The corporate media bubble is salivating again over one of its favorite topics, President Donald Trump’s tax returns. The New York Times published a new story on the president’s taxes Sunday — although much of the reporting was not technically “new” — titled, “Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance.”
Media figures immediately hyped the story as a revelatory report with facts that might change voters’ view of Trump. CNN’s Brian Stelter called the story a “bombshell,” “one of the most important stories of the fast five years,” and one that “fills in a big part of Trump’s portrait.” BuzzFeed reporter Ryan Mac called it a “breakthrough in reporting.” Jim Roberts, executive editor at Mashable and a former New York Times editor, called the front-page headline, “powerful.”
Although the report leads with a previously unreported nugget that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, the “chronic losses and years of tax avoidance” teased in the headline have been heavily reported since Trump took office, even by some of the same reporters at the Times.
Reporters Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, who share a byline with Mike McIntire on Sunday’s report, also shared a byline on Oct. 2018 report that detailed instances of Trump’s “dubious tax schemes,” “tax dodges,” and “outright fraud.”
In May 2019, Craig appeared on CNN’s Anderson Cooper discussing Trump’s business losses at length.
“Every year that we looked at, he lost money, and the losses grew as he went further into the casinos and the losses that happened there,” Craig said. “But it’s unbelievable … he was just bleeding money every year that we looked at in his businesses,” she said.
The Times’ latest report dramatically sets up this same information Craig was discussing in 2018 and 2019 in the second sentence of their “bombshell” report, leading readers to believe it’s new and noteworthy. “He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made,” they write.
Although the $750 figure blowing up across networks and social media is new, the fact that Trump has not paid federal income taxes for years is one the same Times reporters wrote in October 2016.
“Trump Tax Records Obtained by The Times Reveal He Could Have Avoided Paying Taxes for Nearly Two Decades,” read an Oct. 1, 2016 headline, with bylines again from Craig and Buettner.
A few days later, Trump admitted as much on the debate stage, and was again reported on by the Times itself.
Sunday’s report also admits that portions of Trump’s tax records have been reported before, and that their new reporting “completes the recurring pattern of ascent,” which leads readers to wonder if this “new trove of information” touted by the Times reveals anything they didn’t already assume about the president.
The new report is also a likely disappointment to many of the president’s critics and cable news producers looking for juicier revelations. The Times writes that the tax returns fail to reveal “any previously unreported connections to Russia,” and “no new revelations” about Trump’s payment to Stephanie Clifford, also known by her stage name Stormy Daniels.
Despite any new information or data Sunday’s report does present, it’s hard to see how this story “fills in a big part of Trump’s portrait,” as Stelter claims. If anything, it affirms the “portrait” the media has been painting of the president for years, only now that we are less than 40 days away from an election, it constitutes a “bombshell.”