In his report on Vice President Cheney’s speech today, Tom Raum of the Associated Press lets misinformation from both the Bush-Cheney campaign and the Kerry campaign slip into the public record unchallenged. In the process he manages to get wrong a fact that he has gotten right before.
Raum writes that “Cheney claimed that Kerry had voted for higher taxes some 350 times in his Senate career and was likely to seek huge tax increases to help pay for nearly $1 trillion in his spending proposals.”
Raum prints a pro-forma denial from the Kerry campaign — but he fails to note that Cheney’s statistics are misleading. As FactCheck.org pointed out last week, “It’s simply untrue that Kerry voted for tax increases 350 times.” The 350 votes cited by Cheney counts procedural votes, votes against lowering taxes, and votes in favor of various alternatives to larger tax cut proposals — none of which would have directly raised taxes.
The suggestion that Kerry is “likely to seek huge tax increases to help pay for nearly $1 trillion in his spending proposals” is similarly questionable. As the Washington Post noted last week, the Bush campaign “has made assumptions about Kerry’s plans without knowing the details of what Kerry is proposing” in order to arrive at such a number (which it claims is the difference between the costs of Kerry’s new program proposals and his revenue proposals). Kerry has not proposed such a tax increase.
At the same time, Raum repeats a soundbyte from the Kerry campaign unchallenged. He writes, “The Kerry campaign responded that the Bush-Cheney economic plan ‘has lost 3 million jobs, created spiraling budget deficits and put the nation in debt for generations to come.’” However, as Raum himself pointed out in another article, the actual net job loss since the beginning of Bush’s term is approximately 2.3 million jobs (the exact number depends on whether one uses the January 2001 or February 2001 employment numbers as the starting point). (The net private-sector job loss has been approximately three million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Reporters on deadline are, of course, always crushed for time. But that’s hardly a reason to toss unchecked spin into news articles — especially spin that the same reporter has debunked earlier.
Postscript: Another member of the AP’s political team, Nedra Pickler, has fallen down on the job as well. In a new article posted this afternoon, she makes the same mistakes as Raum: repeating the Kerry camp’s “3 million jobs lost” claim and Cheney’s suggestion that Kerry “voted for higher taxes some 350 times in his Senate career and [is] likely to seek huge tax increases to help pay for nearly $1 trillion in his spending proposals.” (Raum is also credited with additional reporting on the piece.)Bryan Keefer was CJR Dailys deputy managing editor.