During an interview with Sen. Richard Burr, Tom Brokaw did not challenge Burr's false claim that Sen. Barack Obama has proposed "increased taxes -- and that's taxes across the board on the American people without exception." Obama has in fact proposed raising taxes only on households earning more than $250,000, while also calling for tax cuts for low- and middle-income families.
During the September 2 edition of MSNBC Live, NBC News host Tom Brokaw failed to challenge Sen. Richard Burr's (R-NC) false assertion that Sen. Barack Obama has proposed "increased taxes -- and that's taxes across the board on the American people without exception." Brokaw did not note that Obama has proposed raising taxes only on households earning more than $250,000, while also calling for tax cuts for low- and middle-income families. Nor did he note that McCain's own chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, has reportedly said it is inaccurate to say that "Barack Obama raises taxes."
Attacks on Obama's tax plan by the McCain campaign have been criticized when scrutinized for accuracy. For example, PolitiFact.com found that an ad released in early August claiming that Obama "promises more taxes on small business, seniors, your life savings, your family" was "a distortion of Obama's proposals" because "Obama does not promise those things; in fact, he promises more taxes for taxpayers with the highest incomes." Additionally, FactCheck.org found a pattern of deceptive and misleading ads about Obama's tax plan by the McCain campaign. In an August 31 editorial headlined "Continuing Deception: Mr. McCain's ads on taxes are just plain false," The Washington Post wrote:
THERE IS a serious debate to be had in this presidential campaign about the fundamentally different tax policies of Barack Obama and John McCain. Then there is the phony, misleading and at times outright dishonest debate that the McCain campaign has been waging -- most recently with a television ad.
The two candidates have very different positions on taxes. Mr. Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and cut them substantially for low- and middle-income taxpayers. He would cut taxes for more households, and by a larger amount, than Mr. McCain, who would give the greatest benefits to wealthy households and corporations.
These are disagreements rooted in divergent views about the role of tax policy: the importance of reducing inequality versus the importance of encouraging investment. Mr. Obama has the wiser and more fiscally responsible of the plans, on balance, but this is by no means a one-sided debate between evil, tycoon-hugging Republicans and good-hearted Democrats. Higher taxes do have consequences for the behavior of both individuals and corporations. Listening to the candidates debate and defend their actual plans would be a useful exercise.
Instead, the McCain campaign insists on completely misrepresenting Mr. Obama's plan.
From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the September 2 edition of MSNBC Live:
BROKAW: Senator, in North Carolina, George Bush won by 12 percentage points over John Kerry four years ago. The Obama campaign is determined to run a 50-state campaign. You've got about 22 percent of the voters in North Carolina are African-American. We're going to share with you now an ad that your candidate, John McCain, is already running in North Carolina. Let's take a look at that and then talk about the strategy.
ANNOUNCER [video clip]: Take away the crowds, the chants -- all that's left are costly words. Barack Obama and out-of-touch congressional leaders have expensive plans, billions in new government spending, years of deficits, no balanced budgets, and painful tax increases on working American families. They're ready to tax, ready to spend -- but not ready to lead.
BROKAW: Senator McCain already spending money in a state like North Carolina, the day after Labor Day. You must anticipate a very close race there.
BURR: Well, I think it's going to be closer than historically we've seen, but Barack Obama's been spending money in North Carolina for two months now. And I think that if you look at that ad, it's indicative of exactly the plan that Barack Obama has called for, and that's increased taxes -- and that's taxes across the board on the American people without exception.
BROKAW: There is a great deal of discussion at this convention and just outside of it, and not just among the media, about the selection of Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, as John McCain's running mate. A number of people are saying they were stunned by it, they see this as what one of them called a "Hail Sarah" pass, not a "Hail Mary" pass. Are you going to be able to persuade the American people that she is ready on day one to step into the Oval Office, given her very limited experience objectively?