ABC Eagerly Promotes Obama Whopper But Disputes as ‘Mostly False’ an Accurate Romney Stat

Pathetic. That best describes David Muir’s shoddy reporting on Wednesday’s ABC World News in which he gleefully relayed an obviously ridiculous income tax rate for an office manager for a wealthy hedge fund manager, both of whom served as props for President Obama at a White House event, before disputing as “mostly false” a quite accurate statistic forwarded by the Romney campaign.

“The President appeared in a picture surrounded by secretaries who pay a higher tax rate than their millionaire bosses who were there too by their sides, a direct challenge to Romney, his wealth and his tax rate,” anchor Diane Sawyer conveyed in highlighting the Obama campaign stunt of the day.

“Reporter” David Muir proceeded to relay:

The President argues if you make more than a million dollars, you should pay the same tax rate as the middle class. One of those millionaires standing behind him, hedge fund founder Whitney Tilson, who stood outside with us today with his office manager Kelly Alaris (sp?). He makes 39 times what she makes. Their tax rate, not even close.

Tilson asserted “I pay a 24.6 percent tax rate, she pays a 33.4 percent tax rate,” which is ludicrous since the maximum marginal federal income tax rate is 35 percent and she’d only pay that on part of her income. (Muir said she’d “save” $9,300 “if she paid his tax rate,” thus putting her income in the $100,000 range – though the numbers are wrong so you really can’t estimate too well – and at $100,000 no one pays 33 percent.)

After failing to point out the fallacy, Muir ran a clip of Mitt Romney saying 92.3 percent of the people who have lost jobs during Obama’s term “have been women.” Muir pounced: “Now the non-partisan group PolitiFact saying that number right there is ‘mostly false,’ arguing the President can’t be held responsible for the job picture the day he took office.” PolitiFact did declare the stat “mostly false” – after admitting “the numbers are accurate.”

(In the Washington Post’s mis-named “The Fact Checker,” Glenn Kessler idiotically assessed the Romney number as “TRUE BUT FALSE.” How helpful.)

Yet Muir has no qualms about passing along preposterous Obama campaign talking points.

This wasn’t Muir’s first offense. He was just as disingenuous back in late January. “The secretary speaks,” fill-in anchor Muir excitedly teased at the top of World News, “billionaire investor Warren Buffett and his secretary, who pays a much-higher tax rate than him. He says not fair. She’s now at the center of a huge debate. What does she think? An ABC News exclusive.”

That ridiculous story claimed Buffett’s secretary paid a 35.8 percent rate, which is impossible since the top marginal income tax rate is 35 percent. Even including the non-income tax FICA tax of 7 percent would put the income tax rate at a still impossible 28 percent.

In fact, the average effective federal income tax rate for taxpayers is 11 percent, as I noted in my January 24 post, “Nets Use Romney’s Taxes to Advance Obama’s False ‘Fairness’ Narrative,” which includes a table showing those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 pay an average effective income tax rate of 7 percent, 8 percent for those taking in $75,000 to $100,000 and 12 percent for those between $100,000 and $200,000.

Muir, of course, failed Stephen Hayes’ test. On FNC’s Special Report on Tuesday night he noted the 30 percent income tax rate on capital gains earned by millionaires “would raise less than six percent of the total cost of the stimulus” and “would raise roughly the same amount in one year” as “the U.S. government accumulates in debt in a single day.” Declaring it “totally meaningless,” Hayes asserted “there’s nothing serious about” Obama’s economic plan and so, he suggested in an idea with little chance of occurring: “Reporters should do their job and put this in perspective.”

From the Wednesday, April 11 ABC World News:

DIANE SAWYER: Today, Round One of the duel between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The President appeared in a picture surrounded by secretaries who pay a higher tax rate than their millionaire bosses who were there too by their sides, a direct challenge to Romney, his wealth and his tax rate.

DAVID MUIR: Call it Day One, President Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney. And today the President at the White House surrounded by multi-millionaire who agree with him when he brings up his famous friend, billionaire investor Warnen Buffett, asking what Buffett has long been asking: Why does he pay a much lower tax rate than his own secretary?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The executives who are with me here today, agree with me. They agree with Warren, this should be fixed.

MUIR: The President argues if you make more than a million dollars, you should pay the same tax rate as the middle class. One of those millionaires standing behind him, hedge fund founder Whitney Tilson, who stood outside with us today with his office manager Kelly Alaris (sp?). He makes 39 times what she makes. Their tax rate, not even close.

WHITNEY TILSON: I pay a 24.6 percent tax rate, she pays a 33.4 percent tax rate.

MUIR: So we wondered just how much she would save if she paid his tax rate? $9,300. Back to Kelly.

KELLY: I was shocked and a little dismayed.

....

MUIR: While the President was pushing that Buffett Rule, it was Mitt Romney pushing something else: This number, aimed squarely at women.

MITT ROMNEY: 92.3 percent of the people who have lost jobs have been women. His failures have hurt women.

MUIR: Now the non-partisan group PolitiFact saying that number right there is “mostly false,” arguing the President can’t be held responsible for the job picture the day he took office. But Team Romney fighting back hard. They sent me a copy of this letter that they have fired off tonight, saying no matter how you slice it, the majority of jobs lost have been to women. And Diane you’re going to hear this in the weeks and months to come because they’ve got to close that gap among women voters.

SAWYER: As President Obama counters with his calculator.

MUIR: Team Obama up with a calculator tonight, saying you can go to their Web site and see how your tax rate stacks up against Mitt Romney. Seven months to go.

SAWYER: Check our Web site to do that too.

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