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.

By Tim Grieve

Published February 28, 2005 4:20PM (EST)

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.

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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