After Calling Tax Plan ‘Fantasy,’ NBC Dismisses Proof It Was Wrong

After NBC’s Today co-host Savannah Guthrie accused House Speaker Paul Ryan of “living in a fantasy world” on Wednesday for predicting that tax reform legislation would encourage businesses to raise wages for their employees, on Thursday, the network morning show tried its best to deny the reality that several major companies announced that they would be doing exactly that.

During a report on reaction to the major Republican legislative accomplishment, correspondent Kristen Welker noted: “Republicans are betting the benefits to business will trickle down and boost individuals and the economy.” She then acknowledged: “AT&T and NBC’s parent company, Comcast, announcing employee bonuses, something the legislation doesn’t require.”

 

 

Faced with the fact that even the owner of her network was proving the GOP right, Guthrie seemed admit, at least initially, that her grilling of Ryan might have been unfair: “So, we were just talking about this yesterday with Speaker Paul Ryan, would corporations really take this money they’re getting and plow it back into the economy? And on the first day, it seems some have done that very thing.”

However, left-wing MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle was there to immediately shoot down any notion that the tax bill was already having the positive economic impact that Republicans promised:

Listen, they’re doing something, but they’re literally doing the least they can do....But we have to take a step back, this is day one. And from a PR perspective, you’re darn right those companies should have done something. They, without a doubt, have a relationship with the White House. They know that there were protesters in Washington, that people are going, “Hold on a second, my taxes are gonna go up and corporations are gonna get billions of dollars less they have to pay? What are you going to do for me?” So this is a great gesture on the part of these companies, but thus far, it’s a gesture.

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

After Ruhle dismissed the significant business moves as merely “PR,” Guthrie chimed in with her own conspiracy theory about why at least one of the companies was really being so generous: “And not to be a cynic, but, for example, AT&T does have a merger pending, correct, before the Justice Department?”

Ruhle agreed: “That’s not being cynical. They’ve got a merger....The Department of Justice has gotten in the mix.” She went on to claim that all of the corporations, including Comcast, were really just trying to return favors to the Trump administration:

Comcast has benefitted. Just last week, you asked me, who benefits from the net neutrality? Big media companies. So Comcast is doing something. Boeing, huge contracts with the government. And Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bank, they certainly like that the CFPB now has Mick Mulvaney in charge. This is a relationship.

“It’s a very positive move, it’s a great PR move. It’s not long term, yet,” Ruhle concluded.

Thursday’s CBS This Morning was similarly sour on the idea that Republican predictions had cone true. “So we saw essentially yesterday, after the Democrats called the President’s tax plan and the Republicans’ tax plan sort of a ‘fantasy,’ we saw all these companies come out and say, ‘Well, we are gonna give people money, we are gonna do more hiring,’” co-host Norah O’Donnell confessed. She then turned to political analyst Dan Senor and skeptically asked: “Will they actually follow through on those promises?”

Like Ruhle on NBC, Senor promptly threw cold water on the idea:

Well, I think the news you saw overnight with these companies announcing these end-of-year bonuses, it’s a little bit of – you know, it’s kind of some gimmicks here. I mean, I don’t think we should overstate the significance. It’s good, it’s positive. But we shouldn’t overstate the significance.

At the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour, Fortune magazine’s Senior Editor at Large Leigh Gallagher joined the program and advanced the narrative that the employee bonuses were just PR:

So I think this really speaks to – you know, there’s been an enormous amount of public disaffection with this bill. There’s an incredible feeling that it favors businesses and it favors the wealthy, which it does....you can almost see that these companies are sort of writing the tweets for the President because this is sort of a line straight to his heart. They are showing right away that, look, this is for – you know, the tax cut is passed on one day, day two it rains money for American workers.

Fill-in co-host Anthony Mason fretted: “What’s the likelihood then, that once you get past this initial PR phase that this will be a pattern of behavior?” Gallagher replied: “Well, that – there’s a lot of skepticism around that....the big criticism is that companies will use this money to reinvest by buying back their stock and by paying dividends.”

At one point in the discussion, Gallagher tried to use the same talking point against AT&T that Guthrie had pushed on the Today show: “But you know, AT&T is an interesting example. It’s locked in a fight over whether it will be allowed to acquire Time Warner. So this – look, this is a big deal and AT&T also said it’s gonna invest a billion dollars here in the U.S. next year, in addition to the bonuses.”

However, O’Donnell fact-checked that claim: “And in fairness to Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, I was with him before they tried to block that deal and he was already talking about reinvesting in workers before that.”

Perhaps AT&T was simply following through on something that it had already promised to do if tax reform passed.

ABC’s Good Morning America was the only network morning show to unequivocally report the business bonuses as good news. “President Trump praising AT&T for promising to share the wealth from the corporate tax cut with their workers, and other companies are doing the same,” fill-in co-host Amy Robach announced. Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis explained: “Yes, a number of companies have rushed to announce special bonuses and wage hikes in the aftermath of the tax bill...”

Robach wrapped up the segment by emphasizing: “Alright, this all sounds like very good news.” Jarvis added: “For a lot of people.”

Apparently, simply admitting that the Republican tax plan was having a positive impact was far too difficult for NBC and CBS to handle.

Here are excerpts of the December 21 coverage from both networks:

Today
7:10 AM ET

GUTHRIE: We want to focus in on corporate America’s response and those surprise bonuses for hundreds of thousands of workers. NBC’s Stephanie Ruhle is here with us. She covers business. So, we were just talking about this yesterday with Speaker Paul Ryan, would corporations really take this money they’re getting and plow it back into the economy? And on the first day, it seems some have done that very thing.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Tax Bill & Big Bonuses; What’s Behind Corporations’ $1,000 Offers?]

STEPHANIE RUHLE: Listen, they’re doing something, but they’re literally doing the least they can do. Now, it’s a positive for anyone at AT&T or Comcast or Boeing or Wells Fargo. It’s great to get that $1,000. It is great to see minimum wage get pushed up and people get $15 an hour. But we have to take a step back, this is day one. And from a PR perspective, you’re darn right those companies should have done something. They, without a doubt, have a relationship with the White House. They know that there were protesters in Washington, that people are going, “Hold on a second, my taxes are gonna go up and corporations are gonna get billions of dollars less they have to pay? What are you going to do for me?” So this is a great gesture on the part of these companies, but thus far, it’s a gesture.

GUTHRIE: And not to be a cynic, but, for example, AT&T does have a merger pending, correct, before the Justice Department?

RUHLE: That’s not being cynical. They’ve got a merger. We know that the President has an issue with CNN. The Department of Justice has gotten in the mix. Comcast has benefitted. Just last week, you asked me, who benefits from the net neutrality? Big media companies. So Comcast is doing something. Boeing, huge contracts with the government. And Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bank, they certainly like that the CFPB now has Mick Mulvaney in charge. This is a relationship. It’s a very positive move, it’s a great PR move. It’s not long term, yet.

(...)


CBS This Morning
7:07 AM ET

NORAH O’DONNELL: So we saw essentially yesterday, after the Democrats called the President’s tax plan and the Republicans’ tax plan sort of a “fantasy,” we saw all these companies come out and say, “Well, we are gonna give people money, we are gonna do more hiring.” Will they actually follow through on those promises?

DAN SENOR: Well, I think the news you saw overnight with these companies announcing these end-of-year bonuses, it’s a little bit of – you know, it’s kind of some gimmicks here. I mean, I don’t think we should overstate the significance. It’s good, it’s positive. But we shouldn’t overstate the significance.

The real question is, will a large chunk of the country receive some kind of tax relief, A. And, B, will companies really start investing in the growth of their companies, capital infrastructure, hiring more people? We will know that very quickly.

(...)

8:04 AM ET

NORAH O’DONNELL: Let’s break it down and go through it. So, some companies have already made commitments, essentially, to give back. Boeing announcing $300 million for things like gift matching, workplace development. AT&T, Comcast talking about bonuses. How does that work out, that reinvestment in employees?

LEIGH GALLAGHER [FORTUNE SENIOR EDITOR AT LARGE]: Well, it’s interesting. So I think this really speaks to – you know, there’s been an enormous amount of public disaffection with this bill. There’s an incredible feeling that it favors businesses and it favors the wealthy, which it does. But you know, AT&T is an interesting example. It’s locked in a fight over whether it will be allowed to acquire Time Warner. So this – look, this is a big deal and AT&T also said it’s gonna invest a billion dollars here in the U.S. next year, in addition to the bonuses.

O’DONNELL: And in fairness to Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, I was with him before they tried to block that deal and he was already talking about reinvesting in workers before that.

GALLAGHER: Exactly. But you know, you can almost see that these companies are sort of writing the tweets for the President because this is sort of a line straight to his heart. They are showing right away that, look, this is for – you know, the tax cut is passed on one day, day two it rains money for American workers.

GAYLE KING: But companies are under no obligation to do that, though.

MASON: Correct.

GALLAGHER: They’re not. No, no, no, they’re not. And –  

MASON: What’s the likelihood then, that once you get past this initial PR phase that this will be a pattern of behavior?  

GALLAGHER: Well, that – there’s a lot of skepticism around that. But I will say also those companies, it’s not just bonuses, some of them are raising the minimum wage. So that is a significant –

KING: Wells Fargo.

GALLAGHER: Yeah. And so – but the big criticism is that companies will use this money to reinvest by buying back their stock and by paying dividends. And we’re sort of in an era of financial engineering and capital finds the way that it’s – you know, flows to the way it’s most useful.

(...)


Please support NewsBusters today! [a 501(c)(3) non-profit production of the Media Research Center]

DONATE

Or, book travel through MRC’s Travel Discounts Program! MRC receives a rebate for each booking when you use our special codes.

BOOK NOW
NBDaily Congress Business Coverage Taxes Conservatives & Republicans ABC Good Morning America CBS CBS This Morning NBC Today Video Savannah Guthrie Stephanie Ruhle Norah O'Donnell Anthony Mason