Adopting GOP-promoted term, Fox News repeatedly refers to estate tax as "death tax"

››› ››› NATHAN TABAK

In a report about the estate tax on America's Newsroom, Alisyn Camerota and Molly Henneberg repeatedly referred to the tax as the "death tax," a term popularized by supporters of the repeal of the tax.

In an April 1 report on Fox News' America's Newsroom, anchor Alisyn Camerota and correspondent Molly Henneberg repeatedly referred to the estate tax as the "death tax," a term popularized by supporters of the repeal of the tax and which GOP pollster Frank Luntz reportedly found polls better than the terms "estate tax" and "inheritance tax." While Henneberg noted that President Obama's budget uses the term "estate tax" and Camerota used the term "inheritance tax" at one point, neither Henneberg nor Camerota noted that the official name of the tax in the U.S. Code is the "estate tax."

Additionally, Camerota and Henneberg each at one point used language that falsely suggested that under Obama's proposed budget, the estate tax would apply to all Americans. Introducing the segment, Camerota stated that if Obama's budget passes, "Uncle Sam will take nearly half your estate when you die." Henneberg asserted that "if you're going to die, I guess next year's not the year to do it." In fact, as Henneberg later noted, estates that total less than $3.5 million will not have to pay any taxes if the estate tax is pegged at its 2009 levels, as Obama's budget proposes.

As Media Matters for America has documented, Fox News host Neil Cavuto also repeatedly used the term "death tax" in a July 2006 interview with then-President Bush. Additionally, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly referred to the "death tax" on a June 2005 edition of his radio program. Media Matters has also noted that Fox News has used other terms favored by Republicans in its reporting, such as referring to the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program as a "terrorist surveillance program" (echoing a January 2006 backgrounder on the program released by the White House's press office) and referring to suicide bombers as "homicide bombers," a term initially adopted by the White House in 2002.

Camerota introduced the segment by describing the Obama administration as "breathing new life into the death tax. Looking live right now onto Capitol Hill. Uncle Sam will take nearly half of your estate when you die if President Obama's budget passes as is. The 45 percent inheritance tax was supposed to be erased in the year 2010, but fine print in the president's budget says it's not going anywhere. ... What's supposed to happen with the death tax?" Henneberg responded: "Yeah, if you're going to die, I guess next year's not the year to do it, as some people were thinking. You know, the death tax was supposed to go away next year. The death tax had been 55 percent last year, but then President George W. Bush's 2001 tax cuts had decreased it -- or had planned for it to decrease -- and it will decrease to 45 percent this year, and then eliminate it altogether next year. But it appears that will not happen now."

During the segment, on-screen text repeatedly used the phrase "Death Tax" in quotation marks.

Camerota and Henneberg used the term "death tax" throughout the segment, though both Henneberg and an on-screen graphic noted that that the Obama budget refers to the tax as the estate tax. As Henneberg said:

It's a line in a footnote on Page 127 of the president's budget that says -- we can show it to you -- it says, quote, "The estate tax is maintained at its 2009 parameters."

From the April 1 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

ALISYN CAMEROTA (host): A breaking new -- sorry, I should say, breathing new life into the death tax. Looking live right now onto Capitol Hill. Uncle Sam will take nearly half of your estate when you die if President Obama's budget passes as is. The 45 percent inheritance tax was supposed to be erased in the year 2010, but fine print in the president's budget says it's not going anywhere. Fox's Molly Henneberg is live in Washington. What's supposed to happen with the death tax? Good morning, Molly.

HENNEBERG: Hey, Alisyn. Yeah, if you're going to die, I guess next year's not the year to do it, as some people were thinking. You know, the death tax was supposed to go away next year. The death tax had been 55 percent last year, but then President George W. Bush's 2001 tax cuts had decreased it -- or had planned for it to decrease -- and it will decrease to 45 percent this year, and then eliminate it altogether next year. But it appears that will not happen now -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: What does it say in President Obama's budget about this?

HENNEBERG: Right. It's a line in a footnote on Page 127 of the president's budget that says -- we can show it to you -- it says, quote, "The estate tax is maintained at its 2009 parameters" -- which means that 45 percent. And this is for people who have estates over 3.5 million, or 7 million per couple, and that's money that some economists believe won't be invested in small businesses. One former Congressional Budget Office director says getting rid of the death tax would have increased investment in small businesses by $1.6 trillion and would have created 1.5 million new jobs -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Now, it's curious, Molly, is it not, that the president's own top economic adviser once seemed to be against this very kind of death tax?

HENNEBERG: Or at least he acknowledged that it kind of prevents or stymies economic growth. Larry Summers, as you said, the president's top economic adviser, co-authored a study in 1980 looking at how capital -- how money and wealth were accumulated and grown. He writes in the report, quote: "The evidence presented indicates that intergenerational transfers account for the vast majority of the aggregate U.S. capital formation." Meaning that it's the passing on of wealth from one generation to another that helps grow the U.S. economy, something the death tax would seem to impede -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Molly Henneberg, live for us from Washington. Thank you for that update.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Molly Henneberg, Alisyn Camerota
Show/Publication
America's Newsroom
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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