While numerous news outlets have already issued corrections for misrepresenting comments economist Larry Summers, a former Obama economic adviser, made about extending the Bush tax cuts, Fox News is still pretending that Summers said something he didn't.
During an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning, Summers warned that “we've got to make sure that we don't take the gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year,” adding, “That's got to be the top priority. We've got to make sure that we keep providing energy to the economy.”
The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and others took those comments to mean that Summers had endorsed extending the Bush tax cuts. In fact, as both outlets later admitted, Summers said no such thing.
In fact, the misrepresentation is particularly glaring considering that immediately after his comments about “making sure there's the energy to keep the economy growing,” Summers specifically alluded to the fact that the wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes. From the MSNBC interview:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Larry Summers, let's start with you. You heard Bill Clinton talking about the tax cuts. We had terrible unemployment numbers coming out last week. What would you advise the president to do at this point?
SUMMERS: Look, the real risk to this economy is on the side of slowdowns, certainly not on the side of overheating. And that means we've got to make sure that we don't take the gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year. That's got to be the top priority. We've got to make sure that we keep providing energy to the economy.
And the areas where we've done that, like manufacturing with the support for the automobile industry, we haven't had great results but we've had much better results. In the areas where we weren't able to do what we wanted to do, areas like preserving jobs for teachers, areas like construction and investment and maintenance of the country's infrastructure, you look at the employment report, and we've really got terrible results.
So the key priority has got to be, for the short run, making sure there's the energy to keep the economy growing 'cause we're not going to do anything about the deficit unless we do that.
Immediately after those comments, Summers added:
SUMMERS: And then for the medium term, we obviously -- meaning the long term, we've obviously gotta do things to control the deficit. And certainly if you look at where we need to look to do that, as the president also -- President Clinton also recognized in his comments last night -- you gotta look to the people who've gotten the most gains from the economy over the last 30 years --
SUMMERS: -- and who've also gotten the biggest tax reductions. And that's the group that's been -- the group's that's been most fortunate. It's not taking from them; it's simply asking them to do their fair share at a time when the country's got to pull together to work through some difficult problems.
Following the widespread misreporting on his comments, including from outlets such as NPR and CBS News, Summers issued the following statement: “I fully support President Obama's position on tax cuts. I have often said and continue to believe that promoting demand is the most critical short run priority for the American economy. Extending the high income tax cut does little for demand and poses substantial problems of fairness and fiscal prudence.”
But according to Fox News senior White House correspondent Wendell Goler, Summers' follow-up statement was a “clarification” from his earlier comments:
GOLER: The former head of the president's National Economic Council had to issue a clarification today. ... Even as they were headed to the plane, former National Economic Council chair Larry Summers warned on MSNBC, quote, “We've got to make sure we don't take the gasoline out of the economy at the end of the year.” Summers later released a statement saying, quote, “I fully support President Obama's position on tax cuts. Extending the high-income tax cut does little for demand and poses substantial problems of fairness and fiscal prudence.”
Goler did not mention that in his original comments, Summers suggested that the “group that's been most fortunate” should pay “their fair share at a time when the country's got to pull together to work through some difficult problems.”
Similarly, on Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News' chief White House correspondent Ed Henry reported that Summers “did not specifically call for extending [the Bush tax cuts], but suggested ending them could further stall the recovery.” In fact, as the above transcript of Summers' comments shows, Summers suggested no such thing. Henry, like Goler before him, went on to mischaracterize Summers' follow-up statement as a “clarification.”