All Nets Jump on Distortion That Low Income Left Out of Tax Cut --5/30/2003
2. Terry Moran: White House Chose "to Leave These Children Behind" Neither NBC's David Gregory or ABC's Terry Moran seem to understand that those being denied the child credit don't pay income taxes. At Thursday's White House press briefing, Gregory ignorantly told Ari Fleischer: "But when it came to, now, a large group of people who stand to get more of the government's money -- their money, as the President says -- they're left behind in this." Fleischer had to explain the obvious, that it isn't "your money" when you get more back than you put in. Moran obnoxiously proposed that Fleischer agree with his summation of the situation: "I just want to make sure that you are saying that the White House agreed to make the choice to leave these children behind."
3. NYT Serves as Conduit for Liberal Agenda, CNN's Brown Impressed All the distorted network reporting about how parents making $10,000 to $26,000 don't qualify for the increase in the child credit were spawned by a Thursday front page New York Times story which was little more than a conduit for a press release from the left-wing Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Seeing the story, CNN's Aaron Brown gushed: "Here's why the New York Times is a great newspaper." The CBPP Web site reflects how they successfully used the Times to advance their political agenda as they put out a report one day and then the next they quoted the Times story on it as an authoritative, independent source.
4. Mention of Lewinsky Irritates Walters: "Let's Move On!" Don't count on seeing Barbara Walters raising with Senator Hillary Clinton any subject which the former First Lady would like to avoid. Though an ABC promo spot for ABC's June 8 special dedicated to publicizing Clinton's new book promises that "nothing's off limits" and on Thursday's The View Walters reported that when she sits down with Mrs. Clinton next week she'll "ask the really tough questions," the instant The View's Joy Behar mentioned Monica Lewinsky, an annoyed Walter raised her hands and made a pained facial expression as she demanded: "Oh, let's drop, let's move on!"
Prompted on a front page New York Times story that was little more than a press release for the left-wing Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN and NBC on Thursday night all treated as an indictment of the supposed unfairness of the income tax cut how parents earning between $10,000 and $26,000, who don't pay income taxes, won't get the increased child care credit from $600 to $1,000 against their income tax payments. But CNBC, NBC and CNN never clued viewers in on how those in that income range pay little, if any, income tax while ABC and CBS only mentioned that little fact late in their stories -- after delivering profiles of supposed victims who will not get the tax break.
All but one network story ignored how those making more than $110,000 don't get the higher child credit either and none pointed out how the tax cut bill eliminates another three million families from having to pay any income tax at all.
ABC and CBS cited the CBPP as authoritative, but failed to tag the group as liberal. See item #3 below for more on the New York Times story, including the specifics of the income earners involved in this made-up controversy who may in some cases have income taxes withheld from their paychecks, but who get more back from the federal government through the EITC and child credit than they pay in, and so are more akin to welfare recipients than taxpayers.
ABC's Peter Jennings opened the May 29 World News Tonight by lamenting how "it turns out that a whole lot of people in the country who could use the money are not going to get it." Linda Douglass misleadingly claimed, leading into a look at a victim, that "one group of taxpayers was cut out of this legislation at the last minute, and that was low-income working families with children. Rhonda Williams is an office messenger raising two children alone. She thought she would be getting some extra money from a tax cut bill. She was wrong."
"The tax cut the President just signed will not help many who need help the most," CBS Evening News anchor Jane Clayson fretted before Bill Plante profiled a woman who "earns just above the minimum wage, the kind of taxpayer the President says he wants to help. But she won't be getting that refund check the President says is in the mail. An eleventh hour change in the tax bill prevents millions of low-income working Americans...from receiving an extra $400 child tax credit." Plante picked this soundbite from the woman to feature: "I just think it's ridiculous. I can't believe that they would give money to the rich when the poor need it so much. I can't understand it."
Spoken like a member of the Washington press corps.
Like ABC, NBC made the subject its top story as Tom Brokaw led the NBC Nightly News by insisting that in what "could be an embarrassing omission in his tax cut package, families making between $10,000 and $26,000 a year come up short." CNBC anchor Brian Williams employed similar language: "We learned today there is an embarrassing omission in what is now the law of the land. Families making between $10,000 and $26,000 a year get left out while critics say many who do not need a tax cut get one anyway."
How you "need a tax cut" when you don't pay taxes was a conundrum Williams did not address.
In the subsequent story run by both NBC and CNBC Campbell Brown euphemistically referred to how "children's advocate groups, who estimate about 11.5 million kids will be denied the benefit, today voiced outrage at the administration and Congress."
Earlier, CNN's Inside Politics led with the news created by the liberal group. Judy Woodruff intoned: "We begin with an unexpected hitch in the President's campaign-friendly message about tax cuts. A day after he signed the bill into law, it is now clear that child care tax credits won't be going to as many families as some thought." Kate Snow's story, which never mentioned how few, if any, of these people pay income tax, also ran later in the evening on NewsNight with Aaron Brown.
In all of those stories, only two reporters made any reference to the reality that those in the below $26,000 low-income level with kids don't pay income taxes. ABC's Linda Douglass, late in her story, gave it a clause: "Many low-income families do not pay income taxes but are entitled to a portion of the child credit." CBS's Bill Plante got to it in the very last sentence of his distorted story: "But the White House, in addition to passing the buck to Congress, also points out that many of the families who will miss out on the $400 child tax credit already pay little or no income tax."
So, in other words, there's no story here. Or there wouldn't be for any media outlet more interested in conveying reality than in serving as advocates for a left-wing group's crusade against tax cuts.
Now, a full rundown of the May 29 stories fueled by a left- wing group's polemical point which the New York Times put on its front page.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. The opening teaser from Peter Jennings: "On World News Tonight, the tax cut surprise. Some of the people who need it most will benefit the least."
Jennings, in Washington, DC, topped his broadcast: "Good evening, everyone. We're going to begin here in Washington tonight because now that the President's tax cut has become law and people thought the dust of debate had settled here, it turns out that a whole lot of people in the country who could use the money are not going to get it. ABC's Linda Douglass is on Capitol Hill. Linda, it turns out that the Americans in question do not make enough money to qualify."
Douglass began her distorted and misleading story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "That is what they are beginning to realize now, Peter. One group of taxpayers was cut out of this legislation at the last minute, and that was low- income working families with children. Rhonda Williams is an office messenger raising two children alone. She thought she would be getting some extra money from a tax cut bill. She was wrong."
Jennings then turned to Terry Moran at the White House for more on the White House's reaction and Moran noted how "spokesman Ari Fleischer said since these workers do not pay federal income taxes, though they pay other federal taxes, it's okay that they don't get the tax cut."
-- CBS Evening News. "Millions of U.S. taxpayers won't get the rebate they're expecting," fill-in anchor Jane Clayson declared in teasing the newscast.
But unlike ABC, CNN and NBC, CBS did not lead with the liberal press release. Clayson segued to the story through a poll which assumed tax cuts and deficit reduction are in conflict: "Now to taxes and the economy. In a new CBS News poll, less than a third of those surveyed favored tax cuts as a way to improve the economy while more than half support reducing the federal deficit."
On screen: "Which would be better for the economy? Tax cuts: 32% Reducing deficit: 55%"
Clayson picked up: "And as Bill Plante reports from the White House, it turns out the tax cut the President just signed will not help many who need help the most."
Bill Plante began by finding a victim and suggesting that President Bush lied: "Carlesha Remmy [sp a guess] earns just above the minimum wage, the kind of taxpayer the President says he wants to help. But she won't be getting that refund check the President says is in the mail. An eleventh hour change in the tax bill prevents millions of low-income working Americans like Remmy from receiving an extra $400 child tax credit."
(NBC also ran a soundbite from the same guy with the "Children's Research and Education Institute," but in a Yahoo! and Google search I could not find any such group.)
Plante refused to properly label the liberal group behind his tendentious story: "The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that there are 12 million children who would have benefitted from an increased refund. The White House concedes there are low-income families who won't benefit but argues that it wasn't the President's fault."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw declared in his opening tease: "Cut out. Why millions of lower-income families may not be getting the help they expected from President Bush's new tax cut."
From Washington, DC, Brokaw started his broadcast: "Good evening. This is the eve of one of President Bush's most ambitious trips abroad to Europe and the Middle East, but here at home, more confirmation the American economy is growing at an anemic rate and what could be an embarrassing omission in his tax cut package. Families making between $10,000 and $26,000 a year come up short. We begin with that story tonight from NBC's Campbell Brown who's at the White House."
What should be "embarrassing" to Brokaw is the skewed news judgment he employed to turn a left-wing polemical claim, that is without foundation, into the lead story on a network news broadcast.
-- CNBC's The News with Brian Williams ran the same Brown story. Here's how Brian Williams introduced it: "Now to the story that led this broadcast last night: the President's tax cuts. Today was supposed to be a victory lap, in effect, having signed the bill into law, but we learned today there is an embarrassing omission in what is now the law of the land. Families making between $10,000 and $26,000 a year get left out while critics say many who do not need a tax cut get one anyway."
-- CNN's Inside Politics and NewsNight. The announcer previewed Inside Politics with this hype: "The check may not be in the mail. This family is looking forward to the new child tax credit. But, surprise. Millions of low-income families won't get it."
Judy Woodruff opened her show: "We begin with an unexpected hitch in the President's campaign-friendly message about tax cuts. A day after he signed the bill into law, it is now clear that child care tax credits won't be going to as many families as some thought. That is because of an 11th-hour change in the legislation that even some lawmakers were not aware of. Our congressional correspondent Kate Snow looks at who was left out."
In a story which also ran on NewsNight, Snow contrasted two sets of kids, but in what should be considered embarrassingly shoddy reporting, she never noted how the parents of one set already live income tax free and, in many cases, already receive a child credit which exceeds their income tax payments:
Woodruff followed up by piling on: "Democrats already are pouncing on the child care tax credit controversy. Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry issued a statement saying: 'George Bush promised to leave no child behind. And with a stroke of his pen yesterday, he did just that to 12 million children. We need a President who has the leadership to put our children's future ahead of tax cuts for the few.'"
CBPP couldn't have dreamed of better promotion, especially from its office's neighbor. CBPP's address: 820 1st Street NE, #510, Washington, DC 20002. That building, behind Union Station, also houses CNN's Washington bureau where Woodruff and Snow work.
White House reporters pounded away on Thursday at Press Secretary Ari Fleischer over how parents at lower income levels who do not pay income taxes will not receive the increase child credit from $600 to $1,000 when it would mean they would get more from the government than they paid in income tax deductions from their paychecks, but neither NBC's David Gregory or ABC's Terry Moran seemed to understand that basic dynamic.
Gregory ignorantly told Fleischer: "But when it came to, now, a large group of people who stand to get more of the government's money -- their money, as the President says -- they're left behind in this." Fleisher had to explain the obvious, that "if you owe $400 in income taxes, and let's say you would get a $500 child tax credit, if you only owe $400 in income taxes, you get the $400 forgiven, you actually get $100 back of other people's money."
Moran obnoxiously proposed that Fleischer agree with his summation of the situation: "I just want to make sure that you are saying that the White House agreed to make the choice to leave these children behind."
Those two May 29 exchanges in full. Since the cable news networks did not carry the press briefing, I watched it on the White House Web site. But since their camera focused only on Fleischer, I had to employ voice software -- my memory -- to identify the voices and I recognized the voices as belonging to Gregory and Moran.
NBC's David Gregory: "Ari, isn't the issue here that the White House, playing such a strong role in this conference negotiation, certainly saw to it that two things happened, that taxes on dividends for the investor class got reduced -- nobody was left behind there -- and that the acceleration of the rate cuts for the highest earners in America, those also got accelerated on the President's timetable. So that was taken care of. But when it came to, now, a large group of people who stand to get more of the government's money -- their money, as the President says -- they're left behind in this."
ABC's Terry Moran soon demanded: "Is it fair to say that the White House, not members of Congress, not Senators, but the White House at the end of the day thought that to make progress, the benefit for these 11.9 million children should go in order to, in part, save the dividend benefit for investors?"
More like ABC and all the networks made a choice to leave honest and balanced reporting behind.
For transcripts of White House briefings and video of them: www.whitehouse.gov
All the distorted network reporting (see items #1 and #2 above) about how parents making $10,000 to $26,000 don't qualify for the increase in the child credit were spawned by a Thursday front page New York Times story which was little more than a conduit for a press release (or a public relations guy's phone call tipping the Times reporter) from the left-wing Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a story which though it went into great detail about the specifics of the income range in question and how the 2001 tax cut bill governs the amount of a credit those people can receive, never made the most relevant point: That virtually no parent, with kids 17 or younger, who earns under $26,000 pays any net federal income tax.
Nonetheless, the Times' liberal agenda promotion impressed CNN's Aaron Brown who, MRC's analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, on Wednesday night's NewsNight reverentially previewed the story in the next day's Times: "Here's why The New York Times is a great newspaper, ladies and gentlemen, because they actually read the tax cut bill, don't you know? 'Tax Law Bars Child Credit for Some Families.' It turns out people that make about the minimum wage, between ten and a half thousand dollars and 20,000 actually don't get a child tax credit in the bill."
The CBPP Web site reflects how they successfully used the New York Times to advance their political agenda.
On Wednesday, May 28 the CBPP posted an article titled: "How the New Tax Law Alters the Child Tax Credit and How Low-Income Families Are Affected." See: www.cbpp.org
The Thursday, May 29 New York Times then featured a front page story headlined, "Tax Law Omits Child Credit in Low-Income Brackets."
Following that, the CBPP then approvingly quoted the New York Times story on the subject, as if CBPP had nothing to do with it. A May 29 CBPP posting was titled: "Was There Enough Room in the Tax Bill for The Low-income Child Tax Credit Provision?" The article by Isaac Shapiro and Robert Greenstein began:
For CBPP's May 29 posting: www.cbpp.org
An excerpt from the May 29 New York Times story by David Firestone who at least, unlike ABC and CBS (see item #1 above), properly tagged CBPP as liberal:
A last-minute revision by House and Senate leaders in the tax bill that President Bush signed today will prevent millions of minimum-wage families from receiving the increased child credit that is in the measure, say Congressional officials and outside groups.
Most taxpayers will receive a $400-a-child check in the mail this summer as a result of the law, which raises the child tax credit, to $1,000 from $600. It had been clear from the beginning that the wealthiest families would not receive the credit, which is intended to phase out at high incomes.
But after studying the bill approved on Friday, liberal and child advocacy groups discovered that a different group of families would also not benefit from the $400 increase -- families who make just above the minimum wage.
Because of the formula for calculating the credit, most families with incomes from $10,500 to $26,625 will not benefit. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal group, says those families include 11.9 million children, or one of every six children under 17....
Families with incomes lower than $10,500 will also not receive the refund checks. But under the 2001 tax revision, they would not have been eligible for either the $600 or the $1,000 credits because they do not pay federal taxes. Proposals to give them the credits failed on the House and Senate floors on party-line votes.
The Senate provision that did pass was intended to help those families making $10,500 to $26,625 who do pay federal taxes and could have taken all or part of the $600 credit....
But Democrats and children's advocacy groups said the Republican demand for large cuts in the dividend tax, which they said benefits primarily wealthy taxpayers, pushed away the credit from low income families....
The gap in the number of families who receive the child credit occurs because of how the formula was arranged in 2001. Congress decided then to give refunds of the credit to low income families, but just to a maximum of 10 percent of the amount they made over $10,000, or a refund of $600, whichever was lower. The $10,000 amount was indexed to inflation and is now $10,500.
When the credit was raised to $1,000, many families could not qualify for the extra amount, because the 10 percent maximum still limited them....
END of Excerpt
For the Times story in full: www.nytimes.com
A Tax Foundation report showing that the lower the income for parents the greater percentage tax cut they got from the 2001 bill and will from the acceleration signed this week, included this explanation as to why they didn't look at the lower income level so hyped in the Times story: "Families earning below $35,000 are not included because the tax cuts enacted in 2001 effectively eliminated their entire income tax liability."
For that report and table: www.taxfoundation.org
Don't count on seeing Barbara Walters raising with Senator Hillary Clinton any subject which the former First Lady would like to avoid. Though an ABC promo spot for ABC's June 8 special dedicated to publicizing Clinton's new book promises that "nothing's off limits" and on Thursday's The View Walters reported that when she sits down with Mrs. Clinton next week she'll "ask the really tough questions," the instant The View's Joy Behar mentioned Monica Lewinsky, an annoyed Walter raised her hands and made a pained facial expression as she demanded: "Oh, let's drop, let's move on!"
As quoted in the May 29 CyberAlert, a current ABC promo hypes the interview special: "Sunday June 8th: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barbara Walters. The interview we've all been waiting for and the book that tells all. Sunday June 8th. Nothing's off limits."
On Thursday's The View, the daytime ABC show created by Walters who pops in a couple of times a week to take part in the gab session amongst the four of five women hosts, Walters recounted how on Wednesday she traveled in Illinois to capture video of Hillary Clinton in her home town, a session which followed Walters interviewing Clinton last week while the two walked on Washington's Mall wit the Capitol in the background.
As taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, on the May 29 The View Walters gushed over Clinton's small town upbringing and then promised she get to the "tough" questions in their next session: "This was the first part of it [the interview]. We went back to her hometown, which is in Park Ridge, Illinois, near Chicago, on the tree-lined street where she had the most kind of, you know, stable, secure childhood."
The conversation continued and quickly got into penis size.
At this point, Behar raised Lewinsky, which clearly irritated Walters.
The discussion steered into how we know much more today than in the past about the private lives of public figures. Re-joining the conversation, Walters opined: "It's a different time, and Hillary Clinton is probably -- look, today she's a Senator -- is one of the most accomplished and controversial First Ladies in our history."
Vieira soon brought up a newspaper report: "Did you see -- now, I don't know if this is true, it's in the New York Post today, Page Six -- a friend of Ken Starr's is saying that he now wants to have dinner -- you know, Ken Starr's the one who tried to get rid of Clinton, essentially, led the investigation -- he now wants to have dinner with Clinton and his wife, Hillary, according to the friend that's quoted."
ABC's Web site for The View, with pictures of all the regulars: abc.abcnews.go.com
This isn't the first time that Walters has become outraged at the mention of Lewinsky's name. As noted in the September 16, 2002 CyberAlert, Walters scolded a colleague on The View for daring to ask the audience on Friday whether they would let their daughters be an intern in Bill Clinton's office. "So unfair, that's so unfair," Walters chided, urging Joy Behar: "Let it go already." See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- Brent Baker