Most Georgia local TV stations have buried Herschel Walker's tax and residency scandal
A week after CNN reported that Walker received a primary residence tax break in Texas while running for U.S. Senate in Georgia, only 5 local TV stations have reported it
Most of the major TV stations broadcasting in Georgia media markets have failed to report on Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker’s growing tax and residency scandal. Following a November 23 report from CNN, which demonstrated Walker received a tax break for having his primary residence in Texas, a review by Media Matters reveals that only 5 local TV stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, NBC, or FOX in Georgia’s 11 media markets have reported on this news, leaving many voters in the dark even as early voting in the runoff election has already begun.
According to reporting from CNN's Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, “Walker is listed to get a homestead tax exemption in Texas in 2022, saving the Senate candidate approximately $1,500 and potentially running afoul of both Texas tax rules and some Georgia rules on establishing residency for the purpose of voting or running for office,” because the exemption is only allowed for a “principal residence.” The CNN report noted that he registered to vote in Georgia last year “after living in Texas for two decades.” Kaczynski and Olivia Alafriz further reported on November 29 that Walker had repeatedly emphasized that he lives in Texas during a January campaign speech, and that he appeared for several right-wing media interviews while at his Texas home.
Several newspapers in Georgia have covered this breaking news. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia Democrats have called for a state investigation of Walker’s residency, and the Savannah Morning News also covered Walker’s residency controversy in an article about negative ads targeting the runoff candidates. The Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia, crossposted an article from The Hill about Walker receiving the Texas homestead tax break. And the Gwinnett Daily Post crossposted CNN’s November 23 report breaking this story.
But up to a week after the initial CNN report, most TV stations broadcasting in Georgia media markets have not included news of Walker’s Texas residency tax break in their broadcasts, even if some are posting articles about it on their websites. This includes most of the stations in these markets owned or operated by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, which mostly failed to report damaging stories about the Republican candidates in the 2020 Senate races. The Sinclair-owned or -operated Georgia stations WFXL in Albany, WGXA in Macon, and WTGS in Savannah have so far failed to report on Walker’s residency scandal, according to transcript searches of the Kinetiq video database.
The five stations in the Georgia media markets that have reported on Walker’s residency scandal as of publication include:
- Hearst Television-owned WJCL in Savannah, which covered this news in at least 5 separate segments throughout November 23-24.
- Cox Media Group-owned WSB-TV in Atlanta, which aired at least 1 full segment on the Walker news on November 28.
- Sinclair-owned WTVC in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which reported on this news in at least 2 segments on November 28-29.
- Tegna Inc.-owned WMAZ in Macon, which covered this story at least 4 times between November 29-30.
- Tegna-owned WXIA in Atlanta, which editorialized during a November 23 report and declared that the tax break won’t be a problem for Walker “right now” because of the U.S. Constitution’s requirements for running for Senate, while ignoring Georgia’s requirements.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the Kinetiq video database for all original news programming on ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX-affiliated TV stations in the Georgia media markets Albany, GA; Atlanta, GA; Augusta, GA-Aiken, SC; Chattanooga, TN; Columbus, GA; Dothan, AL; Greenville, SC-Spartanburg, SC-Asheville, NC-Anderson, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Macon, GA; Savannah, GA; and Tallahassee, FL-Thomasville, GA, for the term “Walker” within 20 words of any of the terms “Texas,” “tax,” “homestead,” or “residence” from November 23, 2022, when CNN first reported that Herschel Walker will receive the tax break, through noon ET on November 30, 2022.
We included segments, which we defined as instances when Herschel Walker’s homestead tax break was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of Walker’s tax break. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed Walker’s tax break with one another.
We did not include passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned Walker’s tax break without another speaker engaging with the comment, or teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about Walker’s tax break scheduled to air later in the broadcast.