Seven Reporters Who Falsely Claimed that "Obama Signed 23 Executive Orders" on Guns

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 18 2013 12:34 PM

Seven Reporters Who Falsely Claimed that "Obama Signed 23 Executive Orders" on Guns

We know what happened this week, right? President Obama announced that he was taking 23 executive actions on various issues connected to gun massacres -- mental health, law enforcement, gun data -- and asking Congress to consider a few reform bills.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

What Obama didn't do was "sign 23 executive orders." But depending on how you followed the news, you probably thought he did.

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Dana Perino on Fox:

I do think that he had meritorious points that he could have made to actually get something done through Congress and instead signing these 23 executive orders is weak tea.

Neil Cavuto on Fox:

Signed, sealed, and Republicans, well, delirious, apoplectic more the word, over a president they say is now out of control after signing no fewer than 23, 23 executive orders he says will help curb gun violence.

Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

You know, the reaction from Republicans to what the president did yesterday, signing 23 executive orders, if you will, has been very intense.

CNN Anchor Carl Azuz:

He signed 23 executive orders, laws that don`t have to be approved by Congress.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin:

Here he is, with that pen in his left hand, signing 23 executive orders to strengthen background checks, to expand school security, to better educate mental health professionals, and this is what he's asking Congress to do.

NPR's Neal Conan:

The president proposes new gun laws and signs 23 executive orders.

And also: Me. For a while on Wednesday, I referred to Obama's "executive orders," printing the list of actions in full, but muffing the terminology. Why did all of us do that? You know, I think the pre-game panic about the very idea of Obama "signing executive orders" -- I think that got into our heads. The result, ironically, was that a lot of people learned that Obama did something very scary -- 23 ORDERs, above and beyond the will of Congress! -- that he didn't do, at all. If nominating an ATF director was done by "an executive order," the Senate wouldn't have to confirm him.

So which of the lazy journalists got it wrongest? One point goes to Carl Azus, for referring incoherently to "laws that don't have to be approved by Congress." Another to Brooke Baldwin, who addes the drama of Obama "signing" these 23 orders as children watched, even though CNN had a camera on Obama as he didn't do that. But the Marvel No-Prize surely goes to Cavuto, for his scary count-off of "23, 23!" orders that suggest a "president out of control."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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