A Feb. 12 NewsBusters post (and MRC CyberAlert item) by Brent Baker asserted that the evening network newscasts reported on Judd Gregg's withdrawal as commerce secretary nominee "only passing mention, if any, of the administration's wish to move the 2010 census count from Commerce to the White House." Similarly, a Feb. 13 NewsBusters post by Scott Whitlock complained the morning shows failed to make "any mention of Senator Gregg's opposition to the Obama administration's goal of moving the 2010 census count from the Commerce Department to the White House."
Unmentioned by either Baker or Whitlock: The idea that a conflict over the census was a major reason for Gregg's departure was downplayed by none other than Gregg himself.
In a press conference announcing his withdrawal, Gregg was asked what role the alleged census issue played; Gregg responded, "The census was only a slight catalyzing issue. It was not a major issue." Subsequently, a reporter asked Gregg, "[C]an you just elaborate on the census as being an issue?" Gregg responded: "Well, I don't need to elaborate. I know it was a slight issue." A reporter then asked: "Well, what was the issue, from your perspective?" Gregg responded: "It wasn't a big enough issue for me to even discuss what the issue was."
NewsBusters has misleadingly portrayed an CQ Politics report that an unnamed "senior White House official" said that the Census Bureau director "will have a direct line to the White House" and "work closely with" -- but not report to -- Obama administration senior staff as a takeover of the census. Noel Sheppard called it a "coup," and Rich Noyes called it a "grab"; Noyes' post was repeated as a CyberAlert item.
None of these NewsBusters/MRC reports noted that, as the Chicago Sun-Times did, a bill to make the Census Bureau an independent agency failed to attract any Republican co-sponsors. They also fail to note evidence of politics-playing on the part of Republicans in the census:
- CNN's Bill Schneider has noted that "Gregg in the past has been very critical of the census and, in fact, voted to cut its funding in the 1990s."
- George W. Bush appointed his 2000 campaign manager, Donald Evans, as his first commerce secretary.
Obama appears to be doing nothing different than Republicans have in the past. Don't expect the MRC to acknowledge that, of course.