The May issue of
MediaNomics noted that during April reporting on tobacco
legislation before Congress, none of the 23 network stories on the
bill had mentioned that its tax increases would hit poorer Americans
As Patrick Fleanor of the
Tax Foundation told the Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot,
about 34 percent of the increase would be paid by those making less
than $15,000 per year. Those making less than $35,000 per year would
pay 59 percent of the new taxes, and those making more than $150,000
per year would pay only two percent of the tobacco tax tab.
As we said then, any other
tax bill with such heavily regressive features would have
immediately incurred media wrath, but reporters covering the tobacco
bill had failed to ask their customary tax question: "Is it fair?"
With the tobacco tax increase, the effects on poor taxpayers werenít
When the Senate killed the
proposed tobacco bill on June 17, network reporters continued to
omit the billís regressive tax features from their stories. ABCís
World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News each ran two
stories on the bill that evening, while NBC Nightly News
devoted one story to the proposed legislation.
The theme was the same
across the networks: Republicans had caved in to big money from big
tobacco. Dan Rather, at CBS, charged that Senate Republicans had
voted to kill the tobacco bill "under heavy pressure and heavy money
from the tobacco lobby." Correspondent Scott Pelley reported that
the White House was angry: "One presidential aide said tonight,
ĎWeíre going to make them squirm.í"
In an NBC story titled,
"Slow Burn," correspondent Gwen Ifill said: "One month of debate,
millions of dollars of tobacco industry lobbying against the bill, a
bill that promised to snuff out teen smoking. And in the end,
nothing." She said it was a "dramatic end for a bill that once
seemed a guaranteed win for health care advocates and for the White
House" and that the billís supporters "all promised to come back and
fight another day." As with each of the other stories on the billís
demise, Ifill included more soundbites from the billís supporters
than from opponents. (In Ifill's case, three to two.)
At ABC, correspondent Linda
Douglass told viewers that "Republicans killed the bill, knowing
that Democrats will hammer them on tobacco in the fall campaign."
ABC anchor Charles Gibson came the closest to mentioning the tax
issue, saying that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott maintained that
the bill "had turned into what he called a tax-and-spend bill."
But none of the five
stories specifically mentioned the regressive taxes in the bill. As
tobacco becomes a campaign issue in the fall, will reporters
continue to ignore the most potent argument against the tobacco