by Eric Boehlert
Did you hear that "some are saying" Barack Obama's inauguration will cost "$160 million," which is $100 million more than George W. Bush's last swearing-in? That's the tale the crew at Fox & Friends was telling on January 15. "Why does the thing have to cost so much?" demanded co-host Gretchen Carlson. "I don't get it. George Bush spent $42.3 million and that was just four years ago." She wondered why Obama needed "another $100 million" for his celebration.
The Fox News crew wasn't alone. The Internet and cable news were filled with chatter about the jaw-dropping (and unsubstantiated) number suddenly attached to Obama's swearing-in. But the sloppy reporting and online gossip about the price tag illustrated what happens when journalists don't do their job and online partisans take advantage of that kind of work.
It also highlighted the type of news you can generate when making blatantly false comparisons. In this case, it was the cost of the Obama and Bush inaugurations. The connection was unfair because the Obama figure of $160 million that got repeated in the press included security costs associated with the massive event. But the Bush tab of $42 million left out those enormous costs. Talk about stacking the deck.
The misinformation first arrived in the form of an underreported newspaper article in America, and then one in London. Between them, and thanks to furious transatlantic online linking, the reports gave birth to the story that Obama's inauguration was going to cost nearly four times what the country spent on Bush's bash in 2005 -- that the Obama inauguration would cost almost $120 million more.