Nets Manufacture ‘Another Dustup/Misstep/Controversy’ for Romney on Taxes and in Palestinian Criticism

Journalists are quite eager to undermine Mitt Romney’s trip. “A new diplomatic dust-up,” CBS anchor Scott Pelley teased Monday night, citing how “Mitt Romney in the Middle East says culture makes Israelis economically superior to Palestinians.” NBC’s Peter Alexander declared upsetting Palestinians meant Romney’s “day began in Israel with another diplomatic misstep” as ABC’s David Muir saw “another overseas controversy in a trip with missteps already.”

Muir also discovered, without citing any evidence, “fallout today from a question we asked Romney during our one-on-one last night on World News,” specifically Muir’s demand to know: “Was there ever any year when you paid lower than the 13.9 percent” income tax rate?

Romney assured Muir he’s always paid what he owed. The supposed “fallout” was completely manufactured by Muir and ABC since all he could cite was how “ABC News reached out to his campaign today after Romney’s answer,” as if Romney had something to be embarrassed about. But Romney’s campaign didn’t offer a mea culpa.

(The average effective federal income tax rate for taxpayers is 11 percent, 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.)

On Israel, Muir referred to “Romney talking to Jewish-American donors with words one Palestinian leader later called ‘racist.’”

CBS Evening News anchor Pelley proceeded to assert, in setting up the subsequent story after the tease quoted above: “Mitt Romney left controversy in his wake today...” Reporter Jan Crawford detailed how Romney “told major donors that Israeli culture helped explain why they are more economically successful than the neighboring Palestinians.”

Yet she, unlike Alexander and Muir, noted Romney “has repeatedly made similar remarks on the campaign trail.” So why the sudden “controversy”?

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was oblivious to the news media’s role in creating the “controversies,” relating: “Mitt Romney tonight continues what was supposed to be a low risk and statesman-like three-nation overseas trip. Instead, and beginning with his conversation with us in London, it’s been controversial including his stop in Israel.”

From the Monday, July 30 ABC World News:

DIANE SAWYER: Tonight, Republican candidate Mitt Romney is in Poland, the final leg of a three nation foreign policy tour. But he has also faced on-going questions about taxes and here with it all, David Muir, who interviewed Romney and reports from Warsaw.

DAVID MUIR: Today, a backdrop reminiscent of a different era, Mitt Romney visiting Poland, a powerful ally during the Cold War and still today....

But today, another overseas controversy, in a trip with missteps already. Romney talking to Jewish-American donors with words one Palestinian leader later called “racist” after Romney  compared the Israeli economy to the Palestinian economy, linking economic success to your culture. He quoted a professor who found that culture makes all the difference. The campaign called early reports of the comments a “gross mischaracterization.”

There was also fallout today from a question we asked Romney during our one-on-one last night on World News. While overseas Romney has reiterated he’ll release just two years of his tax returns. So when we sat down with him, we started with what he has revealed.

MUIR TO ROMNEY: We know that there was one year where you paid about a 13.9 percent tax rate. Can we clear this up by asking you a simple yes or no question: Was there ever any year when you paid lower than the 13.9 percent?

ROMNEY: I haven’t calculated that. I’m happy to go back and look. But my view is I have paid all the taxes required by law. From time to time, I’ve been audited, as happens, I think, to other citizens as well.

MUIR: ABC News reached out to his campaign today after Romney’s answer. A spokesperson would only reiterate “Mitt Romney has paid his taxes in full compliance of U.S. law and he has paid 100 percent of what he has owed.” The campaign also telling ABC News that when the 2011 return is ready, they’ll make that public. One adviser telling me though, no matter how many years worth of returns they release, it will never be enough for the Democrats.

CBS Evening News:

SCOTT PELLEY, TEASE: A new diplomatic dust-up. Mitt Romney in the Middle East says culture makes Israelis economically superior to Palestinians.

PELLEY: Mitt Romney left controversy in his wake today as he left Israel for Poland in his first overseas tour as the presumptive Republican nominee. His remarks to supporters in Jerusalem, angered Palestinians and Jan Crawford is traveling with Governor Romney.

JAN CRAWFORD: Romney’s welcome to Poland by senior leaders and Solidarity legend Lech Walesa was overshadowed by remarks he made at a fundraiser, which was closed to cameras, before he left Israel. He told major donors that Israeli culture helped explain why they are more economically successful than the neighboring Palestinians.

“You notice a dramatic, stark difference in economic vitality,” he said. “And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States. Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over the city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power with of at least culture an a few other things.” Romney, referring to the work of a prominent Harvard historian, has repeatedly made similar remarks on the campaign trail...

NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Mitt Romney tonight continues what was supposed to be a low risk and statesman-like three-nation overseas trip. Instead, and beginning with his conversation with us in London, it’s been controversial including his stop in Israel where the news from there followed the candidate to Poland where Peter Alexander is tonight traveling with Governor Romney. Peter, good evening.

PETER ALEXANDER: Brian, good evening to you. Mitt Romney has found himself on the defensive during the first two stops of his foreign tour. First in London with the Olympics, then in Israel with the Palestinians and here in Poland his campaign insists it will not be three stops in a row....

The day began in Israel with another diplomatic misstep that forced the Romney campaign on the defensive. This morning Romney told Jewish donors at a fundraiser that Israeli culture is part of what’s enabled Israel to be more economically prosperous than the Palestinian territories, never mentioning the impact of severe trade restrictions imposed by the Israeli government on the Palestinian economy....

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