Conservative Media Duplicity; George Will’s Big Obama Lie

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[Elections 2008: On Media Hypocrisy]


Let me state from the outset that I’ve never liked Washington Post columnist George Will. I don’t find him to be a cuddly conservative, like many liberals do, nor even the slightest-bit likable because he happens to be a baseball fan.

Indeed, I found his book on baseball, Men at Work, profoundly troubling and more than a tad-bit racist. And it illustrated all too profoundly how the pompous, bow-tied Will, who’s about as colorful as cardboard, distorts facts and dismisses important nuances to manipulate his own arguments.

That’s exactly what he did recently on ABC’s “This Week,” with the shallowest man in television, former Clinton hack George Stephanopoulos. He lied about Obama’s tax plan.

Then he did it again in a subsequent column in Newsweek. And, of course, neither the limp-wristed Stephanopoulos nor Will’s cow-towing colleagues at Newsweek, where Will serves as a contributing editor, called him on his duplicity. Of course not. And what’s worse, other members of the media compounded Will’s lie by reporting it as fact.

As the late Senator and American statesman J. William Fulbright once noted succinctly, “A lie’s a lie.”

In his April 20 appearance on “This Week,” Will declared: “What we heard this week from the probable Democratic nominee is that he wants to raise taxes on a lot of people, beginning with those earning about $100,000 a year, a household. That's a Chicago cop and a Chicago teacher.” Notice the word “household.” That’s an important distinction. And if Obama had proposed such a tax raise, he would have been open to such criticism.

In fact — and here’s the rub — Obama was talking about tax raises for individuals making more than $102,000 a year — not households — which makes a significant difference in who would be impacted. We’re not talking about “a Chicago cop and a Chicago teacher.” We’re talking about the top six percent of income earners in this country.

Two weeks later, Will repeated the same charge in his Newsweek column entitled "Questions for Obama,” in which he asked Obama rhetorically: "You favor eliminating the cap on earnings subject to the 12.4 percent Social Security tax, which now covers only the first $102,000. A Chicago police officer married to a Chicago public-school teacher, each with 20 years on the job, have a household income of $147,501, so you would take another $5,642 from them. Are they under taxed? Are they rich?"

Fortunately, a blogger identified as “Boston” — and not another member of the media — caught Will’s distortion. He or she pointed out, accurately, that the Social Security tax is computed on individual income. "Will demonstrates he clearly has no concept at all on how Social Security taxes work. I just wonder how many reporters will be duped by this erroneous GOP talking point, as has Will in such and obvious and embarrassingly public fashion?"

All anyone had to do was listen to Obama’s remarks or go to his campaign web site for clarification. Under his Plan to “Protect Social Security,” It clearly states that: “Obama believes that the first place to look for ways to strengthen Social Security is the payroll tax system. Currently, the Social Security payroll tax applies to only the first $102,000 a worker makes. Obama supports increasing the maximum amount of earnings covered by Social Security and he will work with Congress and the American people to choose a payroll tax reform package that will keep Social Security solvent for at least the next half century.”

Apparently George will can’t tell the difference between a household and an individual.

Neither Will nor Newsweek nor ABC — which staged the shallowest and most shameful presidential debate in American history prior to the Pennsylvania primary — corrected their error nor apologized to Obama.

That, apparently, would be too much to ask.

George Will’s lies to the contrary, Obama’s tax-plan is an honest, well thought-out approach to salvaging our besieged Social Security system and to reviving the tattered American economy. It’s neither a band-aid nor a quick-fix.

As for George Will, he’s clearly not capable of understanding basic economic distinctions — nor would I ever allow him to manage my kids’ Little League team.


Award-winning filmmaker and journalist Geoffrey Dunn, Ph. D., is the former recipient of a both a John L. Senior Fellowship to the Cornell University Graduate School of Government and a National Newspaper Association Award for Investigative Journalism. His most recent film is Calypso Dreams.

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