CNN went into full anti-Romney attack mode this morning, with a false report about an anti-Koch brothers protest at a fundraiser for Mitt Romney and endless discussion of Romney’s personal finances, in keeping with the Obama campaign’s current message. The worst moment came when CNN aired a charge by Nicholas Shaxson, the pro-Occupy, “offshore” British writer for Vanity Fair, that Romney had possibly broken tax laws.
Shaxson’s article was the basis for a coordinated Obama campaign-mainstream media hit on Romney last week that CNN continues to pursue, long after theVanity Fair article has become old news–and timed, no doubt, to coincide with President Barack Obama’s press conference on taxing “the rich.” Perhaps CNN is worried that Obama’s negative campaign is failing. Regardless, after inviting Shaxson to trash Romney’s finances with a slew of innuendo, CNN host Carol Costello offered this mild question to her guest:
Costello: As far as we know, though, Mitt Romney has done nothing wrong? He’s done absolutely nothing wrong. So why should voters care about these things?
Shaxson: Well, this has been the mantra of the campaign: we have followed every law scrupulously. My article decided to explore, is this actually true that he has broken no laws, paid all the taxes he owes and no more? In fact, the answer to that question is not completely straightforward. In tax law and in other laws there is generally a gray area between the legal and the illegal, tax avoidance and tax evasion, and there’s quite a big gray area and financial players such as Mitt Romney have routinely strolled into this gray area. And Romney has shown on a number of occasions that he’s content to stroll confidently into this gray area where you are not sure until there’s been a resolution by the iIRS or someone else that this is strictly legal or not. There is a question mark. It is the mantra that it is completely legal and there’s nothing wrong with it. That statement needs questioning further.
Note that Shaxson fails to cite a simple example of wrongdoing by Romney; that he fails to cite a single inquiry by the IRS; and that he claims that since other “financial players” may have acted wrongly, Romney can be presumed guilty. Note, too, that Costello does not question Shaxson on any of these points–and that she does not appear to have invited anyone from the Romney campaign to rebut Shaxson’s wild accusations.
And note the irony of Shaxson appearing from overseas, via Skype, to blast Romney for investing overseas. If it is not OK for Americans to profit from foreign countries, why is it OK for CNN and the Obama campaign to profit from foreign correspondents? CNN never explains what is wrong with Romney investing overseas–as government-run General Motors does, offshoring manufacturing and sales to China, for example.
Above all, what is worst about CNN’s interview with Shaxson is that Costello allowed him to make a serious accusation against Mitt Romney–namely, that he had violated U.S. tax laws–without providing a single piece of evidence. The accusation was neither rebutted nor contextualized. Viewed against the broad sweep of CNN’s anti-Romney coverage this morning–neatly matching the Obama campaign’s talking points–it is clear that CNN is more than “in the tank” for the president: it is willing to lie for him.