By 6-to-1 Margin, Networks Paint Debate Over ‘Tax Cuts,’ Not Raising Rates

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on December 8, 2010

NOTE:  The Bush tax cuts that were made 8 and 10 years ago are set to expire at the end of December 2010 unless extended or made permanent by Congress and the President. 

  • Conservatives say that what President Obama and most of the Democrats in Congress want to do is to RAISE TAXES – that if all of the Bush Era Tax Cuts are extended, no one will have their taxes cut. They are no longer tax cuts because they are the tax rates that have been in place for almost 10 years.  If extended, Americans’ tax rates will remain the same.  Conservatives say Democrats want to eliminate the tax cuts (the tax rates that have been in place for almost 10 years) and therefore raise the current tax rates.
  • Liberals say that extending the Bush tax cuts is a tax cut.

MRC analysts reviewed all 23 ABC, CBS and NBC evening news stories about the tax debate from the start of the lame-duck session of Congress on November 15 through December 5th…

Network reporters used the phrase “tax cut” a total of 71 times to characterize the issue at hand. CBS’s Nancy Cordes, for example, talked about “the battle over the Bush tax cuts” on the November 15 Evening News. Two nights later, NBC’s Chuck Todd related a new poll showing how “49 percent say don’t give the wealthy these tax cuts”

In contrast, the more accurate term “tax increase” or a synonymous phrase (e.g. tax hike, tax rise) was used only 11 times, or less than one-sixth as often as the phrase “tax cut” was employed. On the December 2nd World News, for instance, ABC anchor Diane Sawyer reported how Democrats had voted to “let taxes rise for the wealthiest Americans.” In addition, the network evening news broadcasts used the more neutral description of extending the current “tax rate” a total of 8 times in the same period.

The CBS Evening News was the most slanted, describing an extension of Bush “tax cuts” 30 times, with only 3 references to taxes increasing. ABC World News was not much better, using the phrase “tax cut” 27 times, as opposed to only 4 references to taxes going up under the Democratic proposal. NBC’s Nightly News was the most balanced, with 14 mentions of “tax cuts” in their reporting, 5 mentions of tax increases, and all 8 references to extending current “tax rates.”


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