Networks coverage of Trump Taxes varies
On March 14, Rachel Maddow, host of the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, revealed one page of Donald Trump’s tax returns from a decade ago. It showed President Trump’s income, his write-offs and his taxes.
NBC Nightly News devoted 30 seconds to the tax story near the end of a longer story on healthcare, and NBC looked at how much Trump earned, how much he paid, and note that the copy was stamped “Client Copy.”
In a longer story ABC also went over the numbers, but noted that Donald Trump paid more than the standard rate because of the alternative minimum tax. They were the only network to go over this fact.
The alternative minimum tax is an additional tax some people have to pay. It was created to prevent the wealthy from paying little or no taxes because of exemptions. Donald Trump had to pay $25 million more than the standard amount in 2005. President Trump has repeatedly said he would abolish the alternative minimum tax, effectively lowering his own personal taxes.
CBS finished up its political block with a story from Major Garrett about the taxes. It included a sound bite from Hillary Clinton on the trail to show that often Trump was accused of paying no income tax, which this return proved false. It was the only network to mention this.
Rachel Maddow broke the tax return story on MSNBC nearly 24 hours before the networks covered it, but Margaret Sullivan, media columnist of the Washington Post, believes that it was the network’s duty to cover it.
“I did think there was news value to any element of Donald Trump’s tax returns being made public,” Sullivan said. “So absolutely I saw a newsworthiness there.”
She agrees with the networks decisions not to lead with the news. She thinks that prevented the networks from overhyping it, as she thinks Rachel Maddow did.
“It was newsy but it was hyped as being a huge deal and it wasn’t. It said he paid substantial taxes at a high rate.”
She doesn’t think this specific tax return was a big deal, but says the historical precedent of presidents releasing tax returns makes this a big story.
“Every other president going back many years has volunteered to show their tax returns to the public,” Sullivan explained. “Trump has refused to do so, and so even when a piece of it comes out that gives you some insight into his income, his practices, whatever taxes he pays, because it’s been in this transparency vacuum, I think that made it newsworthy enough to reference it in some way or other even if it was almost 24 hours later.”
Sullivan expects this issue to be thrust back into the limelight in the future, especially when the Trump administration next plans to tackle tax reform.
More from Margaret Sullivan on Rachel Maddow’s handling of the news:
- I thought that it was horribly hyped and the lead up to it as this major, huge story was awful. She originally tweeted “We have Trump’s tax returns (seriously),” well not really. That sort of gave the impression that his entire last five years of his tax returns would be unveiled. This was from many years ago and it didn’t really tell us that much.
- I also felt her handling of it was horrendous. A lot of people tuned in to hear what she had because of the hype, and they had this little countdown clock, and making a big deal of it, and then she took, I believe, 20 minutes before she actually said what it was, and that was ridiculous. I mean when you have news, and she did, she should have started it off with it.
- She handled this similarly to how she handles everything, but she doesn’t often have hard news to report. In this case she did. When you have new in the print world you don’t put it in the 18thparagraph, and that’s the equivalent of what she did. I also know this is sort of typical. She went into a long thing about the Russia connection, and I’m not sure what that had to do with the tax returns.