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  • MSNBC's Ali Velshi Outlines The "Built-In Unfairness" Of Trump's Tax Plan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC outlined the major problems in President Donald Trump's proposed tax cut plan, which drastically reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent while lowering personal tax rates for high-income individuals at expense of almost all tax deductions that benefit the middle class.

    On the April 27 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live, host Katy Tur discussed Trump's tax outline with correspondent Ali Velshi and conservative economist Peter Morici, outlining how the plan could greatly reduce the president's personal and business tax burden while saving the Trump family billions of dollars in future estate taxes. Velshi argued the proposed reductions in corporate tax rates and creation of a new income loophole for some contractors and business owners created "built-in unfairness" in the tax system. Morici added that Trump's plan would not assist the middle class and complained that the administration had only produced a one-page memo "with a lot of white space" despite having five months to craft substantial tax reform proposals:

    During the next hour of MSNBC Live, Velshi introduced another segment on the proposed tax cuts by noting that Trump is making "a frantic last push for what has eluded him in his first 100 days: a major legislative accomplishment." Joined by MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, Velshi noted that "we don't actually know" what Trump's tax agenda is to which Sykes responded, "this is not a bill, it's basically a press release ... there is no meat to the substance." Sykes added that, while he leans toward conservative tax policy, he does not think "there is any rational way" to claim Trump's plan helps the middle class or can avoid "blow[ing] an enormous hole in the federal deficit." After Velshi detailed a laundry list of middle-class tax credits that "could go away" under the plan, McMahon highlighted that Trump's plan "is going to be an absolutely huge windfall for very wealthy people":

  • The Vindication Of Rachel Maddow

    Journalists Panned Her Report On Trump’s Tax Returns, But It Produced The Best Evidence Trump’s Tax Proposal Boosts His Own Bottom Line

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Under pressure to show some sign -- any sign -- that President Donald Trump’s administration hasn’t squandered its first 100 days in office, the White House yesterday released a one-page collection of bullet points billed as a tax plan.

    There are many unanswered questions relevant to the 200-word proposal -- among them whether the massive tax cuts it proposes, channeled mostly to corporations and the wealthy, would be temporary or permanent; whether the tax cuts would be paid for, and how; and how much the proposal would cost. Top administration officials making the rounds on the morning news shows say they don’t know how the plan would affect the budget deficit and can’t guarantee that it wouldn’t raise the taxes of the middle class.

    One thing seems clear, however: If this proposal becomes law, the Trump family will be the big winners.

    As The New York Times’ Neil Irwin noted after detailing the proposal:

    It is striking how many of the categories listed above affect the president and his family. He is a high-income earner. He receives income from 564 business entities, according to his financial disclosure form, and could take advantage of the low rate on ''pass-through'' companies. According to his leaked 2005 tax return, he paid an extra $31 million because of the alternative minimum tax that he seeks to eliminate. And his heirs could eventually enjoy his enormous assets tax-free.

    We don’t know precisely how much Trump will benefit from the policies he supports because he refuses to release his tax returns, breaking decades of precedent and taking a hammer to an important political norm that curbs political corruption. And so as Irwin demonstrates, Trump’s “leaked 2005 tax return” provides the best available evidence of the impact Trump’s proposal will have on his own wallet.

    For that, we have MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and The Daily Beast’s David Cay Johnston to thank. It is a vindication for Maddow in particular, who was widely criticized by political reporters for the way in which she revealed documents that none of them had been able to obtain.

    Six weeks ago, Maddow set the political world on fire with a single tweet issued fewer than 90 minutes before her show began:

    After journalists and political commentators spent nearly an hour burning up Twitter with theories about what precisely Maddow had uncovered, she revealed that her show was going to feature the president’s 1040 form from 2005, which Johnston had obtained.  

    When her show began, Maddow did not open with the contents of the document. Instead, she used her first segment to provide context, detailing the long saga of Trump’s unwillingness to reveal his tax returns and the evidence about his income that had been made public thus far. Only after returning from a commercial did she and Johnston reveal what they had learned: Trump had paid a mere $5.3 million in income taxes -- a rate of less than 4 percent on an income of more than $150 million -- but had to pay $31 million more under the alternative minimum tax, which he had proposed eliminating during the campaign.

    And the political press went wild. Not because they had learned new information about the president’s taxes that he had kept from the public in unprecedented fashion. Not because the tantalizing scraps that Maddow and Johnston had unveiled suggest that Trump’s interest in keeping his returns secret is at least in part because they reveal how much he would benefit from policies he supports.

    No, the press freaked out because reporters had to wait for 20 minutes on a weeknight and watch a cable news program to hear a scoop none of them had been able to get over the previous 20 months, and because the actual content of that scoop didn’t match whatever they were expecting.

    In real time, political media Twitter exploded with criticism for the MSNBC host. Afterward, the critique from journalists seemed to overwhelm the actual news the show had produced.

    Maddow had used “a windup that some fellow journalists, eager for any bombshells, found exceedingly lengthy,” according to the Times. She had “disappoint[ed] many in the political-media establishment with a report that was widely characterized as overhyped,” CNN reported. Her program was a “cynical, self-defeating spectacle.” She “bur[ied] the lede,” having “talked . . . and talked . . . and talked” for what “felt like an eternity.” She had made a “big-time blunder” and her “bombshell” had “fizzled.”

    Poynter.org chief media writer James Warren was one of Maddow’s few defenders on style, excoriating the press for its “mix of impatience and internet-fueled craving for instant gratification” in the face of a garden-variety effort by a media outlet to ensure the largest possible audience for its scoop. As to the revelation’s content, as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple noted, “The president wants to abolish the part of the tax code that stings him the hardest. In what news world is that not a bombshell?”

    With the White House’s release of a tax proposal that eliminates that part of the tax code, Maddow’s bombshell is more important than ever. But don’t expect to see apologies any time soon -- even news reports that detail how the 2005 1040 shows how Trump would benefit from the proposal don’t give Maddow any credit for unveiling it.

    This post has been updated for clarity.

    Images by Sarah Wasko.

  • STUDY: Cable News Analyses Disproportionately Relied On A Military Perspective After Major Operations In Afghanistan, Syria

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    A Media Matters review of cable news coverage of two major U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Syria found that the networks disproportionately turned to guests with military backgrounds as opposed to guests with backgrounds in foreign service, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and intelligence and national security. 

  • Cable Morning Shows Fail To Discuss Implications Of Disastrous New Amendment To Republican Health Bill

    After News Broke, Networks Mentioned Amendment A Total Of Three Times, And None Discussed Impact

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Cable morning shows devoted scant coverage to the Republicans' new health care amendment, failing in particular to explain that the proposed amendment's allowance for states to opt out of protections for pre-existing conditions, preventative services, and essential health benefits (EHBs) could mean substantial increases in premiums for everyone and millions of Americans losing access to health care.

  • STUDY: Cable News Morning Shows Drastically Skew White And Male

    Latino, Black, Asian-American, And Middle Eastern Voices Are Critically Underrepresented, And Women Comprise Only A Quarter Of The Guest Appearances On Morning Shows

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    A Media Matters analysis of morning shows on cable news networks from January 1 to March 31 found that white men make up an overwhelming percentage of guest appearances on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC's morning shows. The study found that black, Latino, Asian-American and Middle Eastern voices are critically underrepresented, and women make up only a quarter of guest appearances.

    Guests On Cable Morning Shows Were Overwhelmingly White. Black, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Asian-American guests were routinely underrepresented on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC’s morning shows. On MSNBC, 89 percent of guests who appeared on Morning Joe during the time period were white. Of all the guests who appeared on Fox & Friends, 85 percent were white. And 83 percent of guests who appeared on CNN’s New Day were white. Additionally, white men comprised 72 percent of total guest appearances on MSNBC's Morning Joe, 66 percent of all guest appearances on CNN's New Day, and 65 percent of guest appearances on Fox & Friends.

    Racial And Ethnic Minorities Are Underrepresented On Morning Shows. Morning shows aren’t reflective of the racial and ethnic demographics of the United States. Latinos, who according to the census make up 17 percent of the population, were notably absent on morning shows. Just 5 percent the total guest appearances on New Day were Latino; Fox & Friends had 4.6 percent, and Morning Joe had less than 2 percent Latino representation. And even though 13 percent of the U.S. population is black, black voices were severely underrepresented on the cable morning shows. Across all three networks, the percentage of black guests did not reach double digits; 7 percent of guests who appeared on Fox & Friends were black, compared to 8 percent on New Day and 9 percent on Morning Joe. Across all networks, the representation of Asian-Americans -- the fastest growing demographic in the U.S. -- was less than 3 percent, with Fox & Friends leading with 2.3 percent, and New Day and Morning Joe following with 1.4 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively. The census doesn’t yet include data for the population size of people of Middle Eastern heritage. Media Matters’ analysis found that people of Middle Eastern heritage made up 2.4 percent of all guest appearances on New Day, 1.3 percent on Fox & Friends, and 0.2 percent on Morning Joe. Additionally, Middle Eastern women were entirely left out of Fox & Friends and Morning Joe.

    Women Were Significantly Underrepresented On Cable Morning Shows. It wasn’t just racial and ethnic demographics that didn’t match reality, but the gender breakdown as well. Even though men make up 50 percent of the U.S. population, men comprised more than three-quarters of all guests invited on morning shows. During the first three months of 2017, only 19 percent of guest appearances on Morning Joe were women. On New Day, 23 percent of guest appearances were women, while on Fox & Friends women made up 25 percent of total guest appearances.

    Methodology

    Media Matters reviewed every edition of CNN's New Day, Fox News' Fox & Friends, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe from January 1 to March 31, 2017, and coded all guest appearances for gender and ethnicity. Network contributors and correspondents were included as guests when they were brought on to provide commentary and engaged in significant discussions with other guests or hosts, as opposed to just reporting on a news package. Media Matters defines a significant discussion as a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people.

    Not all percentages add up to 100 due to rounding, inability to satisfactorily identify some guests' ethnicities, and some guests identifying as multiple ethnicities. U.S. Census data comes from the most recent 2015 estimates and adds up to more than 100 percent due to respondents selecting more than one race in surveys. Census data for Middle Eastern guests could not be found as the census does not provide that category in its reports.

    Madeleine Peltz and Katherine Hess contributed research to this study. Graphics by Sarah Wasko.

  • TV News Scrutiny Of Ivanka Trump’s Conflicts Of Interest Spurred By New Bombshell

    Trump Apologists Continued To Deflect Concerns Over Conflicts And Corruption In The White House

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Broadcast and cable news programs heaped additional scrutiny on Ivanka Trump in the hours after The Associated Press broke a bombshell report that the lifestyle brand she owns had secured valuable trademarks in China before she met with the Chinese president for dinner at her father’s private Mar-a-Lago resort. News of the glaring conflict of interest between Trump’s role as a White House adviser and her private business empire was carried by the major broadcast networks --ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS -- as well as CNN and MSNBC. Fox News ignored the issue entirely during its evening and prime-time programming, and longtime Trump apologist and former Fox host Greta Van Susteren actually defended Trump during her program.

  • STUDY: Cable News’ Sporadic Coverage Of Trump's Hidden Tax Returns

    Nearly Half Of Cable News Discussion Of Trump Tax Returns Since Inauguration Occurred Within A Week Of Rachel Maddow’s Tax Exclusive

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A Media Matters study found that between President Donald Trump’s January 20 inauguration and Tax Day, April 18, evening cable news has dedicated only sporadic coverage to Trump’s failure to release his tax returns. And of the 110 segments spread out over three months, nearly half came within a week after MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow revealed two leaked pages of Trump’s 2005 tax documents. This inconsistent coverage comes as pressure mounts from activists and Republican lawmakers for the president to release his tax returns, and highlights the media’s inability to consistently report on this story.

  • Fox Echoes Trump’s Attacks On Tax March: “The Election Is Over!”

    Trump Apologists Cannot Understand Why Protests Aimed At Trump’s Tax Returns Would Coincide With Tax Day

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox News echoed the insults and attacks President Donald Trump leveled against tens of thousands of Americans that took part in over 180 rallies and events in 48 states over the weekend in protest of the president’s refusal to disclose his tax returns.

    On April 15, the day that federal tax returns are typically due to be filed, organizers in Washington, D.C. and across the country led Tax March demonstrations in protest of Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns to the public. Trump attacked the protestors in a series of tweets the following day, complaining that his “tax returns are being brought up again,” diminishing the nationwide demonstrations as “small organized rallies,” and suggesting that demonstrators were paid to oppose him. Trump concluded by exclaiming “the election is over!”

    Taking their cue from Trump, Fox News media personalities proceeded to blast the Tax March. On the April 17 edition of Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee questioned “the timing of this” and wondered if the protests were a distraction given “everything that’s going on in the world.” Guest Adam Goodman, a Republican strategist, agreed with her assessment adding that “for many, as I think you can now see, the campaign isn’t over, it’s never over.”

    The April 17 edition of Fox’s Outnumbered led its segment bashing the protesters by displaying Trump’s tweet calling for the protestors to be “looked into” and co-host Meghan McCain deflected criticism of Trump’s unprecedented refusal to disclose his tax information because he was not legally required to release it. Guest Guy Benson, political editor of Townhall, complained that the Tax March and other protests against Trump’s presidency made him feel “fatigue,” and wondered “why this issue, why a giant protest now?” Later that evening, on Fox Business’ Kennedy, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery piled on the criticism, calling the protesters “a collection of free wheeling leftists” who are “bored” with the Trump administration and disgruntled Clinton supporters who have not gotten over the election.

    Fox continued to mock the protesters and playdown the importance of Trump releasing his tax returns into the following day. On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox contributor and the Trump campaign’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, falsely claimed “the American people don’t care” if Trump discloses his tax returns and that the marchers were “paid professional protesters.” Later that morning, on Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano acknowledged Trump’s taxes were an important issue during the campaign but reiterated Trump’s talking point that “the campaign is over” and “this is no longer relevant.” Host Stuart Varney, however, admitted that the tax returns might reveal Trump could make “enormous” gains from the tax cuts he campaigned on.

    While Trump’s devotees and apologists at Fox regurgitated his rhetoric, investigative reporter and tax specialist David Cay Johnston -- who had previously obtained a copy of Trump’s 2005 tax returns -- explained on the April 18 edition of MSNBC’s MSNBC Live that complete tax disclosure remains important in rooting out conflicts of interest and understanding how much Trump would benefit from his tax agenda:

    Fox News defended Trump hiding his tax returns throughout the 2016 election season and seems poised to continue. The network has repeatedly held Trump to a different standard than other presidents and politicians.

  • San Bernardino School Shooting Shows Which Crime Victims Matter For TV News

    Television News Ignored The Dangerous Intersections Of Intimate Partner Violence, Access To Firearms, And Black Women’s Lives After San Bernardino School Shooting

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    On the morning of April 10, a man entered a special education classroom at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, CA, and opened fire with a revolver. He shot and killed the teacher -- his estranged wife Karen Smith -- and an 8-year-old student named Jonathan Martinez, and injured another student before killing himself. By April 12, national television news had virtually stopped talking about it.

    News media coverage of intimate partner violence has the power to shape public perception of the issue, and inadequate or dismissive coverage can ultimately normalize or perpetuate this epidemic of violence against women.

    In the United States, a woman is assaulted every nine seconds, and “an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute.” One in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. And access to firearms, like the revolver used to murder Karen Smith and Jonathan Martinez, only increases the likelihood that intimate partner violence will end with a woman dead.

    According to Everytown for Gun Safety, in more than half of U.S. mass shootings from 2009 through 2016, “the perpetrator shot a current or former intimate partner or family member.” One study found that among women living in the United States, “about 4.5 million have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun and nearly 1 million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner.” A 2016 Associated Press analysis of FBI data concluded that “an average of 760 Americans were killed with guns annually by spouses, ex-spouses or dating partners between 2006 and 2014.” The connection between intimate partner violence and firearm deaths can also sometimes carry a larger body count: “Many mass shooters have a history of domestic violence,” like the San Bernardino school shooter did.

    And this dangerous intersection of normalized intimate partner violence and access to firearms hurts black women, like Karen Smith, most. As Teen Vogue’s Morgan Jerkins noted:

    It's also important to note that intimate partner violence disproportionately affects black women, like Smith. In 2014, Time reported that black women are nearly three times as likely to experience death as a result of domestic violence than white women. What’s more, in 2014, black women were murdered by men more than twice the rate of white women. And like the murder in San Bernardino, most homicides against black women are committed by men whom they know.

    Yet Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone pointed out that, though “a shooting at an elementary school might be expected to receive outsize coverage due to the shocking nature of the act,” that didn’t seem to happen with the Monday murders of Karen Smith and Jonathan Martinez:

    On Monday night, the three major broadcast evening newscasts led with the San Bernardino school shooting story, but the anchors remained in New York. By Tuesday, the story was already receding from the headlines. Cable morning shows, like CNN’s “New Day” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” only covered it in passing. And The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Wall Street Journal didn’t run front page stories on it.

    And a search of Nexis and Snapstream transcripts from the major news networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- for the week since the shooting has come up almost completely empty on necessary context.

    In these available transcripts from Monday, April 10, through Monday, April 17, not a single segment or report on the shooting shooting mentioned the prevalence of intimate partner violence in the U.S. or hinted at the role guns play in making instances of intimate partner violence deadlier. There were also no mentions of the disproportionate danger to black women that intimate partner violence poses.

    Mainstream media seem unwilling to devote much coverage to intimate partner violence, even when women die. And there is a particular lack of coverage concerning the violence routinely perpetrated on black women’s bodies. When television media silence helps to perpetuate the normalization of violence -- particularly against black women -- it becomes deafening.

    Methodology

    For the time period between April 10 and April 17, Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts for any mentions of the terms “San Bernardino,” “Karen Smith,” or “Karen Elaine Smith.” The search included all available news transcripts for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Nexis transcripts include all-day programming on CNN, evening programming on MSNBC and Fox News, and morning, evening, and Sunday news shows on the broadcast networks. Snapstream transcripts were used to analyze daytime programming on MSNBC and Fox News.

    Do You -- Or Does Someone You Know -- Need Help?

    If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

    For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

    Image at top created by Sarah Wasko.