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CNN's John King Distorts Reagan, Parrots False Claim That He Peddled Tax Hike Compromise

CNN's John King on Thursday recycled the now debunked claim that, in a similar situation to the current debt ceiling debate, Ronald Reagan lobbied for a tax increase compromise to avoid an economic default. This was the fifth time in less than a week that the cable network peddled the distorted quote provided by congressional Democrats.

Discussing the national debt, King spun, "Believe it or not, the country's been here before. Even though the President back then was a staunch conservative and a Tea Party hero today, listen to how he handled it."

To justify tax increases today, King played a clip of Reagan warning against "brinkmanship" and discussing America's "special responsibility" to meet its obligations."

Yet, the late President was actually blaming the Democratic Congress for requiring tax increases as a pre-condition. In the September 26, 1987 radio address, he insisted, "You don't need more taxes to balance the budget. Congress needs the discipline to stop spending more, and that can be done with the passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget."

Reagan added, "For those who say further responsible spending reductions are not possible, they are wrong...For those who say more taxes will solve our deficit problem, they are wrong."

Clearly, King was taking Reagan grossly out of context, something the network has been doing all week. On Wednesday's CNN Newsroom, Carol Costello played the misleading clip of the GOP favorite and then raved, "There, that's an adult moment!" (She touted the moment in the 11 and 12pm hour.)

Before highlighting the snippet of Reagan, Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday's Situation Room spun, "Democrats have found that tape, and they're circulating it. You remember those days, 1987, but, you know, that was then, this is now. And so many of these House Republicans, as you know, they love Ronald Reagan."

Blitzer later referenced the radio address to Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz and prodded, "Ronald Reagan, you believe, was wrong?"

To see what Reagan actually said, and for video of MSNBC's Chris Matthews doing the same thing as CNN, go here.

A partial transcript of some of the references to Reagan can be found below:

Anderson Cooper
07/21/11
10:06 PM EDT

JOHN KING: A new CNN/ORC Polling tonight reflects that concern, and also the obstacles to reaching a deal. A strong majority of Democrats and independents say there would be a major crisis or major problems if the debt ceiling is not raised. 72 and 60 percent respectively. But Republicans are split, 50/50.

The polling also shows the Democrats and independents by even bigger majorities, 83 and 65 percent prefer a deal with spending cuts and tax increases. While only 37 percent of Republicans want such a mix. Which is why some of the lawmakers you just heard are holding so firm against any compromise that includes revenues or some of them against even raising the debt ceiling at all. Believe it or not, the country's been here before. Even those President back then was a staunch conservative and a Tea Party hero today, listen to how he handled it.

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veteran benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket. Instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility, two things that set us apart from much of the world".

KING: Ronald Reagan, nearly 24 years ago. Facing debt ceiling hard liners back then in both parties.

07/20/11
CNN Newsroom

CAROL COSTELLO: Democrats rolled out a video campaign citing Ronald Reagan's long-ago plea to raise the debt ceiling as an adult moment.


RONALD REAGAN: The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility, two things that set us apart from the much of the world.

COSTELLO: There, that's an adult moment!

7/20/11
Situation Room
5pm EDT hour


WOLF BLITZER: Democrats have found that tape, and they're circulating it. You remember those days, 1987, but, you know, that was then, this is now. And so many of these House Republicans, as you know, they love Ronald Reagan.

6pm hour

BLITZER: Democrats have found that tape, and they're circulating it. You remember those days, 1987, but, you know, that was then, this is now. And so many of these House Republicans, as you know, they love Ronald Reagan.

BLITZER: I take it you hated when Ronald Reagan asked those Republicans in the House and Senate to do when he was president and beg them and Democrats to raise the debt ceiling. Ronald Reagan, you believe, was wrong?

CHAFFETZ: I wish that, at some point on both sides of the aisle, a Congress in the past would say no. We're paying more than $600 million a day in interest, and if interest rates go up, that number is going to go up. Unfortunately, on both sides of the aisle, we didn't have the strength and the principle to say enough is enough, and now we're trying to avert this-


— Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.