While talking about Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan, Lou Dobbs falsely asserted that "just about 40 percent of all Americans -- working Americans -- don't pay taxes." In fact, all American workers are required to pay taxes on their wages for Social Security and Medicare, and people in the United States are also subject to excise taxes. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office found that the average effective federal tax rate for households in the lowest quintile of income earners in 2005 was 4.3 percent, while the second lowest quintile paid an average effective rate of 9.9 percent that year.
Discussing Sam Joe Wurzelbacher ("Joe the Plumber") on MSNBC Live, Tamron Hall said that "according to the federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average for a plumber: $45,000. ... I think it would be rude to ask Joe what his income is." But Wurzelbacher's income -- or expected income -- is the issue in determining the veracity of McCain's charge that Wurzelbacher's taxes would increase under Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan.
CNN's Dana Bash noted that Sen. John McCain "is going to try to hit much more on the idea" that Sen. Barack Obama is "going to raise your taxes," but not that the claim misrepresents Obama's tax plan. Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families.
During a preview of the third presidential debate on ABC's World News, David Wright said that Sen. John McCain "plans to present [Sen. Barack] Obama as someone who will raise your taxes" and will "question Obama's judgment and character following from [Gov.] Sarah Palin's charge that Obama has been palling around with terrorists, like former '60s radical William Ayers" without noting the misrepresentations in those attacks.
In the sense that it doesn't practices journalism. Instead, it has a long history, especially with its coverage of Democrats, of simply making stuff up whenever the moment strikes.
Today's a perfect example with a campaign article that's generating buzz online. The piece is headlined, "OBAMA FIRES A 'ROBIN HOOD' WARNING SHOT." Note how Robin Hood is in quotes.
The Post's Charles Hurt reports that during an exchange with a voter "caught on video" (note the high drama), Barack Obama, "let slip his plans to become a modern-day Robin Hood in the White House, confiscating money from the rich to give to the poor."
In fact, what Obama did was explain to a voter the theory behind his tax policy:
"My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
That's sort of Democratic Policy 101 and is hardly newsworthy. Hurt simply did his best to whip the exchange into something controversial. But back to the headline. Why did the Post put Robin Hood in quotes? Was somebody in the article quoted calling Obama Robin Hood? Maybe the voter Obama spoke to, or a tax expert?
No. In fact, the only time the phrase appeared in the article was when Hurt himself introduced it; when Hurt called Obama Robin Hood.
Which means, the Post quoted its own news reporter for the headlines to a news article.
Like we said, the Post doesn't really practice journalism as it's commonly defined.
ABC's Robin Roberts did not challenge Rudy Giuliani's claim that Sen. Barack Obama "wants to raise taxes." In fact, Obama has repeatedly said he would cut taxes for families making less than $250,000 per year, and Sen. John McCain's own chief economic adviser reportedly said that it is inaccurate to claim that "Barack Obama raises taxes."
Rush Limbaugh and KSFO's Lee Rodgers repeated a variation of the claim that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave "5 million illegal aliens" subprime loans that they have not paid back. Quinn & Rose's Jim Quinn also cited the 5 million statistic without citing a source for the figure. None of these radio hosts noted that HUD has reportedly stated that this statistic is false.
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank Project, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 "[b]ecause he came up with a way to offer loans to poor people who couldn't pay them back." But Grameen Bank's monthly report for August 2008 shows a repayment rate of 98.08 percent.
His weekend program is awash in misinformation. Rachel Sklar takes a closer look at the conspiracy theories and erroneous claims that Huckabee highlighted. She writes:
Did you know that the recent financial crisis could actually be the result of economic terrorism? Or that Congress took off after the bailout vote to get an early jump on Christmas shopping? Or that the Chinese might be drilling off the coast of Florida right now?
The Los Angeles Times reported that Sen. John McCain "advocated for his tax cuts and his plan to balance the budget by 'the end of my term in office.' " But the Times did not note, as it has previously reported, that McCain has repeatedly shifted on his time frame for balancing the budget, originally claiming he would balance the budget in four years, then pledging to do so in eight years, before reversing himself again to return to the four-year pledge.
On MSNBC Live, McClatchy's Steven Thomma asserted that Sen. John McCain will likely attack Sen. Barack Obama "as a tax-raiser, someone who'll take money out of your pocket at the very moment you don't want it to happen." Neither Thomma nor Politico's David Mark, who agreed with Thomma's assessment, noted that claims that Obama will raise taxes and "take money out of your pocket" misrepresent Obama's tax plan.
Conservative and other media figures -- echoing a reported strategy on the part of Republicans -- have attempted to lay blame for the financial crisis on proponents of the expansion of affordable housing. Those attacks are premised on several myths and falsehoods.
On Hannity & Colmes, The Wall Street Journal's John Fund falsely claimed that ACORN "almost got a slush fund in the housing bailout bill a few weeks ago." In fact, neither the September draft proposal nor the final version of the bill contained any language mentioning ACORN.
On his radio show, Neal Boortz baselessly suggested that Rep. Barney Frank "was protecting Fannie Mae for about seven or eight years in the 1990s because his lover, his boyfriend was working for Fannie Mae, pushing out these subprime mortgage packages." Boortz provided no evidence to support his suggestion that Frank allowed his personal relationship to affect his work in Congress. In fact, Frank repeatedly took actions over the years to strengthen oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The New York Times uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain saying of Sen. Barack Obama: "[A]s recently as September of last year he said that subprime loans had been, quote, a good idea." The article did not mention that McCain was distorting Obama's comments from a September 2007 speech, as several media outlets -- including the Times -- noted when McCain previously made the same accusation against Obama.