Gregory uncritically reported Republicans' baseless assertion that Americans prefer president on taxes

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

NBC News correspondent David Gregory uncritically reported a claim by "Republican leaders" that the "president's strengths, like tax cuts or tough anti-terror measures, have been overlooked" because of Americans' concern over the war in Iraq. Gregory ignored the most recent polling on the subject -- a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll -- which found that 43 percent of Americans trust Democrats to do "a better job of handling taxes" than the president. In that poll, only 34 percent said the president would do a better job. And regarding "tough anti-terror" measures, polls indicate that American approval of the president on terrorism is decidedly more mixed than Gregory's statement suggested.

On the March 16 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory uncritically reported a claim by "Republican leaders'" that the "president's strengths, like tax cuts or tough anti-terror measures, have been overlooked" because of Americans' concern over the war in Iraq. In repeating Republican assertions that the issue of taxes is one of the "president's strengths," Gregory ignored the most recent polling on the subject -- a January 22-25 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll that, as Media Matters for America has noted, found that a plurality of Americans (43 percent) trust Democrats to do "a better job of handling taxes" than the president. In that poll, only 34 percent said the president would do a better job. And regarding "tough anti-terror" measures, polls indicate that American approval of the president on terrorism is decidedly more mixed than Gregory's statement suggested.

As Media Matters has previously documented (here and here), other media figures have baselessly asserted that the public trusts Republicans over Democrats on the issue of taxes. In addition to the polls Media Matters cited at the time, a March 10-13 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that more Americans think Democrats (35 percent), rather than Republicans (26 percent), will do a good job "dealing with taxes."

Gregory also uncritically accepted the idea that the president continues to enjoy support for his "tough anti-terror measures." However, even that support is mixed. President Bush's approval rating on the issue of terrorism, which at the time of the 2004 election was at 60 percent (Gallup, 11/7-10/2004), now has Americans divided: A February 28-March 1 Gallup poll found that 47 percent of respondents approve of the president's performance on terrorism and 49 percent disapprove; a March 2-5 ABC/Washington Post poll found that 52 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove; and a March 9-12 CBS News poll found that 45 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove. While the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (March 10-13) does not appear to ask respondents if they approve of Bush's handling of the issue of terrorism, it does, however, find public support for the USA Patriot Act and majority support (52 percent to 46 percent) for the president's action in "using wiretaps to listen to telephone calls between suspected terrorists in other countries and American citizens in the United States without getting a court order to do so." Media Matters, however, has noted that other polls -- ones that more clearly separate public opinion of spying on suspected terrorists from opinion on the means through which the Bush administration has conducted the eavesdropping -- show that a similar majority do not support the warrantless wiretapping of Americans. For example, a February 22-26 CBS News poll asked respondents: "Regardless of whether you approve of the President authorizing the wiretaps, do you think the President has the legal authority to authorize wiretaps without a court warrant in order to fight terrorism, or doesn't he?" Fifty-one percent said the president does not have the legal authority to do so.

From the March 16 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, with anchor Brian Williams, NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss, Republican pollster Bill McInturff, and Gregory:

GREGORY: Well, they're [the White House] clearly shaken, as you might understand, politically, by the president's eroding support in the country, Brian. And yet, I think what we've reported on in the last few minutes underscores the point that for now at least the president is sticking to his guns, militarily and philosophically. They may be worried about losing time here, but for now, as one adviser said, the president wants to keep chipping away at the issues that are creating so much opposition.

At his lowest level yet in the polls, the president is left to wonder, which way is up? Iraq, says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, has enveloped the Bush presidency.

McINTURFF: And no matter what the president says, if events on the ground don't match what he hopes to have happen, he's -- you know, these numbers about Iraq will continue to get softer or worse.

GREGORY: Republican leaders have said they're worried that the president's strengths, like tax cuts or tough anti-terror measures, have been overlooked. White House aides admit that a month-long effort to sell ideas from the State of the Union address has been lost to bad news.

BESCHLOSS: What history suggests, and you look at Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson with Korea and Vietnam, is that when a president has an unpopular war, until people feel better about it, they're not going to listen to him.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
David Gregory
Show/Publication
NBC Nightly News
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