's or that the large amount of deficit spending under his presidency was done to help pull the country out of a serious recession. He did, however, accompany his story with a picture of both Trump and Obama.

Jeffrey started 2020 by following up in usual form in a Jan. 14 article:

The federal government spent a record $1,163,090,000,000 in the first three months of fiscal 2020 (October through December), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released Monday afternoon.

That was up $48,008,200,000 from the $1,115,081,800,000 (in constant December 2019 dollars) that the federal government spent in the first three months of fiscal 2019.

While spending a record amount of money in the first quarter of fiscal 2020, total federal tax collections were only the third highest in the nation’s history.


With the record spending in the October-through-December period exceeding the third-highest tax collections in history, the federal government ran a deficit of $356,578,000,000 during the period.

Again, Jeffrey failed to mention under whose presidency all this record spending and mounting deficits were taking place. And, as usual, he used a picture of Trump and Nancy Pelosi to illustrate it, as if the two are equally responsible. But Trump's head is facing backwards so you can't see his face, while Pelosi is easily recognizable, falsely suggesting that Pelosi is mostly to blame.

In a Feb. 12 article, Jeffrey did his monthly piece on how "The federal government set records for both the amount of taxes it collected and the amount of money it spent in the first four months of fiscal 2020 (October through January)." As usual, the words "Trump" and "Republican" are absent, and Jeffrey threw in his favorite stock photo image of Trump and Nancy Pelosi, as if Pelosi bore equal blame for the situation even though she controls only one-half of Congress and none of the Executive Branch.

Coronavirus deficit spending

Then came the coronavirus pandemic -- and the massive stimulus bills designed to counteract the economic impact of the pandemic that Trump has signed. Jeffrey still saw fit to complain about all the spending while refusing to send any explicit blame Trump's way.

An April 9 article by Jeffrey complained that "The debt of the federal government topped $24 trillion for the first time on Tuesday, when it climbed from $23,917,212,663,857.59 to $24,011,523,316,653.36, according to data released by the Treasury Department." As per usual, Jeffrey doesn't breathe Trump's name, and the article is illustrated with yet another misleading stock photo of Trump with Pelosi.

On April 23, Jeffrey groused that "passed a $483-billion spending bill to further aid Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic---with only six members of the 100-member Senate participating." Even though the Senate is controlled by Republicans, the image he used to accompany the article was that of a Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer.

Jeffrey huffed in an April 28 article that "The federal debt has increased by more than $1 trillion so far in the month of April, according to data released by the U.S. Treasury." Strangely, Jeffrey didn't mention coronavirus stimulus as being the reason for that. The article got a change-up for an illustration: a stock photo of Pelosi with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

On May 8, Jeffrey complained that "The debt of the federal government topped $25 trillion for the first time on Tuesday, when it climbed from $24,948,983,700,916.84 to $25,057,924,023,406.80." Again, he didn't identify coronavirus relief as the reason for this. The stock photo this time was actually somewhat balanced, featuring Trump and Pelosi with Vice President Mike Pence.

Jeffrey was in full lecture tone in a May 13 article:

The federal government has spent more money and run a larger deficit in the first seven months of fiscal 2020 (October through April) than in any previous year, according to the data published today in the Monthly Treasury Statement.

In fact, in the month of April alone, the federal government spent more money than it ever has before in a single month and ran up a larger deficit that it has before in a single month.

In the first seven months of the fiscal year, the federal government spent a record $3,326,683,000,000 while bringing in only $1,845,379,000,000 in total receipts—thus running a record deficit of approximately $1,481,303,000,000.

Missing yet again was the fact that that deficit money was spent on coronavirus relief. He reverted back to an old favorite stock photo of Trump and Pelosi.

None of these articles mention Trump by name, and none identify this deficit spending as belonging to Trump the way he blamed Obama for deficits under his presidency.

By contrast, when Pelosi proposed a new $3 trillion stimulus bill, Jeffrey's CNS touted Republicans attacking that bill as unnecessary and fiscally irresponsible:

Jeffrey himself attacked one proposed provision that funded suicide prevention efforts among LGBT youth, while Melanie Arter bashed another provision that "would provide $1200 stimulus payments to illegal aliens" who pay taxes and have a federal taxpayer ID number.

The hypocrisy was astounding. It got worse.

Jeffrey served up his usual monthly articles on federal spending on June 10 -- the first on how "The federal government set records for both the amount of money it spent and the deficit it ran in the first eight months of fiscal 2020" and the second on how "The debt of the federal government topped $26 trillion for the first time." As usual, the words "Trump" and "Republicans" appear nowhere in the article even though they signed off on all that debt, and the articles are illustrated by stock photos of President Trump with Nancy Pelosi -- once again trying to saddle Pelosi with blame even though she controls only one-half of one branch of government.

In his June 24 column, however, Jeffrey ridiculously placed all the blame on Pelosi:

In the 2,000 days that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now served as the leader of a division of the federal government that the Constitution gives authority over all appropriations, the federal debt has increased by a record $9,655,515,485,628.06.

That is more than all the debt the federal government accumulated ($8,670,596,242,973.04) under all of the House speakers who served before Pelosi first took that position on Jan. 4, 2007.

The record $9,655,515,485,628.06 in federal debt amassed during Pelosi's first 2,000 days as speaker works out to an average of $4,827,757,742.81 in added debt per day.

None of her predecessors comes close to that mark. She is, indisputably, this nation's Queen of Debt.

It will mark her place in history.

Jeffrey is deliberately leaving out a lot of context. For instance, Pelosi's six years as House speaker coincided with two financial crises -- the 2009 recession and the coronavirus pandemic -- that required large infusions of emergency federal spending to rejuvenate the economy.

Jeffrey also forgot to mention that four of Pelosi's six years as speaker were under Republican presidents, meaning that Republicans also signed off on much of that spending for which Jeffrey is solely and absurdly blaming Pelosi.

The word "Trump" doesn't appear, of course. The word "Republican" appears only in the final paragraph when he huffed, "Americans should hope that when Pelosi leaves the speakership, she is not succeeded by someone who shares her ability to borrow and spend — even when serving with Republican presidents." Jeffrey made sure to ignore the fact that Republicans are an equal or greater partner with Pelosi on the spending Jeffrey claims to abhor and could have objected to it or blocked it -- but chose not to.

In addition to censoring inconvenient history, Jeffrey also got some of his numbers wrong; an editor's note buried at the end of the column states that "The debt numbers from the tenure of former Speaker Dennis Hastert were incorrect as initially reported in this column and have been corrected."

Getting facts straight -- especially when they run counter to his narrative -- is not Jeffrey's strong suit, apparently.

Jeffrey served up the usual in a July 13 article:

The federal government set records for both the amount of money it spent and the deficit it ran in the first nine months of fiscal 2020 (October through June), according to data released today in the Monthly Treasury Statement.

During the October-June period, the government spent a record $5,004,372,000,000 while it collected $2,260,069,000,000 in total taxes.

The resulting deficit of $2,744,303,000,000 was the largest the federal government has ever run in the first nine months of a fiscal year.

The words "Trump" and "Republican" appear nowhere in the article, of course, and it's illustrated by a stock photo that includes Democrats -- in this case, Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer along with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence -- even though, again, Republicans and not Democrats are in control of the Senate and Pelosi controls only one-half of one branch of government.

This was followed by a July 15 column by Jeffrey that whined:

Back in fiscal 2019, which ended last September before COVID-19 hit, the federal government set two records.

It collected more money in individual income taxes than in any previous year — and then spent more.

Did the Americans who paid that record sum in income taxes get their money's worth?

Or were they ripped off?


Now assume all of that remaining $441,061,000,000 was used to help pay for the $600,706,000,000 the government spent on the Department of Defense and Military Programs in fiscal 2018.

After expending every dollar of remaining individual income tax revenue, the government would still need to find another $159,645,000,000 to fully fund the nation's defense.

Thus, after funding the "benefits and services for people with low income" that were counted in the Congressional Research Service report and the net interest on the debt and a portion of the Defense Department and Military Programs, there would be no revenue left from individual income tax collections to pay for such things as a Department of Justice or a Department of State.

Or a White House, House or Senate.

Again, Jeffrey failed to state the unambiguous fact that it was a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Senate that took the lead in allegedly ripping Americans off.

Jeffrey also failed to mention a conflict of interest: He and his employer, the Media Research Center, contributed to this growing federal deficit by accepting more than $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program money. That tells us that Jeffrey really doesn't have the courage of the conservative principles he likes to espouse.

The Pelosi-blaming reached an absurd level in a July 23 article by intern John Jakubisin, which was actually straightforward by CNS standards on the deficit issue:

Since Donald Trump took office in 2017, federal spending has soared to record highs, pushing the federal debt up more than $6.5 trillion to a total of more than $26.5 trillion. Some conservative leaders denounced this spending as “deadly” and appalling and stressed that GOP members of Congress are not serious about the debt or reducing the size of the government.

Over the last few days, CNS News sent the following question to numerous conservatives across the country: “Republicans have controlled both the White House and the Senate for the past 42 months, but during that time the federal debt has climbed more than 6 and a half trillion dollars--rising from about 19.9 trillion to $26.5 trillion. Do you believe the Republicans are serious about rolling back the federal debt? What should Congress do to roll it back?”

The article is actually fairly decent and well focused. The issue is the image that was chosen to promote it, a composite of President Trump, Senate leader Mitch McConnell, and ... Pelosi. Who is not even mentioned in the article at all.

That's right: CNS finally called out Republicans by name for all the deficit spending, and it still found a way to blame Pelosi as well.

Shocker: Jeffrey (briefly) calls out Republicans

In his July 29 column, Jeffrey finally called out the Trump administration for noting that an administration official touted President Trump's purported "commitment to fiscal responsibility" while noting that the federal debt increased by $1.2 trillion under Trump last year and that deficit spending increased by more than $4 trillion this year driven by Trump-signed coronavirus relief bills. Then, because Trump alone can't be blamed for the deficit even though he's the one who ultimately signs off on it, Jeffrey then attacks House Democrats for wanting to spend even more on coronavirus relief:

But now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would like to see Congress enact the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, an additional COVID-19 relief bill that the Democrat-controlled House approved in May. According to the CBO's estimate, this bill would increase the deficit by $3.445 trillion.

Thus, with just one bill, Congress could increase the deficit by more than all the money the federal government borrowed in the first 214 years of this republic.


If the speaker gets her way, Americans born this year will be paying interest on the additional trillions of dollars she hopes to add to the debt this year — for their entire working lives.

Jeffrey used harsher language to bash Pelosi over a proposed bill that will almost certainly never be approved for that amount after negotiations with the GOP-controlled Senate than he did the actual bills that Trump signed.

By the time Jeffrey's mid-month stories rolled around, however, he wasn't so interested in assigning blame where in belongs. In an Aug. 12 article, Jeffrey wrote:

The federal government set records for the amount of money it spent and the size of the deficit it ran up in the first ten months of fiscal 2020 (October through July), according to data released today in the Monthly Treasury Statement.

In fact, the $5,630,859,000,000 the federal government spent in the first ten months of this fiscal year is more than the government has ever spent in any previous full fiscal year.

Jeffrey didn't mention the words "Trump" or "Republican" in his article. And, as per usual, the stock photo includes Democrats as if they were equally responsible for the spending approved by a Republican-controlled Senate and signed by a Republican president. Jeffrey was also being doubly dishonest here by not disclosing that the MRC accepted more than $1 million in PPP money.

In other words, at least part of Jeffrey's salary this year is being paid in part from the federal debt. As far as we know, he hasn't turned it down due to concerns over federal overspending.

Jeffrey complained in a Sept. 11 article:

Federal spending has topped $6 trillion for the first time in any fiscal year in the nation’s history and the federal deficit has topped $3 trillion for the first time, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement for August that was released today.

There is still another month left in fiscal 2020, which runs through the end of September.

As per usual, the words "Trump" and "Republican" do not appear, and it's illustrated with one of his favorite stock photos of Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- falsely implying that Democrats share equal blame for the size of the deficit when it controls only one-half of one relevant branch of government while Republicans control one and a half branches.

Jeffrey followed up on Oct. 2 with a similar complaint: "The debt of the federal government topped $27 trillion for the first time on Thursday, October 1, when it climbed from an opening balance of $26,945,391,194,615.15 to a closing balance of $27,026,921,935,432.41, according to data published by the U.S. Treasury Department." Again, Jeffrey avoids mention of who's actually in charge of the government, he uses another stock photo suggesting that Democrats share equal blame, and he didn't mention that he's personally benefiting from that deficit because his employer accepting coronavirus stimulus money.

Ironically, an opinion column published by CNS was (somewhat) more balanced than Jeffrey's supposedly objective reporting. A Sept. 24 column by Hans Bader actually told the truth that Jeffrey won't, but unfortunately went into speculation whataboutism: "Trump let budget deficits rise. Joe Biden will likely increase budget deficits far more."

Jeffrey followed up in a Nov. 12 article:

The federal government set an all-time record for the amount of money it spent in the first month of a fiscal year, when it spent $521,769,000,000 in October, the first month of fiscal 2021, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

Before this year, the most the federal government had ever spent in the first month of a fiscal year was in October 2009, when it spent $483,357,690,000 in constant October 2020 dollars.

This October’s record of $521,769,000,000 was $38,411,310,000—or 8 percent—more than that.


That is the second largest deficit the federal government has ever recorded in the first month of a fiscal year. The largest-ever deficit in the first month of a fiscal year came in October 2008, when the deficit hit $285,160,410,000 in constant October 2020 dollars.

As per his pattern, the words "Trump" and "Republican" are nowhere to be found, despite the fact that Republicans control the presidency and the Senate and, thus, are in control of federal spending. He also omitted context: Not only did Jeffrey not mention the coronavirus pandemic as the key reason federal spending exploded this year, he didn't mention that a major recession was the reason for increased deficit spending in 2008 and 2009.

And, as usual, Jeffrey's choice of a file photo -- featuring Trump, Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer -- falsely implies equal blame for the deficit when Trump is the president and has the ultimate veto power over the budget.

Jeffrey served up his usual complaint again in a Dec. 10 article, with the usual omissions, complaining that "The federal government spent a record $886,587,000,000 in the first two months of fiscal 2021 (October and November)," which was "the second highest deficit the federal government has ever run in the first two months of a fiscal year."

Coronavirus relief confusion

But Jeffrey was officially silent as the Republican president and a Republican Senate he has mostly avoided singling out for blame presided over the passage of a coronavirus relief bill and a related bill to keep the government funded. There were two anonymously written articles (with a certain Jeffrey-esque vibe) singling out obscure provisions, but it's unclear whether CNS backs or opposes them since they both reflect certain conservative principles:

  • The first noted that the bill "includes a passage on page 997 that sets aside $35 million to provide grants to groups that provide 'education in…voluntarily refraining from non-marital sexual activity.'"
  • The second stated that it "includes a passage on pages 415 and 416 that provides $250 million of 'enhanced border security' in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt Tunisia and Oman."

That was followed by a article by Craig Bannister noting that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham offered a "defense of the $10 million allocated to Pakistani 'gender programs.'"

Then, when Trump attacked the spending bill and called for even higher coronavirus relief payments to Americans, CNS played it straight. In a Dec. 23 article, Susan Jones uncritically repeated Trump's framing of the bill having "plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it"; this was followed by an article from Bannister noting that "Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar says Congress should send President Donald Trump what he wants: a COVID-19 stimulus bill that contains nothing but direct $2,000 payments to the American people." There was also some stock whining from Rand Paul about all the spending in a Dec. 22 article by Jones, who proclaimed Paul as being "true to his fiscal conservatism."

While CNS published no article on Trump's eventual signing of the bills as passed by Congress, managing editor Michael W. Chapman used a Dec. 28 article to highlight a report on government waste featuring "the creation of a $6.9 million 'smart toilet,' which operates with three cameras, one of which can identify a user's 'analprint.'"

CNS tried to return to form in a Jan. 6 article by Jones headlined "Biden: 'Free, Free, Free': Vaccinations, 'COVID Treatment,' $2,000 Checks..." But Jones failed to inform her readers that Trump not only supported the $2,000 stimulus payments as noted above, he also supported free COVID vaccinations and free COVID treatment.

Most of Jeffrey's articles on the deficit state at the end: "The business and economic reporting of is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold." Would Wold actually be happy with Jeffrey's biased, incomplete reporting here? We suspect not.

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