Government 'slimdown': How the conservative media is covering the shutdown (or not)

What shutdown?

Bill O'Reilly
(Image credit: (Facebook/FOX News))

For the first time in nearly two decades, lawmakers failed to pass a budget on time, triggering a government shutdown.

Some 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed, and all non-essential government services have been closed. NASA, celebrating its 55th birthday Tuesday, has virtually turned off the lights.

In other words, the government shutdown is what Joe Biden would call a BFD. But you wouldn't have guessed that if you happened to be on a conservative media website on Monday afternoon. In fact, you may not have noticed the shutdown at all.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The shutdown is "turning out to be more of a 'slimdown,'" a lead story on Fox News claimed, while suggesting it wasn't so bad after all. However, the same article noted, further down, that only a "patchwork" of services remained open, and that "the impact of the partial shutdown will begin to be felt across the country, as other agencies cut back their staff and national parks and other locations close down."

The decision to downgrade the shutdown was not relegated to one story. Here's what Fox's home page looked like around 1:30 Monday afternoon:

Despite the shutdown being the biggest political story of the day, National Review led its site Tuesday afternoon with an article on how Obama sought to "fundamentally" transform America. The home page included scant coverage of the shutdown, instead devoting copious space to the other, more GOP-friendly story of the day: The ObamaCare rollout. The site prominently featured an entire column of articles criticizing the law, with headlines like "Time to Halt the ACA," "Bad Test Results," "100 Unintended Consequences," "Failure to Launch," and so on.

The Weekly Standard led with a story urging Republicans to "stand pat" in the shutdown fight. Featured alongside it: An article lampooning Michelle Obama's new pro-water campaign.

Of the Daily Caller's three leading stories around the same time, two blasted Democrats for partying it up during the shutdown. The third, a four-paragraph brief, flatly reported an accusation made by a prominent GOP-favored doctor that the IRS targeted him because he criticized Obama.

The two shutdown-related articles were: "As government shuts down, Democrats party it up at Hillary Clinton's D.C. house," and "Democrats, unions host ObamaCare celebration EVEN DURING SHUTDOWN."

Both articles tried to convey Democratic jubilation about the shutdown. Yet the former article was about a completely unrelated fundraiser for Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. The latter, meanwhile, noted that Democrats planned to celebrate the rollout of a program they are unapologetically proud of.

Elsewhere in the conservative blogosphere, The Blaze pretty much ignored the shutdown to focus on a different, hard-hitting story:

Hot Air shredded ObamaCare: "Life's a glitch: ObamaCare websites plagued by bugs on launch day; Update: Feds apologize; Video: MSNBC reporter tries, fails to enroll." The site's top story on the shutdown concerned veterans storming barricades blocking the World War II Memorial, not the broader shutdown crisis itself.

At least Breitbart made coverage of the shutdown its top story — by spinning it as an event the mainstream media desperately craved: "**LIVE UPDATES** MEDIA GETS GOV'T SHUTDOWN THEY WANTED."

Polls have shown the shutdown to be deeply unpopular. And a Washington Post/ABC News poll Monday found that only one-quarter of Americans approved of the way Republicans have handled the budget negotiations.

"It seems the editors of these websites have read the polls, too," wrote The New Republic's Ryan Kearney, "and would just as soon downplay, or outright ignore, that our government is grinding to a halt — lest the GOP be rightly blamed."

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us