Arnold's new project: fake news

Taking a page from the Bush administration sales manual, Arnold Schwarzenegger pitches his plans with a pre-packaged fake news story.


Tim Grieve
February 28, 2005 9:20PM (UTC)

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who campaigned for governor as a new kind of leader, seems to have learned something from an old hand. Like George W. Bush, Schwarzenegger has now resorted to using a phony news story to sell one of his political proposals.

The Los Angeles Times reports today that Schwarzenegger's administration has circulated a videotape package masquerading as a news report on the governor's proposal to roll back labor regulations that require employers to give their employees half-hour lunch breaks within the first five hours of their shifts. Several California TV stations ran the report as news, offering their viewers a one-sided, government-financed view of Schwarzenegger's proposal.

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Schwarzenegger's spokesman says the video package is "just like any other press release, only it's on video." But as the Times reports, the tape "looks like a news report and is narrated by a former television reporter who now works for the state." The Schwarzenegger administration distributed it to TV stations complete with a suggested introductory script for an anchor to read -- but without any mention that labor unions oppose the change.

If it all sounds a little familiar, that's because it is. On at least two occasions, the Bush administration has palmed off similar phony TV news reports -- a practice the Government Accountability Office says violates federal anti-propaganda laws. California law has a similar prohibition against using state funds for political purposes, and Joseph Dunn, a Democratic state senator from Santa Ana, says he'll launch an investigation as part of upcoming hearings on Schwarzenegger's budget.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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