Ed Schultz Exposed for Exaggerating How Much Wisconsin Governor's Plan Costs Employees

As NewsBusters reported Saturday, Rachel Maddow wasn't the only MSNBC commentator last week that lied to viewers about the budget battle in Wisconsin.

Having misrepresented the same nonsense as Maddow about the Badger State having a surplus instead of a deficit Friday, Ed Schultz was exposed by Politifact for dramatically exaggerating how much Gov. Scott Walker's repair plan would cost public employees (video follows with transcript and commentary):

ED SCHULTZ, TUESDAY's "THE ED SHOW": Now, I think really what is happening in Wisconsin is bigger than any inside the Beltway story and we are the place for politics, no doubt about this. But this isn't about some lobbyist at lunch with a senator shaking him down or trying to convince him on a vote. These are real American people who want a future and feel like they're being deprived of it.

People who earn $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year might have a 20 percent of their income just disappear overnight. Ten thousand bucks isn't really going to hurt anybody on Wall Street, but it will absolutely devastate middle class families in the state of Wisconsin.

And what do you have? You have the governor who is basically giving an ultimatum.

Is that 20 percent reduction claim accurate? Not according to Politifact:

Schultz said in the broadcast that he had been given figures that show a 20 percent impact. We asked his staff for that information and they said they would attempt to provide it.  But as of publication, we have not heard from them.

Under the Republican governor’s plan, state employees would contribute 5.8 percent of their pay toward pensions and pay at least 12 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Meanwhile, we consulted other sources on how much more state workers would pay if the budget repair bill is adopted.

It’s a political debate, but this is largely a mathematical question.

Here’s what our sources said:

  • Carla Vigue, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration: The higher contributions would amount to, on average, a 9.4 percent cut in take-home pay.
  • Joe Wineke, former administrator of the state Division of Compensation and Labor Relations and former chairman of the state Democratic Party: The impact on most workers would be 6.8 percent to 11 percent of their salary.
  • Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie: Detailed estimates are being prepared, but the cost to the average worker would be about 8 percent of their wages.
  • University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich: In a memo, he said a UW-Eau Claire employee who earns $40,000 per year would pay an annual pension contribution of $2,320, up from $80; and an annual health insurance premium for family coverage of $2,820, up from $1,068. That’s a total of $3,992 per year, or 10 percent of that employee’s salary.

Look like 20 percent to you? Or $10,000?

Hardly. As Politifact concluded:

The sources we consulted indicate the range is 6.8 percent to 11 percent. Even if the higher payments comprise 20 percent of the income of some employees, there’s no indication it will be that high on a wide scale, particularly for state workers earning as much as $50,000 per year. If Schultz can provide evidence of a large-scale 20 percent impact, we’ll review this item.

But this is our rating: False.

As the Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik, a Milwaukee native and graduate of the University of Wisconsin, observed Friday:

[MSNBC's] coverage has been partisan and rabble-rousing to the point where it seems as if cable show hosts like Schultz are exploiting the anger of the situation, rather than reporting the story and trying to bring context, clarity and understanding to a troubled situation.

After referring to the above-referenced Politifact piece, which he kindly forwarded me moments ago, Zurawik continued:

That's what I mean by coverage that is not merely bad, it's reckless and false. [...]

I can't help but wonder what the new Comcast executives, who have said how important the credibility of NBC News is to the company, think of this journalistically clueless and hopelessly biased MSNBC prime-time crew.

You took the words right out of my mouth, David. What MSNBC did this week with its Wisconsin coverage was a total disgrace.

Are facts at all important to this so-called "news" network, or are the people inside Comcast pleased with one of their divisions propagandizing the public?

In any other industry, negligence by employees is called out and reprimanded. In some professions such as law and insurance for example, such errors could result in the offender losing his or her license or having it suspended.

Are there any consequences for blatant misrepresentations at MSNBC, or is it standard operating procedure?

The Ed Show Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC Scott Walker Rachel Maddow Ed Schultz David Zurawik
Noel Sheppard's picture

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