Several media figures have asserted that annual income of more than $250,000 is -- in the words of Rush Limbaugh -- "not wealthy" in order to attack President Obama's 2011 budget proposal to allow the Bush tax cuts on families earning more than $250,000 per year to expire as scheduled. According to 2006 Census data, households that earn more than $250,000 per year make up approximately two percent of all U.S. households.
FAIR's Peter Hart points out this statement by CNN anchor Kiran Chetry this morning: "You also talk about letting taxes expire for families that make over $250,000. Some would argue that in some parts of the country that is middle class."
As Hart noted, households that make more than $250,000 make up only 1.5 percent of the U.S.
In 2008, Newsweek's Daniel Gross explained that even in the wealthiest metropolitan areas, $250,000 is a lot of money:
As census data show, state median incomes vary from $65,933 in New Jersey to $35,971 in Mississippi. But even in wealthy states, $250,000 ain't bad-it's nearly four times the median income in wealthy states like Maryland and Connecticut. And even if you look at the wealthiest metropolitan areas-Washington, D.C. ($83,200); San Francisco ($73,851); Boston ($68,142); and New York ($61,554)-$250,000 a year dwarfs the median income.
[T]he number of places where $250,000 stretches you is small indeed-certain parts of Greenwich, Conn.; several neighborhoods in Manhattan; some of California's coast. Even in the most exclusive communities where the wealthy congregate, $250,000 is still pretty good coin. Consider this: CNNMoney recently ranked America's 25 wealthiest towns. In all of them, someone making $250,000 would have a difficult time buying his dream house. But in all of them, making $250,000 means you're doing better than most of your neighbors. Even in America's richest town, New Canaan, Conn., the median income is $231,138.
In other words, to make Chetry's statement that $250,000 is "middle class" in "some parts of the country" true, you have to define "some parts of the country" as specific neighborhoods -- not regions or states or even metropolitan areas. Neighborhoods.
Chetry's statement recalls Charlie Gibson's embarrassing performance during a 2008 Democratic primary debate, in which he suggested that a family with two public school teachers as makes $200,000 a year. Gibson's statement was so badly out of touch with reality, the audience actually laughed at him.
As I noted at the time:
You have to wonder how media stars like Blitzer and Gibson have lost touch with their viewers so badly that they think $200,000 incomes are typical.
Charlie Gibson reportedly makes $8 million a year and is paid less than his counterparts at CBS and NBC.
Might that have something to do with his lack of perspective? How could it not?
Charlie Gibson would see his taxes go up under the Democrats' plan. So would Wolf Blitzer. And, coincidentally, they suggest that their viewers' taxes would go up, too -- even though for the vast majority of viewers, that isn't true.
In recent days, media figures repeatedly referred to the Senate Democrats' possible use of reconciliation to pass health care reform with a simple majority as the "nuclear option," with Fox News going so far as to run graphics defining "nuclear option" as "[f]orcing government-run insurance through the Senate with just 51 votes." In fact, the term "nuclear option" was coined by then-Republican Sen. Trent Lott in 2005 to refer to a possible Republican attempt to change Senate filibuster rules, while the budget process, known as reconciliation, is already part of Senate procedure, and Republicans have used it repeatedly in the past.
Echoing Fox News' Bill Sammon and Sean Hannity, CNN hosts Anderson Cooper and Kiran Chetry both falsely compared Senate Democrats' potential use of the reconciliation process to pass health reform legislation to the "nuclear option." In fact, the term "nuclear option" was coined by then-Republican Sen. Trent Lott in 2005 to refer to a possible Republican attempt to change Senate filibuster rules, while reconciliation is already part of Senate procedure and Republicans have used it repeatedly in the past.
Fox News' Sean Hannity and CNN's Kiran Chetry cited a USA Today article to claim or speculate that political favoritism played a role in the distribution of funds from the recovery act. However, the article itself stated, "Investigators who track the stimulus are skeptical that political considerations could be at work."
A Media Matters analysis found that since the day after President Obama's inauguration, broadcast and cable news figures have been stating that Obama's "honeymoon" is "over" or questioning whether it is, rendering the cliché all but meaningless. During this period, media figures have suggested Obama's "honeymoon" is "over" with respect to "some ... die-hard Republicans," the media, African-Americans, Cuban President Fidel Castro, "Republican critics of his economic recovery plan," and economists.
CNN's Kiran Chetry failed to challenge a McCain campaign adviser's criticism of Sen. Barack Obama for "claim[ing] that the American military was just air-raiding villages and bombing civilians" in Afghanistan, even though Chetry herself has reported that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has offered "personal regret[s]" to Afghanistan over air strikes that killed civilians.
CNN's American Morning deceptively cropped Wesley Clark's Face the Nation interview, airing a video of Clark saying of Sen. John McCain, "That large squadron in the Air -- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall," after which Clark was immediately shown saying: "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president." But CNN edited out the portion of the exchange indicating that, in making the latter statement, Clark was responding to host Bob Schieffer's statement that, unlike McCain, Sen. Barack Obama has not "ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down."
Reports on CNN's American Morning and its Political Ticker blog quoted former Gov. Mitt Romney praising Sen. John McCain's "credentials on fiscal issues," but neither report noted that "questioning McCain's economic credentials was the centerpiece" of Romney's campaign during the Republican presidential primary in Florida.
Interviewing Al Franken on CNN's American Morning, Kiran Chetry falsely claimed that Al Franken, in a 2005 appearance on David Letterman's show, "said some things about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, saying they should be executed for treason." In fact, as Franken noted, he had said that "George H.W. Bush, the president's father, was the head of the CIA, and he has said that outing a CIA agent is treason. ... And so, basically, what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed." Chetry then denied having said that Franken "advocated" executing Rove and Libby.