FOX's Wallace misstated FactCheck.org article to claim that Kerry was "wrong"; ignored Bush debate distortion

››› ››› GABE WILDAU

FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace declared that Senator John Kerry was "wrong" for claiming during the October 8 presidential debate that under the standard President George W. Bush used to denounce Kerry's tax plan for allegedly hurting "900,000 small businesses," Bush himself would qualify as a small business because, in Kerry's words, "he got $84 from a timber company that he owns." But while Kerry was "wrong" on a technical point -- that the $84 came from a company that at the time dealt in oil and gas, not timber -- Wallace ignored the substantive point: that, as Kerry claimed, Bush himself would indeed have qualified as a small business under his over-broad standard.

From the October 10 edition of FOX News Sunday:

WALLACE: [I]f you're like me, there was one exchange at Friday's debate that went right over your head:

KERRY [video clip of debate]: The president got $84 from a timber company that he owns, and he's counted as a small business.

BUSH: [video clip of debate] I own a timber company? That's news to me.

WALLACE: So what's the real story? Well, last month the Internet site FactCheck.org published an article on President Bush's 2001 tax returns, in which he reported $84 in business income from his partnership in a timber-growing enterprise. But it turns out that back then, Lone Star Trust was in the oil and gas business. It got into trees after that. So, bottom line, the president was understandably confused, John Kerry was wrong, but only because the website made a mistake, which has now been corrected.

But the Annenberg Political Fact Check article that Wallace referenced came to the opposite conclusion, reporting that "Bush was wrong to suggest that he doesn't have ownership of a timber company" because "according to his 2003 financial disclosure form, Bush does own part interest in 'LSTF, LLC', a limited-liability company organized 'for the purpose of the production of trees for commercial sales.'" FactCheck.org did "clarify" its earlier reporting on Bush's 2001 earnings from Lone Star, explaining that "the $84 in Schedule C income was from Bush's Lone Star Trust, which is actually described on the 2001 income-tax returns as an 'oil and gas production' business."

More significantly, Wallace ignored the point of the dispute between Bush and Kerry. The question was not whether Bush was involved with timber versus another product. Rather, Kerry was accusing Bush of using a fraudulent statistic to attack Kerry's tax plan. Kerry used Bush's own $84 profit from Lone Star as an example of how someone who is not a small business owner (Bush was president in 2001) would be counted as one under the misleading standard Bush was using. On this point, too, FactCheck.org sided with Kerry: "Kerry was correct in saying that Bush's definition of 'small business' is so broad that Bush himself would have qualified as a 'small business' in 2001 by virtue of the $84 in business income."

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Stories/Interests
2004 Elections
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