How the Media Distorts a Romney Quote

Posted: Sep 15, 2012 9:27 AM
Yesterday, Mitt Romney gave an interview on Good Morning America in which he defended his tax plan from conjecture that it would force him to raise taxes on middle-income Americans. In responding to interviewer George Stephanopoulos, Romney said,

"No one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is (to) keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers... No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less."

The left-wing media sniffed out a storyline: by dropping the last two words from that statement, it looks like Mitt Romney thinks that middle-class Americans make between $200,000-250,000 per year!

Romney's statement obviously includes a lower bound that he should not have left unspecified - but it's quite clear that he thinks a $200k/year range is the upper limit.

The media pounced nonetheless. The Huffington Post immediately tweeted,

To the Huffington Post's credit, their headline was updated on line to include the "or less" part of Romney's quote. That wasn't the case with other media. The notoriously hostile Gawker's headline was "even the Gawker community to call out their own site for selectively editing for the sake of sensationalism. New York website Gothamist wrote that "To Mitt Romney, "Middle Income" Is $200,000- 250,000/Year." That would be more worrisome if Gothamist had much of an online influence.

Now there's a legitimate debate to be had that Romney has the upper limit of the middle class correct - but if Romney's wrong, President Obama is wrong too. As Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect pointed out,

For the last two years, Democrats have defended “middle class” tax cuts that apply to all income under $250,000. Obama touts them in his stump speech—“I’ve cut taxes for folks who need it— middle-class families, small business owners”—and congressional Democrats fought to preserve them in the 111th Congress. When it comes to who qualifies as middle-class, Obama and Romney are on the same page... In the real world — where only 9.1 percent of households make more than $150,000, and median income for all Americans is $50,054 — “$200,000 to $250,000” places you at the top of the pyramid.

It's unknown if these members of the left-wing media actually know that they're doctoring Romney's quote or if they actually believe that's what he said and they're just that incorrect. What this is, however, is a textbook example of media distortion of a Republican in order to propagate a narrative.