CNN chart purporting to compare candidates' "wealth" omitted Cindy McCain, who is reportedly worth $100 million

››› ››› ANDREW IRONSIDE

On The Situation Room, an on-screen chart showed Sen. John McCain's income to be significantly lower than that of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when combined with the income of their spouses. However, the chart did not include any income earned by McCain's wife, Cindy. As Dana Bash reported moments earlier of Cindy McCain, "Some estimates actually put her worth at about $100 million."

On the April 18 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, during a report on the release of Sen. John McCain's tax returns, an on-screen chart showed McCain's income to be significantly lower than that of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when combined with the income of their spouses. However, the chart did not include any income that McCain's wife, Cindy -- who has not released her tax returns -- earned separately. As CNN political correspondent Dana Bash reported moments earlier of Cindy McCain, "Some estimates actually put her worth at about $100 million." While the chart was displayed, on-screen text read: "Comparing their wealth."

Also while the chart was displayed, host Wolf Blitzer said, "Let's see how McCain's total income of about $405,000 compares to some other big-name political types. Remember, McCain filed separately from his very wealthy wife, Cindy. George and Laura Bush reported a combined income of more than $900,000 last year. Dick and Lynne Cheney had a total income of more than $3 million. Barack and Michelle Obama earned a total of more than $4 million last year. And Hillary and Bill Clinton outearned them all last year with a total income of more than $20 million."

Earlier in the program, Bash compared the portion of McCain's income that he gave to charity with the portion given by the Clintons and Obamas -- without noting that McCain presumably benefits from his wife's wealth and from her income from her separate property, a figure that she has not released. Bash stated: "So, all told, John McCain donated about 26 percent of his income to charity. And Wolf, by comparison, the Clintons gave 15 percent, and the Obamas, they gave 6 percent."

Additionally, Bash reported: "Now, ironically, Wolf, you probably remember -- well, actually I can tell you now, McCain advisers are defending not releasing his wife's tax records by comparing it to Democrat John Kerry, his campaign four years ago. And what you do remember, then, is his multimillionaire wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, she refused to disclose all of her tax returns. And that's something Republicans campaigned about -- complained about, I should say." However, as Media Matters for America documented, while Heinz Kerry did not provide her full tax returns, as The New York Times reported, she did release a "two-page document" showing a "total income of $5,073,554 last year." Heinz Kerry's release enabled the Times to do an analysis to determine how much she had benefited from the Bush tax cuts, which John McCain supports extending permanently.

From the April 18 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BASH: What the campaign did not release were tax returns for McCain's wife, Cindy. She, of course, is an heiress to a fortune from her father's beer-distribution empire that was called -- is called Hensley & Company, and she is now the chairman of that company.

According to last year's Senate financial disclosure form, the McCains have assets of at least $36.5 million. Some estimates actually put her worth at about $100 million. But, Wolf, before marrying 27 years ago, the McCains signed a prenuptial agreement. And that keeps their finances separate, and they file their taxes separately. And McCain's campaign said Cindy is not releasing her returns, in words of the campaign, "in the interest of protecting the privacy of her children." But you remember, Michelle Obama, who also, of course, has very young children, she did release her tax records, and she filed those jointly with her husband, Barack Obama.

Now, the DNC chairman, Howard Dean, he issued a statement just a short while ago calling McCain's lack of transparency, quote, "troubling" and said not releasing Cindy McCain's taxes, quote, "raised -- raises questions about what he's hiding."

Now, ironically, Wolf, you probably remember -- well, actually I can tell you now, McCain advisers are defending not releasing his wife's tax records by comparing it to Democrat John Kerry, his campaign four years ago. And what you do remember, then, is his multimillionaire wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, she refused to disclose all of her tax returns. And that's something Republicans campaigned about -- complained about, I should say.

Now, let's go back to John McCain and a little bit more about what he did disclose today. First of all, he received more than $58,000 from his Navy -- from the Navy for his pension. He's 71 years old, and the presumptive Republican nominee also got $23,000 last year in Social Security, and he paid nearly $18,000 in alimony to his ex-wife. He actually earned nearly $177,000 in royalties from the books that he sold, and he donated, along with his wife, all of that money to charity.

And let's look at some of the charity because it's interesting. McCain gave an additional $17,000 in charity. So, all told, John McCain donated about 26 percent of his income to charity. And Wolf, by comparison, the Clintons gave 15 percent, and the Obamas, they gave 6 percent.

BLITZER: Interesting. Very interesting. He also said -- correct me if I'm wrong -- about a month or two ago that he would release his medical records by April 15th. It's now April 18th. What's the delay?

BASH: That's right. Well, it was about a month ago, maybe more, that John McCain was actually coming from a doctor's appointment, and he said that he would release his medical records right about now. And then immediately, his campaign said, well, you know, it might, you know, be a couple of days later. The McCain campaign told us a couple weeks ago that they're actually not going to release his medical records until next month, sometime in May. The reason they give, Wolf, is because they say they're trying to line up all of his doctors because they insist they want his doctors to be at a press conference available to answer reporters' questions about McCain's health.

Of course, you remember he had skin cancer eight years ago, and obviously, he is -- would be, if elected, the oldest president. So they understand his health is a big issue. But, you know, it's going to be May before we get any kind of -- or any kind of medical records from him. They did release a lot of records back in 1999, the first time he ran for president.

BLITZER: That was before the melanoma, though.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Dana, for that. We'll continue to watch this story.

Let's see how McCain's total income of about $405,000 compares to some other big-name political types. Remember, McCain filed separately from his very wealthy wife, Cindy. George and Laura Bush reported a combined income of more than $900,000 last year. Dick and Lynne Cheney had a total income of more than $3 million. Barack and Michelle Obama earned a total of more than $4 million last year. And Hillary and Bill Clinton outearned them all last year with a total income of more than $20 million.

Posted In
Elections, Campaign Finance
Network/Outlet
CNN
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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