A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Sunday Replay


On this week’s Sunday talk shows, we didn’t find any whoppers, or even major errors, by politicians. But there were still a few missteps about the nation’s economy, a federal judge’s sexual orientation and an economist’s political leanings.

Understating the Underperforming GDP

On ABC’s “This Week,” former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson was slightly off when talking about the nation’s gross domestic product. He said: “You can’t create jobs at a level we need in this economy without about a 4 percent growth rate, which is twice what we have now.”

His essential point is correct: Economic growth is too slow to create the new jobs needed to make up for the millions lost during the recession. But the growth rate is better than 2 percent, as stated by Gerson. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the GDP was 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2010.

Federal Judge Not ‘Open’ About His Sexual Orientation

On CBS’ "Face the Nation," Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker — who ruled against California’s same-sex law — was "openly gay." However, Walker has not publicly commented on his sexual orientation. In fact, he has sought to avoid any discussion of the issue while presiding over this and other cases involving gay rights.

Perkins: I think what you have is one judge who thinks he knows, and a district level judge, and — and an openly homosexual judge at that who says he knows better than not only 7 million voters in the state of California but voters in 30 states across the nation that have passed marriage amendment.

In February, San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross wrote that the "biggest open secret in the landmark trial over same-sex marriage being heard in San Francisco is that the federal judge who will decide the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, is himself gay." The columnists concluded as much after interviews with unnamed gay politicians and lawyers, saying they were told that Walker "has never taken pains to disguise — or advertise — his orientation."

Walker, who was appointed to the federal bench by Republican President George H.W. Bush, declined comment when asked by the paper about his sexual orientation. The columnists wrote: "Walker has declined to talk about anything involving the Prop. 8 case outside court, and he wouldn’t comment to us when we asked about his orientation and whether it was relevant to the lawsuit."

After his ruling, the Associated Press sought Walker’s response to allegations by critics of the ruling that his sexual orientation influenced his decision. But he did not respond to the AP’s request for an interview.

Boehner Stumbles

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio stumbled on a couple of facts during his appearance on NBC’s "Meet the Press."

He seemed stuck in a time warp when he said he had handed the speaker’s gavel to Democrat Nancy Pelosi "18 months ago," and reinforced that a few minutes later by saying he had become GOP leader at the same time.

Boehner: When I handed Nancy Pelosi the gavel 18 months ago …

Boehner: I told my colleagues 18 months ago, when I became their leader …

Actually, he handed the gavel to Pelosi Jan. 4, 2007 43 months ago. That was after Democrats won control of the House in the 2006 midterm elections. And Boehner has been GOP leader for even longer. He was first elected to that post Feb. 2, 2006, after Texas Rep. Tom Delay resigned.

Boehner also incorrectly identified economist Mark Zandi as a Republican — echoing recent spin from the Obama White House.

Boehner: President Obama’s favorite Republican economist, Mark Zandi, came out several weeks ago and made it clear that raising taxes at this point in, in the economy is a very bad idea.

Actually, Zandi said in a 2009 interview: “I’m a registered Democrat.

We can understand Boehner’s mistake, since the Obama administration has lately been referring to Zandichief economist of Moody’s Analytics — as an adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. That’s true, but misleading.

Zandi said in that same 2009 Washington Post article that he had agreed to advise McCain at the request of an old friend, McCain’s chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Zandi also advises Democrats and is a leading defender of last year’s stimulus legislation.

Washington Post, Feb. 2, 2009: "My policy is I will help any policymaker who asks, whether they be a Republican or a Democrat," Zandi said. He declined to say whether he voted for McCain or Barack Obama in November. "My wife would also like to know the answer to that question," he noted.

Boehner’s main point was correct, however. Zandi is among those economists who say that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire "for anyone" would be a mistake. National Public Radio quoted him on Aug. 4 as saying: "It would be an error to allow tax rates to rise for anyone come Jan. 1, 2011. The recovery is just too fragile, and the cost to taxpayers would be very serious."

— Eugene Kiely, Lara Seligman and Brooks Jackson