CBS Poses Specter of 'Elitist' Romney as Obama Makes Posh Retreat

CBS's Jan Crawford highlighted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney 's fortune on Tuesday's Early Show and how "wealthier candidates, like Romney, John Kerry, and Jon Huntsman, are...hit with that nasty insult they're an elitist." Crawford did mention how that label has also been leveled at President Obama on more than one occasion, but also forwarded a myth about former President George H. W. Bush's 1992 encounter with a supermarket scanner.

Anchor Chris Wragge didn't use the "elitist" term as he gave the lead-in for the correspondent's report, but stated, "With millions of Americans out of work, and countless more struggling to pay the bills, how can a multi-millionaire presidential candidate not seem to be out of touch?" Crawford continued that "it's not exactly an issue of money, but how its used and...how you carry yourself. And now, Romney is certainly getting some criticism, as he tries to expand this home away from home. But this kind of criticism is always an issue, and other presidential candidates, and the President himself, are getting hit with it, too."

The CBS correspondent then focused her attention on the former Massachusetts governor:

CRAWFORD (voice-over): Everyone knows Mitt Romney is rich. He made a fortune in business, and is worth up to $250 million. That's enough money to tear down his $12 million California beach house, and build another one four times the size, which is what Romney and his family are planning. But at a time when Americans are worried about the economy and how to pay their mortgages, critics say Romney's big renovation plans show he doesn't understand the problems of the little people.

After introducing the "elitist" label, Crawford spotlighted how the President has been accused of being one:

Jan Crawford, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCRAWFORD: ...That's exactly what President Obama's critics have been calling him, ever since he landed in posh Martha's Vineyard for a family vacation.

SARAH PALIN, (R), 2008 VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from Fox News Channel interview): This time for ten days in a pretty elite high muckamuck area, where the rest of us are kind of shaking our heads saying, really?

CRAWFORD: Of course, President Obama has been called the elitist word before, as in the 2008 campaign, when he said Americans in small towns have gotten bitter, and quote, 'cling to guns or religion.' So, what did then-candidate Obama do? He started calling names, too, saying his opponent John McCain was the real elitist.

Towards the end of the segment, the journalist cited earlier accusations of elitism, mentioning not only the supposed Bush scanner fiasco, but also two incidents involving 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry:

CRAWFORD: Sometimes, it takes just one innocent exchange to make the elitist label stick, as when George H. W. Bush didn't know the price of milk, and looked befuddled by a supermarket scanner. But, perhaps, it was multi-millionaire John Kerry who wore the elitist label best, with his windsurfing and, of course, his insistence on Swiss cheese on a Philly cheesesteak.

While Kerry did windsurf and did ask for Swiss cheese at Pat's King of Steaks in Philadelphia, the Bush citation is an urban myth, as debunked by Snopes:

...Andrew Rosenthal of The New York Times hadn't even been present at the grocers' convention. He based his article on a two-paragraph report filed by the lone pool newspaperman allowed to cover the event, Gregg McDonald of the Houston Chronicle, who merely wrote that Bush had a "look of wonder" on his face and didn't find the event significant enough to mention in his own story. Moreover, Bush had good reason to express wonder: He wasn't being show then-standard scanner technology, but a new type of scanner that could weigh groceries and read mangled and torn bar codes.

The New York Times then defended Rosenthal's original article by reviewing videotape of the event and proclaiming that both ordinary and newfangled scanners had been demonstrated for President Bush and that he was clearly "unfamiliar with" and "impressed" by the former....The New York Times seemed to be the only major print medium to take this view of the event, however. Newsweek screened the same tape and reported: " Bush acts curious and polite, but hardly amazed."....And Bob Graham of NCR, who demonstrated the scanner technology for President Bush, said, "It's foolish to think the president doesn't know anything about grocery stores. He knew exactly what I was talking about."

So, it was just another smear job against a right-leaning politician by The New York Times.

The full transcript of Jan Crawford's report from Tuesday's Early Show, which aired 14 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour:

CHRIS WRAGGE: Now to the race for the White House: with millions of Americans out of work, and countless more struggling to pay the bills, how can a multi-millionaire presidential candidate not seem to be out of touch?

CBS News political correspondent Jan Crawford is following that issue for us this morning. Jan, good morning.

JAN CRAWFORD Well, good morning, Chris. You know, it's not exactly an issue of money, but how its used and, you know, how you carry yourself. And now, [Mitt] Romney is certainly getting some criticism, as he tries to expand this home away from home. But this kind of criticism is always an issue, and other presidential candidates, and the President himself, are getting hit with it, too.

CRAWFORD (voice-over): Everyone knows Mitt Romney is rich. He made a fortune in business, and is worth up to $250 million. That's enough money to tear down his $12 million California beach house, and build another one four times the size, which is what Romney and his family are planning. But at a time when Americans are worried about the economy and how to pay their mortgages, critics say Romney's big renovation plans show he doesn't understand the problems of the little people.

You hear it in every presidential campaign. The wealthier candidates, like Romney, John Kerry, and Jon Huntsman, are portrayed as out of touch with everyday voters, and hit with that nasty insult they're an elitist. That's exactly what President Obama's critics have been calling him, ever since he landed in posh Martha's Vineyard for a family vacation.

SARAH PALIN, (R), 2008 VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from Fox News Channel interview): This time for ten days in a pretty elite high muckamuck area, where the rest of us are kind of shaking our heads saying, really?

CRAWFORD: Of course, President Obama has been called the elitist word before, as in the 2008 campaign, when he said Americans in small towns have gotten bitter, and quote, 'cling to guns or religion.' So, what did then-candidate Obama do? He started calling names, too, saying his opponent John McCain was the real elitist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1 (voice-over) (from 2008 Obama campaign ad): Call it country club economics. How many houses does he own? John McCain says he can't even remember anymore. Well, it's seven.

CRAWFORD: Sometimes, it takes just one innocent exchange to make the elitist label stick, as when George H. W. Bush didn't know the price of milk, and looked befuddled by a supermarket scanner. But, perhaps, it was multi-millionaire John Kerry who wore the elitist label best, with his wind surfing and, of course, his insistence on Swiss cheese on a Philly cheesesteak.

WRAGGE (on-camera): Jan, has Mitt Romney responded to the reports about the house yet? And besides Jon Huntsman, who was in the report there, what other Republican candidates have to worry about this elitist label?


CRAWFORD: Well, first of all, I mean, the campaign says the Romneys want to expand their house to accommodate their big family. They've got five married children and 16 grandchildren, and the work won't start until after the campaign.

As for the others, well, I mean, it isn't just the Republicans. President Obama and the First Lady reported assets of up to nearly $12 million last year, Chris. But the only other candidate, I think, who could probably touch Romney, as far as money, is Huntsman. He reportedly has a net worth of up to $80 million and this vast family fortune. His dad actually invented the egg carton, you know, that we put in the refrigerator-

WRAGGE: Sure-

CRAWFORD: So, you know, he's one of the richest men in the world- his dad is.

WRAGGE: All right. Jan, how many homes do you own? No, I'm kidding. (laughs)

CRAWFORD: Sadly- (laughs)

WRAGGE: I'm kidding, Jan.

CRAWFORD: I know. It'd be a home- it's quite a lot. (laughs)

WRAGGE: CBS's Jan Crawford in Washington for us this morning- Jan, thank you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center