Fox's Rosen falsely accused Obama of "go[ing] to work on ... working stiff" Joe the Plumber

››› ››› LILY YAN

On Special Report, James Rosen stated of Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, "Even [Sen. Barack] Obama himself has gone to work on this working stiff," and aired a cropped quote of Obama saying, "How many plumbers you know making a quarter-million dollars a year?" In fact, the context of that remark makes clear that Obama was actually criticizing Sen. John McCain, not Wurzelbacher.

On the October 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report, guest host Bret Baier introduced a segment "on the Swift Boating of Joe Wurzelbacher," or "Joe the Plumber," who was mentioned by Sen. John McCain numerous times during the October 15 presidential debate as an example of someone whose taxes would purportedly increase under Sen. Barack Obama's tax plan. (According to Wurzelbacher, his would not.) During the report, Washington correspondent James Rosen stated of Wurzelbacher, "Now, he's all over the TV news, talk radio, and most intensively, the blogosphere, where Slate questioned his very identity, CBS News reality-checked him and flushed out his puny tax debts, and Politco.com Roto-Rooted through Wurzelbacher's 'not-so-tidy personal story' and faulted the McCain campaign for having 'never vetted' this 'unknown entity with so many asterisks.' " Rosen then said, "Even Obama himself has gone to work on this working stiff," and aired a cropped quote of Obama saying, "How many plumbers you know making a quarter-million dollars a year?" In fact, the context of that remark makes clear that Obama was actually criticizing McCain, not Wurzelbacher, as Rosen falsely claimed.

From Obama's October 16 speech in Londonderry, New Hampshire, with the portion Rosen played in bold:

And by the way, in the debate last night, he [McCain] didn't deny those facts. He just kept on saying, "Well, I don't want to tax anybody, I don't want to tax anybody. But I want to -- I'm gonna do this. I'm can do it. I know how." Now, the fact of the matter is, is that he is blowing a hole through the budget on tax breaks that are the exact same kinds of tax cuts that [President] George Bush offered. Same argument, same philosophy -- that we give more and more to millionaires and billionaires -- that they're all going to some -- that prosperity will trickle down on all of us somehow. And then he's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he's fighting for. How many plumbers you know making a quarter-million dollars a year?

I have a different set of priorities. I'll give a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of all workers. And let me be clear. Let me just see a show of hands. How many people are making more than a quarter-million dollars a year? How many people are making less than a quarter-million dollars a year? Raise your hand.

If you make less than a quarter-million dollars a year, which includes 98 percent of small-business owners, you won't see your taxes increase one single dime. Not your payroll taxes, not your income taxes, not your capital gains taxes, nothing. In an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class. And that's why I'm providing tax cuts to 95 percent of working families.

Obama has proposed cutting taxes for low- and middle-income taxpayers and raising taxes only on single people earning more than $200,000 a year and on families earning more than $250,000 a year. According to an October 16 report by The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, "Court records from a divorce show Mr. Wurzelbacher made $40,000 in 2006." In an October 16 blog post, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper wrote that according to ABC News' Chris Bury, Wurzelbacher "acknowledged that he wants to purchase the plumbing business for $250-280,000, not that he would net that much in profits. He would make much less, he said." Tapper also noted that "Wurzelbacher this morning told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he was talking about, in Diane's words, the prospect, the hope that someday he would make $250,000." Further, in an October 17 article, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company Wurzelbacher has expressed interest in purchasing "reported sales this year of $100,000":

The company, A.W. Newell Inc., with two employees, Al Newell and Mr. Wurzelbacher, reported sales this year of $100,000. On sales of that volume, a firm that size could expect to earn about a 6% profit, or $6,000, after salaries and costs are taken out, according to Lee Smither, managing director of FMI Corp., a Raleigh, N.C., management-consulting firm for construction contractors.

The average income of plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters in 2006 was $48,002, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With income and profits, Mr. Wurzelbacher would be nowhere close to the threshold of $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples for Sen. Obama's proposed tax increase. To reach that level, Mr. Smither said, a mom-and-pop plumbing company like Newell would have to clear $5 million in annual sales.

But if Mr. Wurzelbacher reaped taxable income from his business of $280,000 a year, he'd pay about $900 more a year in taxes under Sen. Obama's plan, which would raise the tax rate on the income between $250,000 and $280,000 to 36% from 33%.

From the October 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BAIER: Joe the Plumber fans can go online and sign the petition encouraging him to run for Congress, believe it or not. The website, JoeWurzelbacher2010.com, says the plumber is just what Washington needs, using different wording. But as we are learning, this weeklong cup of Joe is not everybody's cup of tea. Correspondent James Rosen reports on the Swift Boating of Joe Wurzelbacher.

[begin video clip]

PALIN: People like Joe the Plumber and --

CROWD: [cheers] Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe.

ROSEN: His name has literally become a rallying cry. But that's just the Q-tip of the iceberg for baldheaded Joe the Plumber, a.k.a. Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, now famous as the ordinary Ohioian who, in Toledo on Sunday, pointedly queried Barack Obama about his plan to raise taxes on people earning over $250,000 a year and elicited the candidate's controversial comment about wanting to spread the wealth around.

McCAIN: I want Joe the Plumber to spread that wealth around.

ROSEN: Now, he's all over the TV news, talk radio, and most intensively, the blogosphere, where Slate questioned his very identity, CBS News reality-checked him and flushed out his puny tax debts, and Politco.com Roto-Rooted through Wurzelbacher's "not-so-tidy personal story" and faulted the McCain campaign for having "never vetted" this "unknown entity with so many asterisks." Even Obama himself has gone to work on this working stiff.

OBAMA: How many plumbers you know making a quarter-million dollars a year?

ROSEN: Did Joe the Plumber, by engaging a political candidate, effectively transform himself into a public figure? Three views.

MICHAEL MEDVED (radio host): And it demonstrates the way that the media acolytes of "the one" of Barack Obama will absolutely go after like a pack of howling dogs anyone who dares to question or challenge any of the premises of his candidacy.

ROBERT THOMPSON (professor, Syracuse University): The journalistic-industrial complex kicks in and starts doing the due diligence on who this guy is, and they're starting to find all kinds of interesting things.

WURZELBACHER: You know, Joe the Plumber, it's gonna be fun for a couple of days and then it's going to go away.

[end video clip]

ROSEN: If Andy Warhol was correct when he predicted that in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes, then here is my addendum: that everybody will then also find themselves at the center of a scandal with all the trimmings -- a televised crucifixion, investigating committees, a special prosecutor, a front lawn filled with camera crews, tax audits and 10 years of civil litigation. All of which suggest that it might be high time that Joe the Plumber get in touch with Joe the lawyer. In Washington, James Rosen the Fox News reporter.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
James Rosen
Show/Publication
Special Report with Brit Hume
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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