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A Media Research Center Special Report
September 19, 2002

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On the Bright Side: 
John King’s Balanced Approach on Taxes

     Instead of following the usual media line and pressing both Republicans and Democrats to rescind the tax cuts, CNN’s John King came at Democrats from the left and Republicans from the right. Substituting for regular host Judy Woodruff on the August 13 Inside Politics, King exposed viewers to the conservative concept that tax cuts promote job-creating economic growth, asking OMB Director Mitch Daniels, “Should a strong growth policy also include accelerating the President’s tax cut? It was a ten-year tax cut passed last year, but much of those cuts actually don’t take effect until the far out years, not in the first, second or third year. Should those be accelerated, in your view?”

     Later, questioning House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, King posed questions based on liberal logic. “What is the Democratic plan?” he asked, suggesting, “Should we repeal the Bush tax cut? Slow down its implementation?” He similarly asked Hillary Clinton, “What would the Democrats do differently [than the Bush administration], and for starters, would you scale back the Bush tax cut passed last year?”

     Finally, King returned to conservative points with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill: “The ten-year tax cut, much of it takes effect in the out years — three, four, five more years from now. Some say if you want to grow the economy, move that up. Others say, increase the amount that Americans can put in their 401(k)s, in their IRAs, to encourage more investment. Others say let Americans deduct their investment losses....All of those things might cause growth in the economy. They would also cause strains and perhaps more deficits. How do you balance that?”

     When journalists ask questions on television, they’re engaged in more than simple news gathering. They’re also helping to set an agenda that instructs viewers about which issues are important and which ones citizens should care about. When a trusted interviewer like Tim Russert asks 40 questions about whether tax rates are too low, and absolutely none about whether tax rates are too high, viewers are being told that tax cuts are an economic problem.

     King’s approach of asking questions from both liberal and conservative premises, in contrast, allows viewers to make up their own minds. Unfortunately, it was an approach too rarely seen on the airwaves this summer.







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