The middle class tax cut that wasn’t: News organizations are privileging Trump’s obvious dishonesty

The middle class tax cut that wasn’t: News organizations are privileging Trump’s obvious dishonesty

Media outlets’ headlines on Trump’s apparent tax cut fabrication parrot his claim, misinform their readers

››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

On Saturday, October 20, President Donald Trump floated a new claim that he and Republican leaders are planning to implement a “very major tax cut” for middle-income Americans “sometime just prior, I would say, to November.” GOP policymakers reportedly had no idea what Trump was talking about, and Congress is not even in session to pass this supposed tax plan, so it appears that this claim is just another blatant lie by the president. Nevertheless, multiple media outlets have run headlines built around Trump’s completely unsupported promise of a “middle-income tax cut.” 

Media have a long history of privileging obvious lies, frequently from conservatives, but their repeat shortcomings are even more egregious when applied to a president who lies all the time. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent wrote in December 2016, “If the headline does not convey the fact that Trump’s claim is in question or open to doubt, based on the known facts, then it is insufficiently informative.” According to Sargent, “If the known facts show that his claims are false or outright lies, the headline should clearly indicate that, too.” 

By constructing headlines that only repeat Trump’s unfounded claim and fail to note that the claim is without evidence, media outlets convey as fact something that is almost certainly untrue. This failure leaves readership critically misinformed, and it is particularly egregious when committed by The Associated Press and Reuters, whose articles and headlines are syndicated to countless outlets nationwide. This shoddy practice also reveals these media organizations as easy marks for the president to manipulate into pushing his dishonest messaging onto the country.

Reuters 

Trump says team working on tax cut for middle-income earners

Trump eyeing a 10 percent middle-income tax cut plan 

Associated Press

Trump wants to push middle-income tax cut through Congress  

CNN

Trump says GOP working on tax plan for middle class 

The Hill

Trump says he will push for new round of tax cuts after midterms 

ABC News

Just before midterm elections, Trump claims he'll propose cutting middle class taxes 10 percent

Wash. Post

Trump: Republicans planning tax cuts for middle-income earners before November

Axios

Trump looking at "major tax cut" ahead of midterms 

Politico

Trump wants new middle-class tax cut 'of about 10 percent' 

The MaddowBlog

Trump eyes ‘very major tax cut’ before Election Day 

MarketWatch

Trump Today: President floats middle-income tax cut as he vows to slash aid to Central America 

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