Rose Hearts Huckabee: ‘Public’ TV on Wisconsin Protests

The Charlie Rose show–which airs mostly on public television stations–has mostly skipped the protests in Wisconsin, one of the biggest labor stories of the past decade. This is not a total surprise–Rose seems to identify with The Bosses more than with the workers–so it was interesting to see how he finally approached the subject on his March 2 show.

The first guest was Time‘s Joe Klein.He seems toidentify with public sector workers, he knows they’re not getting rich, but he doesn’t like their unions: “Public employees’ unions are a pretty questionable proposition,” as he put it. The solution in Wisconsinis “to bring those pension plans and healthcare more in line with the rest of the public.”

The next guest: far right Fox News hostMike Huckabee. He makes some jokesabout raising the retirement age, then zeroes in on the pension problem:

So what I think the governor in Wisconsin is doing is what he has to do. A teacher in Wisconsin puts in $1 for the retirement fund. The fund puts in $57. I don’t know too much people who have a retirement plan.

That would be a remarkably lopsided pension plan. Where does that number come from? There seems to be little trace of it in the debate over Wisconsin. Some commenters at the right-wing Free Republic message board caught Huckabee’s appearance and were excited to have a new anti-teacher talking point–only no one could seem to scare up data to support his claim.

General information about contribution rates for Wisconsin teachers can be found here–and you see nothing at allthat would resembleHuckabee’s formulation.And the Wisconsin pension system is relatively healthy, for the record–making this an odd focus of concern to begin with.

More importantly–what did Charlie Rose do when a guest made such a remarkable claim? He backed him up:

There is it seems to me a huge anger over the fact that people in the private sector see people in the public sector being able to retire with extraordinary benefits because they opt out at age 65.

People are outraged by public employees retiring at 65 with cushy benefits? This is not at all supported by recent polling data. You know what would help clarify things? Rose could consider anon-airclarification or correction. (Huckabee’s been doing a lot of “misspeaking” as of late.) Or he could challenge guests when they make such bizarre claims.

Or–here’s an idea!–when the biggest labor story in some time is dominating the news, how about having some labor guests on the show?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.