CBS Hits Warren Buffett From Left Over Burger King Deal: ‘Capitalist Before He’s A Patriot’

Ever since fast food chain Burger King announced its desire to purchase Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons, CBS has done its best to play up the supposed backlash the company will face as it moves its headquarters overseas to lower its tax burden. 

On Wednesday morning, following the news that billionaire investor Warren Buffett is helping finance the merger, CBS This Morning made sure to hit Buffett from the left with fill-in anchor Anthony Mason going so far as to proclaim that “somebody once said Warren Buffett is a capitalist before he’s a patriot.” [See video below.] 

The segment on Buffett featured an interview with Fortune magazine editor Alan Murray who conceded that “we've got a problem with our corporate tax code in the country. I think that's pretty widely agreed. You’ve seen a lot of these deals now where American companies are moving offshore largely to reduce their tax bill. I'm not sure that's the case in the Burger King deal.”  

As the interview continued, Mason made sure to play up how there’s a “potential backlash here for Burger King, though, isn't there? I mean, their Facebook page has been inundated with people complaining that they’re leaving the country.” Unsurprisingly, Fortune’s editor agreed that Burger King will likely face a backlash from consumers: 

Walgreens was in a similar situation and they backed off because they were afraid it would hurt their brand, it would hurt their customers in the U.S. I do think Burger King faces some exposure on that. We'll see how serious customers are about boycotting Burger King because of this move.

As the segment continued, co-host Gayle King did her best to hype the supposed “contradiction” in Buffett’s actions: 

Is it a contradiction though do you think? I hear people saying Warren Buffett is a hypocrite because he’s been so outspoken about listen my secretary pays more taxes than I do, wealthy people should pay 38 percent. And now some people perceive that he's doing this deal so he can save money on his taxes. 

Nowhere in the segment did the CBS anchors or their guest mention that lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate would encourage U.S. companies like Burger King to remain in America. Instead, when asked by Anthony Mason at the end of the interview what Washington could do to “stop these kind of deals” Alan Murray did his best to dance around the need to lower the corporate tax rate: 

I covered the last big corporate tax reform. I won’t even put the date on it but it was a couple of decades ago. These are very big complicated things to do. We don't have a government in Washington that's capable of passing that kind of big complicated legislation. 

See relevant transcript below. 


CBS This Morning 

August 27, 2014 

GAYLE KING: Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is facing criticism this morning for his role in the Burger King takeover of Tim Hortons. The fast food giant confirmed yesterday it’s buying the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain for $11 billion. Now this deal is being financed with $3 billion from Buffett’s company that’s Berkshire Hathaway. 

ANTHONY MASON: As we’ve reported, the merger would allow Burger King to move its base to Canada where it could pay less in taxes. Fortune magazine took a close look at these types of deals in its July issue. Fortune editor Alan Murray is here. Good morning Alan. 

ALAN MURRAY: Good to be here. 

MASON: Let's start with Warren Buffett. Why is he interested in this deal? 

MURRAY: Oh, he's worked with 3G, the private equity company before. He thinks they're good businesspeople and he thinks that they could make some money on this. So he's providing some financing to make it happen. It's an investment deal for Warren Buffett. 

MASON: And as somebody once said Warren Buffett is a capitalist before he’s a patriot. 

MURRAY: He is a capitalist first. There's no question about that. 

GAYLE KING: So why’s he being criticized? For many people this makes good business sense.

MURRAY: Well look, we've got a problem with our corporate tax code in the country. I think that's pretty widely agreed. You’ve seen a lot of these deals now where American companies are moving offshore largely to reduce their tax bill. I'm not sure that's the case in the Burger King deal. There are other reasons to go. But it will reduce their tax bill. In other cases you have companies buying very small companies in Ireland with a much lower corporate tax rate. So there's a serious problem that needs to be addressed in Washington and this is another symptom of it. 

MASON: There is a potential backlash here for Burger King, though, isn't there? I mean, their Facebook page has been inundated with people complaining that they’re leaving the country. 

MURRAY: Look, Walgreens was in a similar situation and they backed off because they were afraid it would hurt their brand, it would hurt their customers in the U.S. I do think Burger King faces some exposure on that. We'll see how serious customers are about boycotting Burger King because of this move.

KING: Is it a contradiction though do you think? I hear people saying Warren Buffett is a hypocrite because he’s been so outspoken about listen my secretary pays more taxes than I do, wealthy people should pay 38 percent. And now some people perceive that he's doing this deal so he can save money on his taxes. 

MURRAY: I'm not sure it's right to call him hypocritical. He also said many times he’s not going to pay a penny more in taxes than the law requires him to do and that’s exactly what's going on. This is a perfectly legal deal so that, you know, he's not violating the law. He’s helping--

KING: It's also interesting too that Burger King says look we're not moving we're just growing. This is ways to serve you better. Will this serve us better?

MURRAY: Whoa, whoa. But they are moving. Okay, they are moving.

MASON: Is there anything Washington can do to stop these kind of deals? 

MURRAY: Oh yeah, absolutely. But you know, I covered the last big corporate tax reform. I won’t even put the date on it but it was a couple of decades ago. These are very big complicated things to do. We don't have a government in Washington that's capable of passing that kind of big complicated legislation. 

MASON: There’s no consensus for it. 

MURRAY: They can't make it happen. 

MASON: Alright, Alan Murray thanks so much. 

MURRAY: Good to be here. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.