Only a network anchor could think that earning nearly four times the median household income is “modest.”
That was CNN “American Morning” anchor John Roberts’ take on Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) annual salary of $162,100. He also called the Obama family incomes of “$470,000 up to $1.4 million” “pretty modest” during the May 17 report. Roberts used the word “modest” three different times to depict some part of Obama’s financial life.
The median household income in the United States is $46,326, according to the U.S. Census. That’s 29 percent of Obama’s “modest” Senate income and about 10 percent of the “pretty modest” amount the Obamas declared as the low end of what they earned last year.
“So, so they’ve obviously, they’ve got a very modest property and, obviously, the income that you get, too, when you're a senator is modest,” Roberts explained, modestly. Internet reporter Jacki Schechner added “in comparison, yeah.”
The anchor’s rationalization came as part of a segment called “Where’s The Money From?” that detailed the finances of some of the top presidential candidates.
It’s not the first time CNN staffers have had little understanding of what ordinary American salaries were and, in this case, what “modest” means in financial terms. According to Salary.com, a Web site which “prides itself in being the resource for compensation data,” “CNN stars like Lou Dobbs and Wolf Blitzer make millions each year.” The article, titled “Dream Jobs: News Anchor,” interviewed CNN International anchor Jonathan Mann, who said anchoring “is probably one of the lucrative jobs in the television industry.”
CNN’s Schechner detailed the financial records of some of the other top candidates during the report as well:
Democratic Candidate John Edwards reported earnings of $29.5 million. Roberts used it to take a shot at Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee. “Gov. Mike Huckabee might say that that all adds up to a lot of trips to the salon.” That referenced criticism Huckabee received for a comment he made about Edwards during the Republican debate.
Republican Rudy Giuliani reported a “total of $13 to $45 million in assets.” Those included earnings from pages of speaking appearances – an average of $100,000, according to Roberts, who said “he’s in Bill Clinton territory.”