CBS’s Rodriguez: Joe The Plumber a ‘Pawn’ of the Republican Party

Maggie Rodriguez and Harry Smith, CBS At the top of Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez claimed that Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio plumber who criticized Obama’s tax policy, was upset that McCain mentioned him in Wednesday’s debate: "This is the small businessman first mentioned by John McCain, but then referenced repeatedly by both candidates. I had a chance to speak with Joe after the debate and he told me he did not like being mentioned, he feels like he is being used by the Republican Party as a pawn to make their point..." Despite that assertion, Rodriguez never offered any audio, video, or even a direct quote of Wurzelbacher saying any such thing.

However, in the same sentence, Rodriguez did admit: "...at the same time, he said since he has been thrust into this, he wants America to know that he absolutely disagrees with Senator Obama's tax plan. He says it punishes him for making more money and he even called it Marxist." In the report by correspondent Jeff Glor that followed, such criticism of Obama was backed up as audio of Wurzelbacher talking to Evening News anchor Katie Couric was played: "You know, I've always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question for once, instead of tap dancing around it. And unfortunately I asked the question but I still got a tap dance. He [Barack Obama] was almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr."

Following Glor’s report, co-host Harry Smith talked to Jennifer Boresz, a reporter for the local CBS affiliate in Toledo, Ohio, about her interview with Wurzelbacher. In that discussion, Wurzelbacher explained that he was glad that his concerns were mentioned during the debate: "I'm just glad I could be used to get some points across. You know, hopefully it makes some other Americans go out and really look into the issues and find out for themselves... Your opinion's not given to by your union steward, your opinion's not given to you by MTV. You know, you really got to find out facts." Again, Rodriguez offered no supporting direct statement from Wurzelbacher to back up her assertion that he felt like a Republican "pawn."

On a separate note, in his report on the debate, Jeff Glor once again downplayed the extremism of domestic terrorist Bill Ayers: "For the first time face-to-face McCain brought up the current education professor and former anti-war radical Bill Ayers." On October 7, Glor described Ayers as a "once radical anti-war advocate." These descriptions of Ayers ignore the fact that in 2001 he explained: "I don't regret setting bombs...I feel we didn't do enough," or that in 2006 he gave an interview to a Communist publication and ardently defended radical professor Ward Churchill, who compared victims of the September 11th attacks to Nazis.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

BARACK OBAMA: What you are proposing is eight more years of the same thing.

JOHN MCCAIN: Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should've run four years ago.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: The final face-off. McCain and Obama clash over the economy, character, and Joe, the plumber.

MCCAIN: What you want to do to Joe, the plumber, and millions more like him, is have their taxes increased and not be able to realize the American dream.

7:01AM TEASE:

RODRIGUEZ: Another man who got a lot of attention was Joe, the plumber. This is the small businessman first mentioned by John McCain, but then referenced repeatedly by both candidates. I had a chance to speak with Joe after the debate and he told me he did not like being mentioned, he feels like he is being used by the Republican Party as a pawn to make their point, but, at the same time, he said since he has been thrust into this, he wants America to know that he absolutely disagrees with Senator Obama's tax plan. He says it punishes him for making more money and he even called it Marxist.

7:03AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: The final and most spirited debate so far. Early Show correspondent Jeff Glor is in Hempstead, New York, where the face-off was held. Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF GLOR: Hey Maggie, good morning to you. This was a lively debate, to say the least. Just three people sitting around a table, maybe forgiven for thinking at times that it was four. If the first two debates were dull, the third was a thriller by comparison.

JOHN MCCAIN: Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should've run four years ago.

GLOR: John McCain's strategy was to distance himself from President Bush and tie himself to Joe the plumber.

MCCAIN: You were going to put him in a higher tax bracket, which was going to increase his taxes.

GLOR: The suddenly famous Joe Wurzelbacher, the Ohio man who began a lively neighborhood discussion with Barack Obama on Sunday, got mentioned 26 times. Compared to the economy, 16 times, and Iraq, just 6. McCain tried to use Joe to show Obama would raise taxes.

OBAMA: And I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there.

GLOR: Obama seemed happy to engage.

OBAMA: What I've said is I want to provide a tax cut for 95% of working Americans.

GLOR: Both men were asked about the flurry of attack ads airing in battleground states.

OBAMA: A hundred percent, John, of your ads, a hundred percent of them have been negative.

MCCAIN: It's not true.

OBAMA: It absolutely is true.

MCCAIN: You're running ads that mis-portray completely my position on immigration.

GLOR: For the first time face-to-face McCain brought up the current education professor and former anti-war radical Bill Ayers.

MCCAIN: We need to know the full extent of that relationship.

OBAMA: He has never been involved in this campaign and he will not advise me in the White House, so that's Mr. Ayers.

GLOR: The candidates went back and forth like we've never seen them before, McCain staying aggressive, did not hide his frustration. Obama often smiled in response. There were serious substantive discussions of things like abortion, health care, and also climate change, but none of these issues got mentioned as much as Joe Wurzelbacher and after the debate, Katie Couric spoke with him on the phone.

KATIE COURIC: Could you just, Joe, explain quickly and then we'll let you go, how you met both of the candidates?

JOE WURZELBACHER: I've yet to meet John McCain. Obama came to my neighborhood. My son and I were outside tossing the football and all of a sudden he showed up and there went our football tossing for a while. And you know, neighbors were outside asking him questions and I don't think they were asking him tough enough questions, so I thought, you know, I'll go over there. You know, I've always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and really corner them and get them to answer a question for once, instead of tap dancing around it. And unfortunately I asked the question but I still got a tap dance. He was almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr.

GLOR: When it was over with, CBS News took an insta-poll of how people thought, these are uncommitted voters. These were the results: 53% said Barack Obama won the face-off, 22% said it was John McCain, 25% said it was a tie. When asked whose policies would raise taxes, half said McCain's would and 64% said that Obama's would. Maggie, let's toss it back to you in the studio.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright Jeff. And Joe the plumber added to me, by the way, that he hopes his fame will prompt people to do their homework before voting. Now here's Harry.

HARRY SMITH: Yeah, well Joe Wurzelbacher is no doubt the most famous plumber in the country this morning. Jennifer Boresz of our Toledo, Ohio station WTOL, joins us with more on that. Good morning, Jennifer.

JENNIFER BORESZ: Good morning, Harry. I'm standing right now in front of the home of Joe Wurzelbacher, also known now by people across the country as Joe the plumber. Now I'm in Holland, Ohio, which is right outside of Toledo. It's normally a very quiet neighborhood, quiet community, but the past week there's been a lot of excitement here. Now Joe first voiced his concerns to Barack Obama on Sunday, when he came through town. It was about his middle class tax policy. Now that's something that I don't believe has ever happened here before in Holland, to have a presidential candidate come through town. And he said last night he never expected to be at the center of this presidential debate and he said he was just surprised to hear his name on national TV. We had a chance to talk to him right after. Here's what he had to say.

WURZELBACHER: I'm just glad I could be used to get some points across. You know, hopefully it makes some other Americans go out and really look into the issues and find out for themselves. If you don't go out and find out your own information you can't really sit there and give a good argument. I mean, you can't express your own opinion. I mean, that's what makes it, you know, your own opinion, is you went out, you read about it, you learned about it, and then you have your own opinion. Your opinion's not given to by your union steward, your opinion's not given to you by MTV. You know, you really got to find out facts.

BORESZ: And here's something that's pretty interesting. Joe the plumber was mentioned 26 times throughout that debate. The economy only mentioned 16 times. And Iraq only 6. I'm reporting live in Holland, Jennifer Boresz, Harry, back to you.

SMITH: Alright Jennifer, thank you very, very much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC