During an interview with Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade on Thursday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) complained that the media had unfairly portrayed his knowledge of the so-called “Corker Kickback”, a series of last-minute changes to the GOP tax bill that would personally enrich him, as well as several other conservative leaders and real estate moguls.
Corker voted to pass the bill on Wednesday.
“This is a travesty that something like this would be put forth,” he said, referring to an article published by the International Business Times on December 15, which highlighted several provisions, such as the pass-through deduction, that would benefit business owners and real-estate partners like Corker, who stands to save more than $1 million as a result. “The fact is, this was a provision that came from the House of Representatives. Brian, I’ve had zero impact on a word of the tax policy. I focused on deficits. The reporter that wrote about this knew I was unaware of the provision.”
He added, “So, the president called yesterday. … I told him I had a healthy respect for the media. I deal with them all the time and, you know, to attack the media has not been something I’ve done. …I’ve never, ever in my life used the words ‘fake news’ until today. [But] I actually understand what it is the president has been dealing with.”
Unfortunately for Corker, the internet remembers everything: at least twice this year alone, he’s used the phrase “fake news” to push back against news stories he disliked.
In January, the Tennessee senator, using his official Twitter account, responded to a report by The Weekly Standard stating that Corker was “endangering movement” on a measure that would censure the United Nations over a recent resolution some defined as “anti-Israel.” Corker claimed the report was false.
“Fake news from @weeklystandard. Committee has not even met publicly yet and no one has attempted to pass resolution on Senate floor,” he wrote. “Instead of “sending a message” with a toothless resolution, we should inflict real pain on U.N. for anti-Israel bias.”
Fake news from @weeklystandard. Committee has not even met publicly yet and no one has attempted to pass resolution on Senate floor.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) January 8, 2017
Again in March, in response to reports that Corker and several other Republican had conspired secretly with Democrats to prevent a filibuster to confirm then-Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Corker tweeted that the claims were patently untrue.
“Don’t buy the fake news,” he wrote. “I announced my support for Judge Gorsuch last month and am not in ‘secret’ talks with Schumer re: his confirmation.”
Don't buy the fake news. I announced my support for Judge Gorsuch last month and am not in "secret" talks with Schumer re: his confirmation.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) March 25, 2017
Corker’s most recent “fake news” charge targets controversy surrounding the aforementioned “Corker Kickback”, but the reality remains that he does stand to profit off of the GOP tax bill. The kickback stems from a provision that allows individuals with real estate holdings in an LLC to “take advantage of a tax deduction for pass-through businesses, which pay taxes as individuals, not as corporations”, Politico notes.
According to IBTimes senior editor David Sirota, Corker made as much as $7 million using such LLC holdings in 2016.
On Sunday, Corker wrote a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to inquire about the provision, of which he claims he was previously unaware.
“Because this issue has raised concerns, I would ask that that you provide an explanation of the evolution of this provision and how it made it into the final conference report,” he wrote. “I think that because of many sensitivities, clarity on this issue is very important and hope that you will respond in an expeditious manner.”
In an interview with ABC’s This Week that same day, Sen. John Cornyn responded to accusations that Republicans had only added the provision to win Corker’s vote.
“Picking out one piece in a 1,000-page bill and saying, well, this is going to benefit somebody, I just think that takes the whole bill out of context,” he said. “…All we did is adopt ideas that people like Barack Obama and other Democrats have proposed when it comes to the business tax rates and should try to get our businesses more competitive, to increase take-home pay and to grow the number of jobs available for working class families.”
Corker previously stated that he would vote no on the GOP bill, citing fiscal concerns.