Statement Of L. Brent Bozell III
President, Media Research Center
On "Liberal Spin Prevails: How CBS Led the Networks’ Charge Against the Bush Tax Cut"
April 13, 2001
National Press Club, Washington, DC
Good morning. I’m here today to discuss
the findings of the Media Research Center’s newest Special Report,
Prevails: How CBS Led the Networks’ Charge Against the Bush Tax Cut."
study analyzed all of the stories about the President’s tax cut proposal
that aired on the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC over the 10 weeks
from Inauguration Day through March 31.
MRC analysts found 93 such stories, and
what can only be described as a blatant, overwhelming bias on the part of
the so-called "news" media against the Bush tax cut. Six
patterns of bias emerged.
First, we found that the networks were five
times as likely to quote liberal critics of the tax cut charging it was
"massive" or "huge" than they were to quote supporters
making the opposite point.
Worse still was the second pattern: network
anchors and reporters themselves expressed the judgment that
Bush’s tax package was "big" or "very big" on 30
different occasions. It should not come as a surprise that not once did a
reporter label Bush’s cut small or even modest.
Third, the evening news programs broadcast
complaints from liberal tax cut opponents (such as Senator Tom Daschle)
that the tax cut is unfairly skewed in favor of the wealthy twice as often
(31 times) as the contrary point of view (15 times).
The fourth pattern that emerged in our
analysis was a matter of bias by omission limited to CBS. Dan Rather’s CBS
Evening News never once revealed data reported on both the NBC
Nightly News and ABC’s World News Tonight that demonstrated
Bush’s plan offered a greater percentage tax reduction to lower- and
The fifth pattern that emerged over the 93
stories in the data set was also one of bias by omission, though this time
network-wide. From January 20 through March 31, not one of the networks
reported that the last income tax increase, passed in 1993, targeted
higher income families. Nor in the study period did any network ever tell
viewers that the top five percent of earners currently shoulder more than
half of the tax burden. Nor did any reporter ever report that the top one
percent of earners pay more than one-third of all federal income taxes.
The final patterns of media bias against
the Bush tax cut: while all three networks tilted their coverage in favor
of tax cut opponents, the CBS Evening News displayed a unique
antagonism toward the tax cut and the arguments made on its behalf.
For example, in his introduction to the
February 27 CBS Evening News, objective newsman Dan Rather referred
to Bush’s program as a – quote – tax cut gamble. Later in the same
show, unopinionated Rather referred to it as Bush’s – quote –
cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax-cut plan. The very next night, Dan
Rather told viewers – quote – some independent economists believe that
Bush push is risky business. How odd: Rather never identified these
independent economists to whom he referred, nor were they featured in the
segment that followed. (We can say with certainty that this was the
standard mantra of Al Gore.) Of all the nightly newscasts, CBS Evening
News was the least likely to relay comments from Bush or other tax cut
supporters promoting the economic benefits of a significant tax cut, and
gave the most time to the liberal claim that the tax cut would harm the
nation or do a poor job of relieving the current economic slowdown. And of
the 14 instances in which CBS’s on-air correspondents personally labeled
the proposed cut "big" or "massive," it was Dan Rather
himself sticking the liberal label to the plan in 11 of those 14
Given the dismal coverage tax cuts have
received over the past weeks, it’s a wonder Americans still support
them. And despite the media’s best efforts, Americans do support tax
cuts. Gallup surveys have found support for lower tax rates has stayed
above 70% for the past quarter-century. But savvy liberal politicians and
their handmaidens at ABC, CBS and NBC know Americans can be talked out of
tax cuts if they believe they will harm the nation. And that’s exactly
the liberal line the networks have toed for the past 10 weeks.
Media Research Center doesn’t expect nor want Dan Rather, Peter Jennings
and Tom Brokaw to suddenly push for tax cuts; what we do want and expect
is more balanced coverage.
There are three steps the networks can take
today to begin to balance their coverage of the tax cut debate.
First, they must stop calling the tax cut
"massive" or "huge." These are liberal swear words
designed to denigrate the tax cut. Moreover, this is an unfair
characterization. Compared to previous tax cuts, Bush’s proposal can
best be described a modest. Reagan’s 1981 tax cut was three times as big
and JFK’s in 1963 twice as big as Bush’s.
Second, the network evening news need to
balance their guest lists. No one can pretend that 31 tax cut opponents
compared to 15 supporters makes for balance on the nightly news.
Third, the networks need to provide
context. If one is going to have a debate about the fairness of proposed
changes to the tax code, one ought start by looking at the fairness of the
current tax code. For example, not one of the networks has yet to report
that the last income tax increase, passed in 1993, solely targeted higher
income families, nor did any of the networks to tell viewers that the top
one percent of earners pay more than one-third of all federal income
These three recommendations cannot
compensate for 10 weeks of liberally-biased network news coverage of the
tax cut debate. But if implemented, they would make network coverage of
this important matter of public policy if not even-handed, at least
slightly more bearable.
Complete Special Report