After airing video of Gov. Sarah Palin's misleading assertion that Sen. Barack Obama "voted 94 times for higher taxes," Fox News' Shepard Smith affirmed Palin's claim, saying, "Well, they'll [Democrats] argue with that, but I guess down to its core, that's true." However, Smith offered no support for his purported confirmation of Palin's assertion, and FactCheck.org has described the claim as "inflated" and "padded."
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On the October 27 edition of Fox's Studio B with Shepard Smith, host Shepard Smith uncritically aired video of Gov. Sarah Palin's statement that "[Sen. Barack Obama's] commitment to higher taxes never changes, though. And you just have to look at his record. He voted 94 times for higher taxes." Smith then said, "Well, they'll [Democrats] argue with that, but I guess down to its core, that's true." Smith offered no support for his purported confirmation of Palin's assertion, a claim described by FactCheck.org as "inflated" and "padded"; indeed, the 94 votes Palin cited included votes that did not raise taxes, some that had no effect on tax rates, and some that lowered taxes on many people while raising them on comparatively few others.
Reviewing each of Obama's 94 votes, FactCheck.org found:
- Twenty-three were for measures that would have produced no tax increase at all; they were against proposed tax cuts.
- Seven of the votes were in favor of measures that would have lowered taxes for many, while raising them on a relative few, either corporations or affluent individuals.
- Eleven votes the GOP is counting would have increased taxes on those making more than $1 million a year -- in order to fund programs such as Head Start and school nutrition programs, or veterans' health care.
- The GOP sometimes counted two, three and even four votes on the same measure. We found their tally included a total of 17 votes on seven measures, effectively padding their total by 10.
- The majority of the 94 votes -- 53 of them, including some mentioned above -- were on budget measures, not tax bills, and would not have resulted in any tax change. Four other votes were non-binding motions related to conference report negotiations.
The Obama campaign has responded that by using McCain's own methodology, McCain has voted in favor of higher taxes 477 times. Investigating the claim, made by Obama's economic policy director Jason Furman on September 3 on CNBC's Your Money, Your Vote, PolitiFact.com reported:
We didn't track down all 477 votes the Democrats claimed, but we looked at a few and found that McCain, indeed, could be depicted as having voted to raise multiple taxes, just as Obama did, if one reads the fine print. For example, in May 2006, McCain voted for a massive fiscal 2006 tax and spending bill that, among other things, increased excise taxes on public charities and expanded the base of the tax on private foundation investment income. These revenue-raisers helped offset $70-billion in tax cuts, including reduced rates on capital gains and dividends and writeoffs for small businesses, according to a summary prepared by the Joint Committee on Taxation. In 1997, McCain voted for a $100.4-billion, five-year tax cut package that, among other things, raised cigarette taxes 10 cents per pack in 2000 and 15 cents per pack in 2002.
From the October 27 edition of Fox News' Studio B with Shepard Smith:
SMITH: And Sarah Palin spoke on taxes. Listen.
PALIN [video clip]: Senator Obama has an ideological commitment to higher taxes, and though it seems that he adjusts his tax plan pronouncements almost daily now, kind of flip-flopping on what all the details are, his commitment to higher taxes never changes, though. And you just have to look at his record. He voted 94 times for higher taxes.
SMITH: Well, they'll argue with that, but I guess, down to its core, that's true.
CARL CAMERON (Fox News chief political correspondent): They'll argue with it extensively.
MAJOR GARRETT (Fox News congressional correspondent): Exactly.
CAMERON: The Obama campaign and Democrats think that there's all kinds of things that Sarah Palin and John McCain have been saying that are distortions or exaggerations, but Senator Obama has said that he does plan on increasing spending. He has said that he will raise taxes on the wealthy insofar as he'll repeal the Bush tax cuts, particularly on the high income bracket, and that he wants to create more opportunity.
He's talked about such things as fairness -- income fairness. When all that sort of thing happens, conservatives' antennae go straight up. They hear all kinds of language that John McCain himself has characterized as, quote, "class warfare." Pretty tough stuff, Shep. If there's a great deal of interpretation and reinterpretation on both sides, on both sides, there are original quotes that feed it, Shep.
SMITH: All right, Carl, Major, thanks.