A group called US Uncut has claimed responsibility for a fake GE press release that said the company would pay back its $3.2 billion federal tax refund out of a commitment to "social responsibility." GE has been under the gun since a March New York Times story revealed that the company, one of the nation's largest, employs an in-house team of accountants and lobbyists to avoid paying federal taxes. At least one major media outlet fell for the hoax — the Associated Press briefly ran it as a story before yanking it. (GE's stock, meanwhile, fell by 0.6 percent before righting itself when the truth came out Wednesday.) Did this stunt really achieve anything?
It was a glimpse of an ideal world: "This action showed another way the world could work," says US Uncut spokesperson Carl Gibson. People were able to believe, if only briefly, that the nation's "biggest corporate tax dodger had a change of heart and actually did the right thing." Maybe now more Americans will recognize that we need to "change the laws that allow corporate tax avoidance in the first place."
"US Uncut + the Yes Lab: GE returns billions to public...NOT"
It illustrated a bias against corporate America: When I first read about this hoax, says Conrad de Aenlle at Moneywatch, I hoped it was meant to defend GE's "legitimate and understandable" accounting moves. The corporate tax burden in the U.S. is higher "than in any other country on Earth." How sad this turned out to be just another knee-jerk attack on business. Luckily for US Uncut, "there's no tax on smugness emissions."
"GE hoax press release: Corporate America is still the bad guy"
It just made news outlets look dumb: "Biggest victim of today's hoax?" says Giovanni Rodriguez at Forbes. "Not sure it's GE." The AP and other outlets who "ran with the fake story" looked considerably worse. Sure, news cycles can force bad decisions," but in this case, "there were some obvious clues about the release's authenticity." A big-time organization like the Associated Press should have known to be suspicious.
"Big media falls for GE news hoax"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- If Democrats abandon immigration reform after Tuesday's likely loss, they will turn 2016 into a debacle
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- Sorry, we will not all be having sex with robots in the future
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The culture war finally comes to the Catholic Church
- How to live a long life, according to science
- How the South's ugly racial history is haunting ObamaCare
Subscribe to the Week