Anderson Cooper flubs tax fact during CNN’s GOP debate

During CNN's presentation of the Republican debate Tuesday night in Las Vegas, Anderson Cooper misstated a key fact about taxes in a question to Rep. Michele Bachmann.

"You said in the last debate that everyone should pay something," Cooper said to Bachmann. "Does that mean that you would raise taxes on the 47 percent of Americans who currently don't pay taxes?"

"Wait, 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes?" Zach Roth wrote on Yahoo's Lookout blog. "That's not true. It is true that 47 percent of Americans don't pay federal income taxes, because they get tax credits worth more than the amount of tax they owe. But income taxes are hardly the only federal taxes that people pay."

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Cooper's high-profile slip-up is all the more surprising because the issue has been in the spotlight lately. In response to the Occupy Wall Street protesters' claim to represent 99 percent of Americans, some leading conservatives founded a website called "We are the 53 percent"--that is, the percentage of Americans who do pay federal income taxes.

Cooper's performance--and CNN's in general--is the subject of plenty post-debate debate.

"[Cooper's] claim that 47 percent of American pay no taxes was inexcusable," the Washington Post's Jonathan Bernstein wrote in an opinion blog post. "It's bad when politicians get basic factual stuff wrong; it's terrible when CNN does. To me at least, the debate had a clear loser, and it was Anderson Cooper and CNN for that question."

Fact-flub aside, CNN did receive a healthy bump in the ratings for last night's broadcast. The debate drew 5.47 million total viewers, including 1.65 million 25-to-54-year-olds, according to Nielsen, enough to easily outpace ratings powerhouse Fox News (2.08 million total viewers, 493,000 25-to-54-year-olds) during the two-hour span.

CNN's last debate--in September--delivered another rare ratings victory over Fox, though Fox's debate with Google, also in September, drew the biggest television audience of any debate of the 2012 campaign cycle to date.

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