Media uncritically reported McCain's claim that he opposed Bush tax cuts because they weren't accompanied by "spending reductions"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The Denver Post, ABC News, and The Washington Post all uncritically reported that Sen. John McCain, during an August 14 appearance in Aspen, Colorado, responded to criticism that he had changed his position on President Bush's tax cuts by stating he originally opposed them because they were not accompanied by spending reductions. None of these outlets noted that when McCain voted against the tax cuts in 2001, the reason he gave in his Senate floor statement was not that they were not accompanied by spending cuts but, rather, that "so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief."

In an August 15 article, The Denver Post uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain during an August 14 appearance in Aspen, Colorado, responding to criticism that he had changed his position on President Bush's tax cuts by stating, "I said they (the tax cuts) had to be accompanied by spending reductions" [parentheses in original]. Similarly, the ABC News blog Political Radar reported that McCain said "he did not support them because they were not balanced by spending cuts," and the washingtonpost.com blog The Trail reported that McCain "said he has always favored lower taxes but wanted them coupled with a reduction in spending." However, none of the outlets noted that when McCain voted against the tax cuts in 2001, the reason he gave in his floor statement was not that they were not accompanied by spending cuts but, rather, that "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief." And on the April 11, 2004, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, McCain said, "I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportionate amount that went to the wealthy Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit. But the middle-income tax credits, the families, the child tax credits, the marriage tax credits, all of those I would keep."

Media Matters for America has documented other media outlets uncritically reporting McCain's assertion that he voted against the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts because they weren't accompanied by spending cuts without noting McCain's 2001 floor statement.

From the August 15 Denver Post article:

For more than an hour, the Arizona senator fielded questions on topics ranging from the nuclear threat posed by Iran to McCain's much-maligned fondness for the music of Abba. It included a vigorous exchange with an audience member on a topic that has dogged McCain throughout his second run at the White House: the perception by many that he has changed positions on key issues.

It's a perception McCain took exception to.

The audience member, who said he is a longtime supporter and resident of McCain's home state, lambasted the senator for changing his position on President Bush's tax cuts and for making nice with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the late Christian-right leader.

McCain took issue with both statements.

"I respectfully disagree. I said (the tax cuts) had to be accompanied by spending reductions," he said.

From an August 14 post on The Washington Post's The Trail blog:

McCain denied he had abandoned his maverick ways when a questioner who said he had previously voted for McCain challenged the Arizona senator as having abandoned his principles on tax cuts and the Christian right.

McCain, who opposed President Bush's tax cuts but now wants to extend them, said he has always favored lower taxes but wanted them coupled with a reduction in spending. He said his newfound affinity for the Christian right was spurred by his desire to leave past differences behind.

From an August 14 post on ABC News' Political Radar blog:

McCain appeared at the Aspen Institute where he took a wide range of questions from Walter Isaacson, president of the institute and former CNN chairman for about an hour and then from members of the audience. A man who said he was from Tucson and had voted for McCain when he last ran for re-election said he was bothered by what he said were McCain's "flip-flops" on some positions.

"I'm somewhat concerned that you flipped on some ... maverick positions," he said. He went on to ask McCain to also clarify what he meant when he said last month that Obama "would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign." "I heard that as you calling him a traitor," the man said. "Do you think Barack Obama is a traitor and do you still believe that he would rather lose a war to win an election? And, if you do, what makes you say that?"

McCain seemed asked him to specify on which issues he believed he had changed positions. The questioner mentioned taxes and McCain's reconciliation with leaders of the Christian Right.

McCain defended his position on tax cuts -- he voted twice against Bush tax cuts -- saying he did not support them because they were not balanced by spending cuts. He said he met a few years ago with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who along with evangelist Pat Robertson he once called "agents of intolerance," in the spirit of reconciliation.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes, Elections
Network/Outlet
ABCNews.com
Show/Publication
Denver Post, Washingtonpost.com
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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