by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Deroy Murdock‘s latest column explores an interesting phenomenon: the propensity for media outlets and left-of-center commentators to focus attention on abnormally wealthy presidential candidates, unless those wealthy candidates happen to be Democrats.
[B]ig bucks are a problem only for Republican presidential candidates. Among liberal politicians, activists, and journalists, rich Democrats who run for president are just like the cable guy.
The Media Research Center (MRC) discovered that, between January and April, ABC’s and CBS’s evening news shows covered Romney’s affluence 13 times more than that of Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.) during the analogous period in 2004, when he challenged President G. W. Bush. (MRC found no equivalent mention of Kerry’s finances on NBC Nightly News.) Never mind that Kerry is far wealthier than Romney. Massachusetts’s senior senator — who avoided $507,500 in Bay State taxes by mooring his 76-foot yacht, the Isabel, in Rhode Island — personally has $240 million, according to Forbes magazine, and his ketchup-heiress wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, controls another $500 million to $1 billion — including a private jet called The Flying Squirrel. Thus, the 2004 Democratic nominee’s household contains at least $740 million, more than triple Romney’s reported net worth of $230 million.
Regardless, Kerry is a man of the people. “From trapshooting to windsurfing to cycling,” CBS’s Byron Pitts said on July 23, 2004, “this New England patrician is doing his best to be an average guy.”
Meanwhile, ABC News last February called Romney a “wealthy businessman out of touch” with regular folks. He gets scarce credit for making his own fortune rather than relying on his father’s auto-industry money. Instead, Romney donated that entire inheritance to Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management. Romney’s critics have lampooned his jet ski and the proposed car elevator at his vacation home in La Jolla, Calif. NBC’s Brian Williams has called Romney’s riches “unimaginable.” Liberals even mocked Ann Romney’s horse Rafalca in the London Olympics’ dressage competition — even after she revealed that she pursued equestrianism to alleviate her multiple sclerosis!
“Attacking Romney’s wealth has been one of the major ways the media have covered this campaign,” says MRC’s Dan Gainor. “It’s all just another way to depict Romney as out of touch and different from the rest of us. I wonder how many reporters realize that Obama is also a millionaire.”