A newsworthy sound bite from a rock music idol on a pressing world issue may be just the hook an evening news producer prays for, but it doesn’t excuse a lack of balance or thorough reporting. The February 2 "World News Tonight" featured such an item when anchor Elizabeth Vargas reported that "Bono of the group U2 commanded a different kind of stage today. He headlined the National Prayer Breakfast."
Vargas added that the Irish musician used his speech at the event attended by President Bush and several members of Congress to call for an increase in federal spending on foreign aid.
"To be truly meaningful," Bono said, the extra spending must amount to "an additional one percent of the federal budget."
Following the clip, Vargas cited President Bush’s praise for the U2 lead singer as “an amazing guy.” The report, however, omitted the perspective that the problem with foreign aid may lie in corrupt governments, not supposedly stingy spending by America.
Last summer free market-oriented think tanks such as the Cato Institute and The Heritage Foundation issued reports critical of African foreign aid as ineffective and wasteful.
Cato’s Ian Vazquez wrote in the July 8, 2005, Washington Times that "in Africa aid has harmed development by supporting governments whose policies have actually impoverished people." The problem, the Project on Global Economic Liberty director argued, was that "[e]ven when aid is supposed to promote policy change, it fails to do so. Countries promise reform, receive donor largesse, then introduce half-hearted reforms or fail to do so altogether."
Two days earlier, Dr. Nile Gardiner of The Heritage Foundation cited Nigeria as a "perfect example" of a corrupt government squandering natural resources and thereby impoverishing its people. "Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, set up in 2002, recently revealed that the country’s previous rulers misused or stole £220 billion ($400 billion) in the period between independence from Britain in 1960 and 1999, when the country returned to civilian rule," the former advisor to Baroness Margaret Thatcher.
The Free Market Project previously documented media bias on foreign aid in "Crazy 8s," a study on coverage of Bono’s crusade during the G-8 Summit and Live 8 concerts urging America to give more taxpayer money.