Flashback: In 1980, Future CNN Chief Baffled by Push for Tax Cuts

Reading Bob Novak's new book about his years as a Washington reporter, I came across his recollection about how back in 1980, when marginal income tax rates stood at 70 percent, political reporters considered it bizarre that then-candidate Ronald Reagan supported the Kemp-Roth plan to reduce income taxes by 30 percent. On page 357 of 'The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington' (Amazon's page), Novak related a conversation he had, the week before the 1980 election, with Walter Isaacson, then a new Time magazine reporter. Isaacson eventually moved up the ranks to run the magazine and later CNN:
The connection of Reagan's emphasis on tax reduction to his late [1980] campaign surge was lost on reporters covering the Republican candidate. One of them was Walter Isaacson, a twenty-eight-year-old Time correspondent. The former Rhodes scholar, in his second year with the magazine, was given the plum assignment of covering Reagan. On the campaign trail that last week, he introduced himself to me and started a conversation about Reagan's and my tax-cutting views. He said he believed I was the only journalist he knew who actually supported Kemp-Roth, which accurately reflected the political press corps' mind-set. “I just wonder if you could explain to me how you got there,” he said. Walter sounded like a modern scientist encountering somebody who believed the earth was flat.
Isaacson's views must have been in sync with those running Time and the larger journalism community since, by the mid-1990s, he had risen to the top news slot at the magazine, Managing Editor, where he remained until jumping in mid-2001 to CNN as CEO and Chairman of the CNN News Group. He left CNN about a year-and-a-half later and landed at the Aspen Institute where he continues to serve as President of that foundation devoted to “timeless values, enlightened leadership.”

Isaacson's quote is one of 19, five with video, in the just-posted September 24 edition of the MRC's Notable Quotables newsletter, “a bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media.”

Incidentally, the screen shot of Isaacson is from a July 5, 2006 Aspen Institute forum during which then-future CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric denied there's any media bias, except on FNC. The September 3, 2006 NewsBusters item, “Katie Couric: I'm Not Biased, But My Viewers Are Biased -- and So Is FNC,” recounted:
Asked at the Aspen Institute's "Ideas Festival" in early July -- but just broadcast Saturday night on C-SPAN -- about the charge of liberal bias, incoming CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric was condescendingly dismissive. She blamed her viewers, calling it a "Rorschach test" which demonstrated how "oftentimes people put their, they see you from their own individual prisms. And if you're not reflecting their point of view or you're asking an antagonistic question of someone they might agree with in terms of policy, they see you as the enemy." Later in the July 5 session, however, she presumed FNC does have a bias: "You have Fox which espouses a particular point of view." Bob Schieffer appeared alongside Couric at the Colorado forum hosted by Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson, the former CEO of CNN and Managing Editor of Time magazine.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center