News Brief — Reconciliation Bill Negotiations: A Media Autopsy

Citations Needed | November 1, 2021 | Transcript

Citations Needed
23 min readNov 2, 2021


Nima Shirazi: Welcome to a Citations Needed News Brief. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: You can follow Citations Needed on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed, become a supporter of our work through All your support through Patreon is incredibly appreciated. We do these News Briefs in between our regularly scheduled episodes, oftentimes they are for our patrons, we do patron-only News Briefs, but some, like this one, are public and for everyone to enjoy. I mean, we hope everyone enjoys all of them, but because we really wanted to talk in between our kind of regularly scheduled episodes about what is going on with the Reconciliation Bill. The large, I guess, in part ‘building back better’ work.

Adam: Yeah. The Building Back Better Bill.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: It started off at $7.5 trillion, then went to $3.5 trillion, then went to $2 trillion, then went to $1.75 trillion.

Nima: Yeah, pretty soon, it’s gonna be like $15 bucks.

Adam: Yeah. So this weekend, you’ll be listening to this on Monday, Biden announced their quote-unquote “framework” for this bill, and we won’t get into the weeds necessarily of the bill. For the purposes of this suffice to say it started off with over a 10-year period $75 billion for housing choice vouchers to help alleviate homelessness, $450 billion for universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds, $85 billion to repair rundown schools, $35 billion for child nutrition for 9 million kids to receive free lunch, $111 billion for tuition-free college, expanded eligibility for DACA recipients, the expansion of Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision, and lowering the Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60 therefore allowing millions of seniors to get Medicare, and $150 billion in clean energy incentives, and then there’s another $300 billion in tax incentives, which is sort of not spending, it’s sort of not receiving tax money, it’s a little more complicated in that.

Nima: Now, of course, this is all numbers over 10 years, right? So that’s not, those aren’t yearly budgets, yearly numbers, those are over 10 years, something that is still far, far, far, far less than any kind of military spending that just gets rubber-stamped.

Adam: Right. So this was meaningfully gutted, everything but some modest vouchers for dental was gutted from the dental, hearing aid in Medicare expansion package, that was mostly gone, some of the climate stuff stayed in, but it was sort of reduced to a lot of exotic tax cuts. They means-tested a lot of, the child care, turned it into sort of tax credits, made it sort of overly wonkish, very difficult to fill out. But there is obviously spending on infrastructure, and then other things. So it’s sort of mostly all the good stuff is gone, some is still there. That’s I guess, okay. But what we wanted to do today was kind of do a little autopsy about how the media covered it. That’s sort of our job. I sort of frantically and angrily wrote several articles for my Substack on how the media was covering this. On October 5, I noted that and I want to say I was sort of one of the first to make this complaint, which is to say, it wasn’t until people started complaining that the media covered what was actually in the bill, and I wrote an article on October 5, entitled, “The Actual Human Stakes of the Reconciliation Bill Are Being Ignored in Favor of ‘Left vs Moderate’ Horse Race Coverage.”

Nima: Because it was always about this huge price tag, right?

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: And nothing about what was actually in it, so it just became this, what is Manchin saying, what is Sinema saying, and no one actually understood any of the real human stakes that are inherent in this bill or in bills like this, that actually should be driving the conversation. It just winds up being a big scary number, which also has everything to do with deficit worries that are trotted out time and again, when really, it’s just about making sure social spending doesn’t happen.

Adam: Because if something’s an abstract number, people don’t give a shit. It’s like in theory, abstractly, everybody wants to be this fiscal hawk who wants to tighten their belt and keep the budget balanced. But if you say you’re going to take school lunches away from poor kids, or take pre-K away from struggling mothers —

Nima: Or senior citizens can actually get healthcare.

Adam: Right. And so there were a couple polling firms who pulled each individual item on this quote-unquote “progressive wish list,” which we’ll get into later, and found that they were overwhelmingly popular, but then when you ask people, do you think we should lower our budget? They say, yes, of course, these two things are in contradiction and that’s sort of by design. So what I did in my initial article on October 5, I sort of did a snapshot, I just kind of covered one day of coverage, specifically CBS News, NBC News, an ABC Sinclair affiliate national news, and CNN over a few days, and I showed how they kept talking about the bill without mentioning anything that was in it. Soon after — I think coincidentally, I’m not taking credit for this — Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez and others started saying, ‘Well, the media is not covering what’s in the bill, therefore, it’s this big scary top line $3.5 trillion number.’

Nima: Right.

Adam: And then after which they sort of started doing it more, and they all complained, specifically Maggie Haberman, heir to the Haberman New York Times dynasty.

Nima: Who is, incidentally, the Washington correspondent for The Times.

Adam: Who’s the Washington correspondent The New York Times, one of the more grating, spent 10 years cutting her teeth at The New York Post, one of the most vile right-wing rags in the world, kept sort of doing the snarky tweets about this. So on October 27, they announced that paid family leave was out of the bill in its current iteration, and she snarkily tweeted out, quote, “Why hasn’t the press educated the public about what’s in the bill?” The implication being that they ended up cutting all the good stuff anyway, therefore, the media didn’t really have to cover what was in the bill anyway, and this is, of course, a big fucking joke to her. It’s a big joke to a lot of the political press.

Nima: Why cover the stuff that’s not going to make it in the final version, even though the only reason why everything is being cut is because the media isn’t telling people what it is so there’s no public pressure on the fucking legislators to keep that stuff in.

Adam: So on October 18, CNN’s Brianna Keilar also did a sort of snarky and dismissive and very defensive segment on accusations from progressives that they were not covering what was in the bill, where she said this:

[Begin Clip]

Brianna Keilar: Senator Bernie Sanders put out a statement this weekend blaming the media as the main reason for why Americans don’t know what’s in the Build Back Better plan. He wrote, quote, “At the top of the list is the reality that the mainstream media has done an exceptionally poor job in covering what actually is in the legislation. There have been endless stories about the politics of passing Build Back Better, the role of the President, the conflicts in the House and Senate, the opposition of two senators, the size of the bill, and very limited coverage as to what the provisions of the bill are and the crises for working people that they address.” Let’s take a look at what all he is saying here because while the media should always be striving to do a better job, it’s just not true that the media hasn’t covered what is in the bill, and doesn’t continue to do so. media outlet after media outlet has covered this, and it’s very easy to find online if you want to know about it. And on television, I mean, just looking at CNN segment after segment about what is in the bill. In his statement, Sanders refers to how popular the policy provisions in the legislation are when Americans are polled about them. So that’s what Democrats obviously should be selling. But one of Sanders former colleagues, Al Franken, says Democrats could be doing a better job of that.

[End Clip]

Adam: So I responded to this saying, If I’m CNN, right? If I’m owned by AT&T, I have millions and millions of dollars at my disposal, I have hundreds of researchers and interns and reporters, I’m the largest news organization probably in the world, other than maybe The New York Times or the AP, and someone says you haven’t covered the bill, an editor in good faith who was genuinely willing to listen to criticism would say, ‘Well, this is an empirical question, why don’t we look at the total minutes of coverage of the bill and see what was in the coverage.’ So with my humble Substack and our researcher and writer Gabe Levine-Drizin, I said, ‘Hey, Gabe,’ again, we’re paying out of pocket here. We’re not a big organization, it’s just a Substack, it’s not a ton of money. I said, ‘Well, why don’t we take 12 segments, which I think is a pretty reasonable sample size on the top three shows, four each and look at what percent of the minutes CNN —

Nima: -is devoting to this, yeah.

Adam: When they talked about the bill that they dedicated to horse race versus the substance of the bill, what was actually in the bill, and he did just that. Gabe is a great researcher. He did 12 segments at the end of September over a four-day period during the height of the debate from September 27 to September 30, and found that 91.3 percent of coverage was horse race coverage, and the remaining 8.7 percent discussed in some way, either directly or indirectly, the substance of what was actually in the bill. So it was an 11-to-1 ratio they talked about horse race over substance, and what Brianna did was she sort of flashed some screenshots, ostensibly showing screencaps of CNN covering the substance, but of course, most of them didn’t, and many of them were after they started complaining. So one thing you saw was that after they complained, then they would cover what was in the bill and say, ‘See, we’re doing that.’ It’s like, yeah, only because you were publicly shamed by high status legislators into not doing your fucking job and then many of them said, ‘Oh, it’s not our job to sell your bill.’ It’s not your job to sell the bill but it’s your job to say that these are real human stakes. It’s not even just what they didn’t do, they didn’t discuss the substance instead of abstract terms, they never put a human face to this. I’ll give you a counter example. Remember back in 2017, early 2018 when all these kinds of revelations kept leaking out by congressional Democrats in the CIA and FBI about Russian influence operations, and CNN sent multiple reporters to go ambush-interview random Trump supporters who fell for these Russian disinformation rallies in 2016 and 2017?

Nima: Right.

Adam: They sort of sought them out, put a microphone in front of their face while they were outside of fucking Jewel-Osco or whatever.

Nima: Sure.

Adam: Imagine if they had interviewed a mother who was struggling to pay for child care of her three-year-old in the Bronx.

Nima: And said during the summer or in September, whatever, not when it’s this homestretch squabbling horse race crap, but actually saying like, ‘So this bill that is being presented will do this, will do X, Y, Z, it has all of these things in it. Do you support this? Do you encourage your lawmakers, your elected officials to support this bill? It will do this.’ The press is not being a fucking neutral arbiter by not doing that, right? They are actively not doing that, which means they are deciding to actually cover something in a certain way as opposed to a different way and in so doing are making an ideological, not only editorial choice.

Adam: Right, because it’s not even just the fact that they don’t cover the actual line-item substances by they don’t cover the humanity of it all.

Nima: Right. These are human interest stories, right? Budgets are fucking human interest, but it’s never covered that way, it’s covered like a fucking receipt.

Adam: Right. So whereas the second we start talking about withdrawing from Afghanistan, you get 1,900 stories on CNN, bleeding hearts stories about women in Afghanistan that don’t want us to leave, they can do this if they want to, they can marshal the resources if they want to, they can talk to teenagers who would get free college under the Reconciliation Bill as it was originally presented, they could talk to mothers who are struggling, they could talk to seniors who don’t have dental care, they could put a human face to this, they deliberately chose not to, not a single one of these segments that I saw over a six-week period, during the height of the debate, put a human face to any of this and the extent to which that 8.7 percent of those segments discussed it, 90 percent of that was because they had to invite a token progressive on. They had Ocasio-Cortes or Bernie Sanders or whomever, and if it wasn’t for those people trying to smuggle in the substance of the bill, they never would have fucking discussed it, and that is an editorial choice.

Nima: Because that’s not what’s important to them.

Adam: Well, yeah, Comcast, which owns MSNBC and AT&T, which owns CNN, AT&T in particular is a member of the RATE Coalition, which is a lobbying group actively opposing the tax hikes inherent in this bill, and Comcast is part of the Business Roundtable, which is also lobbying against tax hikes, and not to say that informs 100 percent of their coverage, but obviously, there’s no institutional incentive to really care about this.

Nima: Right. There are corporate incentives to do something and there are human stakes that are being deliberately omitted.

Adam: Yeah, and they simply don’t give a shit, and again, this is an empirical question. If they keep snarkily saying we covered it, a reporter from the AP yesterday said, ‘Oh, look, Politico covered it.’ Politico wasn’t covering it for weeks, I documented this, Politico didn’t cover the substance of the bill, they had a whole vertical dedicated to negotiations.

Nima: Right.

Adam: Over a 10-day period not once did they actually mention what was actually in the bill.

Nima: Right.

Adam: I mean, Politico is sort of horse-race already, but and then later, they covered it on I think, October 27, and everybody, all these blue checkmarks, snarky motherfuckers were like, ‘Oh, well, look, they’ —

Nima: ‘Well, it’s gutted anyway so what if we had said all that stuff that’s not even in there anymore?’ It’s like it’s not in there because you didn’t cover it.

Adam: It’s just a game. It’s just a game.

Nima: It doesn’t work the other way.

Adam: Blue team versus red team.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: Big scary number, B roll of money being printed. They all use this — CBS, NBC — all do the B roll of money being printed, which we never get when we talk about military budgets, military budgets require no public debate, no skepticism.

Nima: Well, no, because then you get B roll of women in fucking hijab and burkas, right?

Adam: Right.

Nima: Because it’s always, our empire is always tied to phony human rights stakes.

Adam: Well, human interest stories, and you just don’t get those when it comes to spending on social programs. You get basically nothing.

Nima: Right.

Adam: And so CNN and MSNBC, I also did a piece on their use of oil and coal flacks because this was the biggest, according to NPR at least, this is the biggest climate change bill ever presented. Like not even close, like 10 times bigger than any climate bill that’s ever even come close to passing, even in its trimmed down version it’s the biggest climate bill ever. And to show sort of how the punditry game works, I did an article on October 23, called, “​​CNN, MSNBC Run Commentary Bashing Climate Legislation From Coal and Oil PR Flacks Without Disclosing Conflicts.” This probably deserves its own episode, but I’ll touch on it here briefly, Nima. There’s a very common practice in corporate cable media of having quote-unquote “pollsters” or “strategists,” if someone is referred to as a strategist, a pollster or an insider, there’s a 95 percent chance this person works in public relations for large corporations, the vast majority of whom we have no idea who they are. It’s a black box of corporate clients, which presents itself with several conflicts of interest. So Mike Murphy, who’s a standard, who’s on Brian Williams’ 11th Hour primetime show almost every night, two or three times a week, runs a public relations firm called Revolutionary Agency according to his two most recent bios — they’ve been a little dormant lately, but there’s no reason to think they’ve stopped working — it’s in all of his bios, and Revolutionary Agency PR historically represents coal and oil companies. They represent the Fueling American Jobs Coalition, which is a front group for oil and gas and have done lobbying campaigns for coal industry trade groups. Mike Murphy’s on the red team, he’s the Republican, right? So he goes on there and says, you know, he basically did the over a three week period did the whole kooky progressives, Ocasio-Cortez lives in the far left queens, Joe Manchin is different, in all the sort of concern trolling, this by the Republican who is suddenly very concerned about the electoral success of Democrats.

Nima: Oh, always. Of course.

Adam: Bashing what he called the quote-unquote “progressive dream lists.”

Nima: The best friend.

Adam: Right. So this guy’s work is literally paid by oil and gas companies, he’s on television, primetime television two, three times a night on MSNBC, bashing the far left for the bill. Last night they had on David Plouffe, who is the former campaign manager and advisor to President Obama, who then became a total PR flack, went to go work for Uber, he’s on the board of directors of Oscar Health, a private health insurance company, he is one of the senior counsels for Humana, a private health insurance company, works for Precision Strategies, which counts among its black box clients. Again, who knows who their clients are including General Electric, who’s lobbied against the Build Back Better high taxes bill. They both go on their blue team, red team, and they just sit there and they fucking spend 30 minutes, 15 minutes just bashing Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, the progressive wish list, and it’s like these are people who are literally paid, I mean, I can’t think of any greater distillation of corporate media than you have, you have the right sector of corporate America which is oil, gas, the interior, industry, manufacturing, Koch brothers, going with the kind of more coastal banking, telecommunications, health insurance, Democratic side of the corporate ledger, both arguing for a quote-unquote “slimmed down” bill because they don’t want high because they, you know, they may disagree on things like climate, because, again, Democrats are on the dole kind of on climate, but that’s pretty much the major difference and the right we’ll take tobacco money, too. That’s kind of a major difference. But basically the right and left wings of the US Chamber of Commerce debating on television, on a network owned by an organization, Comcast, who is part of a business coalition lobbying against high taxes and everybody basically agrees with the exception of the occasional token progressive they’ll kind of bring on to cover their ass like maybe 1 percent of the time. They basically all agree that these are a bunch of wacky far left —

Nima: But then they only ask those progressives how they’re going to pay for it.

Adam: Well, yeah, they grill them, they load the debt question or they give them their own horse race, like Jake Tapper does this every time, ‘What are you going to give up? What’s on the chopping block?’ Mr. Jake Tapper, Mr. The Ultimate Concerned Citizen.

Nima: Right. But they don’t even line-item the stuff because it’s all about the money. It’s literally, it’s not like, ‘What are you going to take off to lower the budget?’ Which is disingenuous in itself, but they don’t even want anyone talking about what services, what programs, what benefits will be removed, they just want the number lowered, it’s just the numbers, it’s just on a ledger.

Adam: Well, they don’t want the high taxes, here’s what they don’t like, this is why they love means-testing, because they know if you means-test something to death, you make it impossible to use and politically unpopular, and the more impossible something is to use, you know, I think you have to fill up four different forms to get one of the pre-K tax credits, you have to show work requirements, income requirements, they know that if you just nickel and dimed to death, nobody’s gonna want to use it or it’s too confusing, and then it’s politically unpopular.

Nima: If you suffocate it by process and red tape, then —

Adam: By design, that’s what you do. And what they do is —

Nima: Exactly, exactly.

Adam: And this is why the budget thing is such a fucking patina because it’s like, ‘Oh, no, we got to lower the budget by making them more targeted.’ They love to talk about “targeted,” like it’s a cruise missile, it’s “targeted.” It’s not targeted, you’re making it so fucking exotic, and so difficult to use, and of course, that begins to also play into this, the more means-tested things are the more subject they are to racial demagoguery. Sort of the deserved and undeserved we, again, we could do a whole episode on this, but this is the mechanism, the concerns over deficits are the mechanism with which these things go and they die. And so one of the tropes I also wrote about I’m gonna keep quoting my own articles.

Nima: (Laughing.) I have this other article in here.

Adam: Well, I wrote a lot, I was really angry these last few weeks.

Nima: Good. Yeah.

Adam: “For US Media, Bloated Military Budgets Are ‘Must Pass’ While Modest Climate Provisions Are ‘Progressive Wish List.’” So I want to repeatedly, the original kind of $3.7 trillion, which is already a compromise, but they kept referring to that as a progressive wish list.

So NPR, September 27, 2021, quote, “Democrats decided they’d put their pent-up wish list of things they think the country needs into this big reconciliation bill.” Associated Press September 30, 2021, “Pelosi began debate this week on the infrastructure bill, which tops their wish list.” NBC News, October 3, 2021, “Democrats wanted to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and keep negotiating on the progressives’ larger social spending wish list.” PBS NewsHour October 3, 2021, “That was a kind of progressive wish list, pre-K, free community college, expanded health care, prescription drug prices, action on climate, senior care, child care.” October 5, 2021 in Wall Street Journal, “Democrats wrestled Tuesday with how to squeeze their wish list of programs and tax changes into a social policy and climate package whose size and scope centrists in the party are willing to support.” October 6, 2021, CNN, “Remove items from their massive wish list…” Bloomberg October 6, 2021, “Tough Choices Loom for Democrats Paring $3.5 Trillion Wish List.” The Economist, October 16, 2021, “Were this wish list passed in its entirety…” Associated Press, October 18, 2021, “Biden said Friday he prefers including all of the wish-list proposals.” On MSNBC, October 20, 2021, “…kind of a progressive wish list, like funding college tuition or investing in climate change solutions.” Politico, October 21, 2021, “Republican leaders are already using Democrats’ fiscal wish list as a political cudgel.”

It goes on and on and on, I’ll stop there. So Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines wish list as, quote, “A list of desired but often realistically unobtainable items.”

Nima: Right.

Adam: So they are editorializing that these are by definition not obtainable before they’ve even been debated.

Nima: That these are literally pie-in-the-sky as opposed to being what they actually are, which is a floor, not a ceiling. Like the wish list is not everything.

Adam: Well, it’s totally pejorative. It’s like a head patting, ‘Oh, it’s their progressive wish list.’ Like it’s some elective, they’re a five-year-old writing a list to Santa Claus, and maybe they’ll get the Barbies, but they’re not going to get the pony, right? And this kind of dismissive, fucking smug, condescending, casual dismissal of any kind of, you know — what do they call it? — social policy. If there’s one thing in the world that is not a wish list, it’s climate change policy, the science of climate is fucking non negotiable, intractable it is a scientific fact, and to even get close to taking the first steps to getting in the area where you may actually get serious about climate change is the definition of not a wish list. It is the definition of essential whereas, again, military spending, as we also noted in a News Brief in January of this year, has repeatedly been referred to as must-pass.

CBS News, “The House of Representatives on Monday overrode President Trump’s veto of an annual must-pass defense policy bill.” CNN, “Trump says he’ll veto must-pass defense spending bill.” ABC News, “Women could be drafted in must-pass defense bill.” ABC News, December 2020, “Trump’s veto threat on must-pass defense bill meets GOP resistance.” Politico, “Congress is moving forward on a must-pass defense policy bill.” Bloomberg, “​​F-35 breathing provisions added to must-pass defense bill.” So the defense bills must pass.

Nima: That’s right. Non-negotiable.

Adam: What’s more, what’s more must-pass, Nima, then climate fucking legislation? Even if you have no problem with homeless people fucking starving in the street or kids not being fed enough food, being malnourished, millions of kids don’t have adequate, even if you’re fine with that.

Nima: Right. Everyone not dying is not a wish list item.

Adam: In 50 to 100 years the earth will be uninhabitable, again, we talk about budget items. One thing Jake Tapper never mentions is that even if you strictly care about these high-end budget items, several studies have shown between $30 to $50 trillion in economic loss from climate change. Forget the human costs, forget the fact that this disproportionally affects the Global South and Black and brown, forget all that, if you’re just a fucking psychotic actuary and you just care about the numbers, it’s $30 to $50 trillion. It is more than the actual economy, because you can’t really put a number on what these unforeseen disaster effects of climate change, and it’s just fucking dismissed as a progressive wish list.

Nima: But Adam, if you actually want to not have planet Earth turned into just a ball of flame, how are you going to pay for that, Adam? How are you going to pay for that?

Adam: I mean, again, many progressives in Congress are just sitting there and they’re saying, ‘Okay, here’s the science, here’s the reality, here’s what other countries, quote-unquote “Western countries” spend on their social climate,’ like this is paltry, it’s nothing. I mean, what we spend on social services, outside of, you know, Social Security and Medicaid, which are, you know, sacrosanct, thank god, sort of, we’ll see about that, we just don’t spend that much money comparatively of our GDP, we spent basically nothing on climate change, we spent basically nothing on infrastructure, and they throw out these big scary $3.5 trillion numbers, and you know, people shit their pants by design. That’s why they give the big scary 10-year number, and this flies in the face, again, forget sort of basic social welfare, just the actual science of climate change.

Nima: All of these things together, healthcare, tax credits, universal pre-K, vision, dental, hearing, all of these things combined, combined, they should each have their own bills that are massive, all of these things are looped into this one bill that is in total, even at its highest level, before it gets gutted — which it’s gotten gutted — even before that, it is less than half of the must-pass military bills.

Adam: Because one of the parts of the frustration here, another thing we had was the kind of meta tone policing about progressives being angered by this, by the gutting of the bill, be grateful Obama released a message, his really head patting message telling people that you know, progress is sometimes hard and it’s frustrating. It’s like fuck you. And by all those savvy people, the kind of Josh Barros, the Matt Yglesiases, head-patting, ‘This is actually really good, you guys are just a bunch of fucking petulant progressives,’ right?

Nima: ‘Politics is about compromise,’ but that compromise only goes one way.

Adam: This is pretty much the last shot to get anything remotely progressive done in like the next 20 years and climate is not going to wait. Climate, we pretty much have a five year window to do anything, again, if you quote-unquote “believe the science,” which they supposedly do, but manifestly they clearly kind of don’t, and watching that sort of slip through your fingers as the media does nothing but fucking top line items, snark, dismissal, progressive wish list, progressive dream list, the media doesn’t cover it. It’s nothing but fucking smug in group signaling for a class of people that have absolutely zero interests in the moral dimensions of the thing they’re ostensibly supposed to cover, because it’s all red team versus blue team, it’s all fucking process, it’s all horse race, it’s all who won this, who’s gonna get elected here? It’s a fucking sport, again, the head of fucking CNN, Jeff Zucker, in 2019, told The New York Times that he covers politics as a sport, that they literally modeled their business and how they present the news on ESPN. He watched it and that’s how they learned how to do it. So long as it’s a sport, so long as it’s red team versus blue team, so long as there’s no human face to any of these policy decisions, again, forget fucking Junior not being able to afford lunch, forget grandma not being able to afford hearing aids, forget all that, just on climate alone they are deeply unserious about the realities of climate change, and when quote-unquote “progressives” try to like match 1/10 of what we need to do, 1/20 of what we need to do, and they say, ‘Look, this is just the reality, this is not an ideological whimsy, this is not a sort of fantasyland, this is just the reality,’ they’re just mocked, derided, and dismissed as being, again, sort of a kooky, immovable, rigid ideological, and it’s like, no, they’re not being rigid. The reality is rigid. The science of climate is rigid. It’s not going to change based on wishful thinking. And, again, from CNN to, you know, largely MSNBC, although they’re not as bad, forget Fox — Fox is just a fucking shithole anyway — to major publications like The New York Times, Politico, the Associated Press, they completely failed this moment by doing nothing but fucking glib dismissal and horse race. I mean, the way this reconciliation process was covered, was the reason I wrote 9,000 articles on it, was a total abomination.

Nima: But, you know, but hey, Adam, why hadn’t the press educated the public about what’s in the bill? Hmm?

Adam: And it’s like, if you’re going to get called on not doing your job, which you clearly didn’t, and you believe that you did, then go dedicate the resources to showing how you did it, like analyze 100 articles or 100 segments on CNN, and show me that some meaningful percentage, of course, they can’t do that because they didn’t do it. Don’t be just a defensive glib fucking asshole about it, have a little bit of humility. Think about the human immoral stakes of what it is that your coverage is going to result in, which is exactly what it resulted in, which is the most conservative version of this bill, which was maybe a fait accompli from the beginning, but, you know, a little self examination and a little self examination, especially around the issue of climate, which again, is non negotiable. It’s not something we can sort of wish away. It’s like Trump and Coronavirus, we’re just gonna act like it doesn’t exist.

Nima: And one day it’ll be a miracle. It’ll all just go away.

Adam: Yeah, exactly. It’ll just magically, climate change will solve itself.

Nima: That’s right. Well, I think that’s a good place to leave it Adam, that will do it for this Citations Needed News Brief. Of course you can follow the show on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed, and become a supporter of our work through We will be back very soon with more full length episodes, we release them on Wednesdays. So, stay tuned for that. Thank you again for listening, and sharing, and rating, and reviewing, and all that good stuff. That will do it. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Associate producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Morgan McAslan. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again, everyone, we’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed News Brief was released on Monday, November 1, 2021.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.