A couple of weeks ago, a news show host on a major news network waved a U.S. citizen’s 1040 tax form across the screen of millions of viewers, going into detail about the tax payer’s income and tax rate for the year of 2005. Does that cause concern? It should, even if the host was Rachel Maddow for MSNBC, and even if the taxpayer was none other than President Trump.
In some befuddled attempt to uncover something negative about Trump, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow actually gave the President a little victory in the middle of a bad week. After a day’s worth of hype for that evening’s show, she revealed that she had obtained copies of Trump’s 1040 tax form from the year 2005.
As it turns out, this revelation only proved that Trump, as far as we know, pays his taxes – something that the mainstream media and elite left-wingers have been casting doubt on for the entire election season. Ironically, it also showed that he paid a higher tax rate than Bernie Sanders or President Obama in more recent years (granted, the Donald is probably much richer and is most likely in a higher tax bracket).
That, however, is not the biggest issue that presents itself in this story.
Somewhere along the line of communication in MSNBC’s newsroom, someone thought that it would be okay to publicly display and analyze a citizen’s confidential tax returns.
Let’s take a look at the legal side of the argument and the moral side (it is vital to remember the difference between the two – something can be legally correct, but morally wrong, or vice versa).
The legal side stands the U.S. Code, title 26, 7213, which states that it is “…unlawful for any person to whom any return or return information is disclosed in a manner unauthorized by this title thereafter willfully to print or publish in any manner not provided by law any such return or return information.”
It is also a crime, under section a4, to solicit disclosure of such a form or return. Unfortunately, the original thief of the returns would have to be found in order to present a credible court case, as per the SCOTUS case Bartnicki v. Vopper.
On the moral side, it’s just plain wrong. Tax returns feature highly confidential information that the taxpayer has a right to keep secret (except from the IRS, of course). If this fiasco doesn’t concern you, just view yourself as the taxpayer, and the news anchor as your worst enemy. Let’s remember that President Trump has the same rights of confidentiality as the rest of us, and is not obligated under any law to present his tax returns to the public (although it wouldn’t hurt his cause to deal such an easy blow to his opponents).
If the mainstream news really wants to attack Trump like they have been doing for the entire election cycle last year, why not focus on something of actual substance, like the fact that Trump just visited one of his favorite golf courses for an eleventh time since inauguration day, after criticizing Obama of his frequent golf outings? Or perhaps that Ivanka Trump will get a west wing office, and access to classified information without actually having an official job?
For being so desperate to bring the President bad press, the mainstream media is not doing a great job.