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ABC Pushes Liberal Spin: Top 5% Get More Than Half of Tax Cut --5/23/2003


1. ABC Pushes Liberal Spin: Top 5% Get More Than Half of Tax Cut "The top five percent of taxpayers would get more than half of the benefits from the tax cut," ABC's Linda Douglass complained on Thursday's World News Tonight as an on-screen graphic screamed, "TAX CUT WINNERS: Top 5% taxpayers get more than half of benefits." But in suggesting some kind of unfair skew toward the wealthy, Douglass didn't bother to inform viewers that the top five percent of income earners also pay more than half of the income taxes collected -- 56 percent to be exact.

2. London Paper Documents How Baghdad Museum Looting Exaggerated "Media blamed for exaggerating loss of antiquities," declared the headline over a May 22 story by Alex Spillius in Baghdad for the London Telegraph. A museum official explained that "before the war we evacuated all of the small pieces and emptied the show cases except for fragile or heavy material that was difficult to move." So that's why the networks could show video of a seemingly looted museum.

3. CNN & MSNBC Falsely Claim Bush Said al-Qaeda "Not a Problem" New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has spawned an anti-Bush media myth repeated by MSNBC and CNN, Brendan Nyhan outlined in a Spinsanity.org posting: "Dowd misrepresented a Bush statement to imply that he said the al-Qaeda terrorist network is 'not a problem anymore.'" In fact, Bush said that half of the "al-Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead" and they are the ones who are "not a problem anymore."

4. Catholic Bishop to Boycott Chris Matthews Getting Honored When MSNBC's Chris Matthews receives an honorary degree at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts today, the Catholic bishop for the area will not be in attendance because of Matthews' support of abortion.


Correction: The May 22 CyberAlert referred to how Democratic legislators in Texas "used extra-legal means to shut down the legislature and allude arrest." That should have read "elude."
The May 20 CyberAlert quoted PBS reporter Brenda Breslauer as reporting that "when Britell was five months pregnant with her second child, a sonogram revealed a fetal anomaly called anonsephale [sp?]. Her child would have no brain, and never survive outside the womb." That condition is spelled "anencephaly."

ABC Pushes Liberal Spin: Top 5% Get More
Than Half of Tax Cut

ABC's Linda Douglass reporting "The top five percent of taxpayers would get more than half of the benefits from the tax cut," ABC's Linda Douglass complained on Thursday's World News Tonight as an on-screen graphic screamed, "TAX CUT WINNERS: Top 5% taxpayers get more than half of benefits." But in suggesting some kind of unfair skew toward the wealthy, Douglass didn't bother to inform viewers that the top five percent of income earners also pay more than half of the income taxes collected -- 56 percent to be exact.

So the tax cut distribution matches who pays the taxes. Sounds perfectly fair to all but liberals and journalists, assuming they are not synonymous.

Douglass began her May 22 World News Tonight story by looking at how a couple, both teachers, who earn a combined $50,000 to $70,000, and who have four kids under the age of 17, will get a $1,900 cut this year mainly because of how the tax cut rewards those with children. (That income, Douglass didn't point out, puts the couple in the top 25 percent.) Douglass ran through from which provisions the couple will benefit: Because they're married, a cut of $233, for each kids a credit of $400, for a total of $1,600, and a $100 cut in their income tax payment.

Douglass then asserted: "Big winners are rich people and families with children" while "more than half of all taxpayers will get only $100 or less."
Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution then explained: "You're talking about single people, you're talking about single moms with children, you're talking about some elderly couples or single elderly people who don't have dividends and capital gains income."
Douglass proceeded to endorse the accuracy of liberal, class warfare arguments against the tax cut: "The other tax cut winners are the rich. The top five percent of taxpayers would get more than half of the benefits from the tax cut. Those who make between $100,000 and $200,000 would get a tax cut of more than $2,500 on their income alone. Those between $500,000 and a million dollars would get an average income tax cut of $17,324. And that's not all."
Mark Garay, Deloitte & Touche: "Those people that have significant investment income -- meaning dividends and capital gains -- those are the big winners clearly in this bill."

On screen as Douglass began that paragraph, ABC made sure viewers realized the tilt to the wealthy:
"TAX CUT
WINNERS
Top 5%
taxpayers
get more
than half
of benefits"

According to 2000 IRS data provided by the Tax Foundation, earning above $128,336 annually puts you in the top five percent. Though the top five percent earn 35.3 percent of the total Adjusted Gross Income in the U.S., they pay far more than their share: 56.5 percent of the income taxes collected.

Those numbers by income classification are online at: www.taxfoundation.org

The rich keep paying more and more. Go to the above link and scroll down to the historic table titled, "Total Income Tax Share (percentage of federal income tax collections paid by each group)," and you'll see the income tax burden has steadily shifted toward the higher income earners. In 1980, the top five percent paid 36.94 percent of federal income taxes. By 2000 that had soared to the above-cited 56.47 percent.

A Tax Foundation summary of its report provides an overview of how a very small number of Americans pay the overwhelming majority of income taxes while the bottom 50 percent pay barely anything and far less than the percent of the income they earn:

According to preliminary data released by the Internal Revenue Service and a new Tax Foundation Special Report, the top-earning 25 percent of taxpayers earned more than two-thirds of the nation's income (67.3%) and paid more than five out of every six dollars collected by the federal income tax (84%) in 2000. There were 32 million tax returns in the top 25 percent, all with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) over $55,225.

The top one percent of U.S. taxpayers (annual income over $313,469) made 20.8 percent of the income earned in 2000 and paid 37.4 percent of the total federal individual income taxes collected that year. This fraction of the tax burden paid by the top one percent -- well over a third of the total -- is up from 25.1 percent ten years earlier in tax year 1990.

At the other end of the income spectrum, the bottom 50 percent of the nation's taxpayers earned only 13.0 percent of all income in 2000, but they paid an even smaller fraction of the federal individual income taxes collected -- 3.9 percent....

END of Excerpt

For the summary of that report: www.taxfoundation.org

For the PDF of the full report: www.taxfoundation.org

London Paper Documents How Baghdad Museum Looting Exaggerated

"Media blamed for exaggerating loss of antiquities," declared the headline over a May 22 story by Alex Spillius in Baghdad for the London Telegraph.

A museum official explained that "before the war we evacuated all of the small pieces and emptied the show cases except for fragile or heavy material that was difficult to move." So that's why the networks could show video of a seemingly looted museum.

An excerpt from the story brought to my attention by the MRC's Liz Swasey:

Officials at the National Museum of Iraq have blamed shoddy reporting amid the "fog of war" for creating the impression that the majority of the institution's 170,000 items were looted in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad.

A carefully prepared storage plan, used in the Iran-Iraq war and the first Gulf war, ensured that tens of thousands of pieces were saved, they said. They now believe that the number of items taken was in the low thousands, and possibly hundreds.

However, the stolen artifacts include 33 priceless pieces of world renown, which they fear will disappear for ever into private collections.

Donny George, research director, said: "There was a mistake. Someone asked us what is the number of pieces in the whole collection. We said over 170,000, and they took that as the number lost.

"Reporters came in and saw empty shelves and reached the conclusion that all was gone. But before the war we evacuated all of the small pieces and emptied the show cases except for fragile or heavy material that was difficult to move." Some pieces were hidden in the vaults of the central bank and others at secret locations, he added.

Thousands of manuscripts and scrolls were kept at a civilian bunker in north-west Baghdad and had been returned....

END of Excerpt

For the story in its entirety: www.telegraph.co.uk

Previous CyberAlert items on the network mis-reporting of museum looting:

-- April 18 CyberAlert. Peter Jennings cited "the failure of U.S. forces to prevent the pillage of Iraq's national museum" as he set up an entire story examining "the variety of places the U.S. has not been protecting." CNN's Aaron Brown maintained, "There has been intense focus on one question: Did the United States do enough to prevent the theft?" Jim Bitterman mockingly recalled how "one of the most treasured collections of antiquities had been plundered under the very noses of U.S. troops." Bitterman relayed how "critics" charge that the U.S. priority was "protecting hundreds of oil wells scattered across Iraq and the Oil Ministry building in Baghdad, ahead of protecting the Baghdad Museum and other cultural sites." For details: www.mediaresearch.org

-- April 21 CyberAlert. ABC News has displayed an obsession with the looting and thefts from the Baghdad Museum, culminating with Peter Jennings on Friday night charging that "the U.S. did not act according to international law to prevent it." World News Tonight has now run at least three full stories in addition to Nightline on Thursday night and a segment about it on Friday's Good Morning America. Jennings concluded by dismissing the Pentagon's defense: "The Pentagon has said, in reply, look, this is war, and stuff happens, the U.S. was fired on from the museum grounds. Not a satisfactory answer for people who say that if the U.S. managed to protect the Ministry of Oil, why not this repository of civilization? Why, they ask, is neglect forgivable?" www.mediaresearch.org

-- May 2 CyberAlert. Oh, never mind. After running multiple stories about the "failure" of U.S. troops to prevent the looting of Iraq's national museum, with ABC's Peter Jennings going so far as to charge that "the U.S. did not act according to international law to prevent it," on Thursday's World News Tonight Jennings read a short item about how "the looting at the national museum may not have been as extensive as some people first reported" and "it turns out that many pieces were removed before the war." Those "some people," Jennings did not remind viewers, included himself. www.mediaresearch.org

CNN & MSNBC Falsely Claim Bush Said al-Qaeda
"Not a Problem"

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has spawned an anti-Bush media myth repeated by MSNBC and CNN, Brendan Nyhan outlined in a Spinsanity.org posting which was highlighted on Friday by Greg Pierce in his Washington Times "Inside Politics" column.

"An outrageous new falsehood is circulating about President Bush," Nyhan observed in his May 22 piece. "Last week, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd misrepresented a Bush statement to imply that he said the Al Qaeda terrorist network is 'not a problem anymore,' and the distorted quotation has since been repeated by MSNBC Buchanan and Press co-host Bill Press, CNN's Miles O'Brien and others."

Nyhan recalled how in her May 14 column, Dowd wrote: "Busy chasing off Saddam Hussein, the President and Vice President had told us that Al Qaeda was spent. 'Al Qaeda is on the run,' President George W. Bush said last week. 'That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated,' he added. 'They're not a problem anymore.'"

Nyhan observed: "But as Andrew Sullivan first pointed out on his website (and later in his Washington Times column), these quotes were taken wildly out of context from a May 5 speech in Arkansas in which Bush said this: 'Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top Al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem anymore.'"

Nyhan pointed out: "Bush was obviously saying that the Al Qaeda operatives who 'are either jailed or dead' are 'not a problem anymore,' not that Al Qaeda itself is 'not a problem.'"

The MRC's TimesWatch.org documented Dowd's distortion in a May 14 posting, the day of her column. To read the piece by Clay Waters, "Maureen Dowd's Dishonest Deletion," go to: www.timeswatch.org

The May 22 CyberAlert noted how ABC's Good Morning America has repeatedly played this clip of Bush in the wake of the bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco: "Al-Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely being decimated." See: www.mediaresearch.org

ABC used the soundbite to show Bush to be inaccurate, but they avoided Dowd's distortion of improperly adding the "not a problem anymore" generalization. Nyhan, however, discovered others have picked it up. An excerpt from Nyhan's article:

....That didn't stop Press, who repeated Dowd's distorted quotation verbatim twice on the day it was published. During the 3 PM EST show, Press presented the quote to guest Christopher Whitcomb: "Chris, I want to read you something we were told last week. And I quote -- 'Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. They're not a problem anymore.' That's what President Bush told the nation."

During the 6 PM show, Press added, "[Bush] said last week about the Al Qaeda, 'Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. They're not a problem any more.'"

CNN's Miles O'Brien also parroted the quotation that day in an interview on CNN's "Live From" (which was contested by his guest, Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies):

O'BRIEN: "Cliff May, last week, the President said 'Al Qaeda is on the run. The group of terrorists who attacked our country [is] slowly but surely being decimated. They're not a problem anymore.' Maybe not so?"
MAY: "Well, I don't recall the President saying 'not a problem anymore.'"

The next day, the Sacramento Bee denounced Bush in an editorial for his supposed "statement the other day -- a few days before terrorist bombs killed eight Americans and many others in Saudi Arabia -- that the al-Qaida terrorists 'are not a problem anymore.' They are."...

On Monday, Press was back to repeating the claim during an exchange with co-host Pat Buchanan on the 6 PM show....

Press then repeated it again during Tuesday's show:

PRESS: "Here's what's phony, Pat. What's phony is for the President to say that al Qaeda is on the run, they're not a problem anymore...."

The same night, Fox News "Hannity and Colmes" co-host Alan Colmes presented video of the full quotation, but still claimed Bush was suggesting Al Qaeda itself is "not a problem anymore":

BUSH: "Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case they are not a problem anymore."
COLMES: "But they are a problem. They were a problem in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, they're a problem in Morocco. And the president says they are not a problem anymore and it turns out they still are a problem."...

This falsehood has also been repeated in a wide array of foreign news reports and op-eds....

Critics have every right to object to Bush's statement if they believe it mischaracterizes the threat from Al Qaeda. But they also have a responsibility to accurately represent what the President actually said, rather than repeating Dowd's distorted quotation. The New York Times -- and the other outlets that have disseminated the myth -- should let their readers know the full context of Bush's statement. The rapid spread of this myth is yet another sad commentary on the state of American political journalism.

END of Excerpt

For Nyhan's posting in full: www.spinsanity.org

Spinsanity provided this link to Dowd's column as published in the New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune: www.iht.com

For the text of Bush's May 5 speech: www.whitehouse.gov

Catholic Bishop to Boycott Chris Matthews
Getting Honored

When MSNBC's Chris Matthews receives an honorary degree at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts today (Friday), the Catholic bishop for the area will not be in attendance because of Matthews' support for abortion, the Boston Globe reported on Thursday.

"Bishop Reilly to boycott Holy Cross over award," read the headline over the May 22 story by reporter Michael Paulson which was highlighted by Romenesko's media news site: www.poynter.org

An excerpt from the Globe story:

The Catholic bishop of Worcester said yesterday that he will not attend commencement tomorrow at the College of the Holy Cross because the Catholic university is awarding an honorary degree to a television talk-show host, Chris Matthews, who supports abortion rights.

"I cannot let my presence imply support for anything less than the protection of all life at all its stages," said Bishop Daniel P. Reilly. In a prepared statement, he did not refer to Matthews by name, but simply as "a Catholic person who publicly espouses the view that, in some cases, people have a right to terminate life in a womb."

Reilly's decision was made after an outcry by a group of Holy Cross alumni, the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society. The group tried to persuade the college to withdraw its invitation to Matthews, then urged that the college place a note on Matthews's honorary degree indicating that the college did not agree with his abortion views, and finally turned its energies to persuading Reilly to boycott the commencement....

Holy Cross spokeswoman Katharine Buckley McNamara....defended the choice of Matthews as a speaker. Matthews, a 1967 graduate of Holy Cross, is the host of The Chris Matthews Show on NBC-TV and Hardball With Chris Matthews on MSNBC-TV.

"Chris Matthews represents Holy Cross in a wonderful way," she said. "He has a probing intellect, engages in passionate discussions on the most important topics of the day -- especially moral issues, and shows a special care for the poor and marginalized in our society. We are proud of our alumnus Chris Matthews."

Matthews has described himself as a supporter of abortion rights.

"I'm pro-choice," he told former Vice President Al Gore during a televised interview last December.

But McNamara said Matthews "has not questioned the Catholic Church's fundamental teaching on the morality of abortion."...

END of Excerpt

For the Globe story in its entirety: www.boston.com


Given McNamara's admiration for how Matthews "shows a special care for the poor and marginalized in our society," she's perfectly qualified for a job in journalism if she ever wants to leave her Holy Cross PR position -- assuming she hasn't already been a reporter.

-- Brent Baker