By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

New York Times repeats a $5 trillion falsehood

This is pretty bad. In a profile of Stephanie Cutter, President Obama’s deputy campaign manager, the New York Times repeats a demonstrably false allegation advanced by Paul Ryan and others. Times reporter Amy Chozick writes:

Ms. Cutter doesn’t always stick to the talking points. In a recent CNN interview, she said Mr. Romney’s tax cuts “stipulated, it won’t be near $5 trillion,” as the Obama campaign had earlier claimed. The gaffe became fodder for a Romney attack ad three days later and was raised by Representative Paul D. Ryan in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday night.

Chozick links to the transcript of Cutter’s exchange with CNN’s Erin Burnett, but apparently she didn’t bother to read it; the headline, “Cutter Concedes $5 Trillion Attack on Romney Is Not True,” is simply wrong. Because here’s what Cutter actually said: the tax cut could be a lot less than $5 trillion if Romney closes loopholes and ends deductions; but Romney hasn’t specified any; therefore, yes, it’s a $5 trillion tax cut.

“The math does not work with what they’re saying,” Cutter told Burnett. “And they won’t name those deductions, not a single deduction that they will close because they know that is bad for their politics…. Last night, he [Romney] walked away from it, said he didn’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. He does.”

I wrote about this last week for the Huffington Post.

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  1. Steve Rhode

    Technically – what she wrote was correct. Cutter did say the words in quotation, and the Romney/Ryan campaign has used that quote as a basis for their own denials.

    However it fails the standard espoused by the Aruther S. Brisbane back in January, by repeating the lie without providing adequate context. Sadly – as I have posted multiple times over the past few weeks – repeating a misleading statement is apparently considered acceptable journalism these days, as long as you attribute to the misleading statement to someone who actually said it.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: I think even that gives the Times too much credit. The story pulls one quote completely out of context and uses it to claim she said the opposite of what she actually said. I’d expect that of a political campaign, not a news organization.

      • Steve Rhode

        If they had just repeated the Romney/Ryan talking point and attributed it to them, would that have been any better? I don’t see it as being very different. It still shirks any responsibility for reporting the facts and adding in the appropriate context.

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