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Wednesday, July 26, 2023
GDP Turned Positive -- But MRC Can't Stop Talking Down Biden Economy
Topic: Media Research Center

We've documented how the Media Research Center continually talks down the economy under President Biden, particularly when it comes to reporting on GDP. Last summer, it heavily hyped that two quarters of negative GDP that occurred meant there was a devastaing recession and that other economic data should be ignored -- but when GDP turned positive in the fourth quarter, it denied that this meant anything. The MRC was still pushing that narrative at the start of this year; a Jan. 10 post by Joseph Vazquez complained that New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman called Republicans (like Vazquez) "economy deniers," huffing that "Krugman’s elitism clearly precludes him from seeing economic danger signs that don’t comport with his leftist politics."

When the GDP numbers for the fourth quarter showed it to be in positive territory, the MRC cranked up the spin, with a Jan. 26 post by Kevin Tober insisting that the growth was "anemic":

Forget about the recession and rampant, crippling inflation that has soared to 40-year-highs, MSNBC's All In host Chris Hayes was here to assure you that the Biden economic recovery has been  "one of the most successful, remarkable recoveries in all of American economic history." Sadly for Hayes, the large eyeglasses on his face won't make him seem smart with economically illiterate comments like that. The pollyannaish host made these comments on the heels of Thursday's GDP report which showed the economy grew by an anemic 2.9 percent. 

Hayes began by ironically complaining about the negative media coverage of the Biden economy: "If you've been watching the news over the past few weeks, you might get the sense the U.S. is hemorrhaging jobs, as high-profile companies from Amazon to Meta, to Goldman Sachs, and IBM lay off thousands of workers." 

"But one of the constants of the Biden economy is that there's a weird, persistent gap between the media’s coverage of the economy, which is almost always everything’s terrible, and what the data show about its actual state," Hayes whined.

Apparently, when there were layoffs in major American corporations, it means nothing for the state of the overall economy, and the media was supposed to ignore the news to help Biden's electoral prospects. 

He then pointed to a chart that showed a graph of the direction the economy was headed and bragged that "the U.S. economy grew by 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022."

Tober didn't mention that GDP had been in negative territory for two quarters of 2022, whcih mean the recovery (and postive GDP) really is remarkable. But Tober doesn't get [paid to admit that Democrats are doing a good job, so he had tocherry-pick other numbers that adhere closer to his narrative, despite having insisted just a few short months earlier that GDP numbers were the only thing anyone should be looking at.

When GDP turned in another positive number for the first quarter of this year, the MRC had to spin further -- this time by hypocritcally accusing others of spin. An April 27 post by Vazquez dropped the "anemic" line without mentioning the two quarters of negative GDP last year:

Leave it to the propagandists at The New York Times to try to sprinkle some sugar over an anemic GDP report. 

The Times economics writer Ben Casselman broke out some confetti for the latest economic report showing a lackluster 1.1 percent GDP growth in the first quarter, which was notably slower than the 1.9 percent forecast. But look on the bright side, bleated Casselman in his sub-headline, “[t]he gross domestic product increased for the third straight quarter as consumer spending remained robust despite higher interest rates.” Casselman’s own headline was heavy on nuance and lacking on context: “U.S. Economy Grew at 1.1% Rate in First Quarter.” Contrast the headline with how other outlets reported the GDP story and The Times’s gambit to protect President Joe Biden’s image from the bad economic news becomes clear. Here was CNBC’s headline: “GDP report points to dreaded stagflation, but these stocks can still work in this environment.” Here was Bloomberg News: “US Economic Growth Slows to 1.1% While Inflation Accelerates.” [Emphasis added.]

Casselman’s spin might even give Looney Tunes character Tasmanian Devil a run for his money.

A post that day by Tober again repeated the "anemic" line (while not admitting last year's two quarters of negative GDP) while praising Fox News for advancing the Republican narrative:

On Thursday, Americans awoke to yet another sign our economy was barreling toward a recession caused by reckless government spending and 40-year-high inflation as the U.S. Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy grew at a pathetic 1.1 percent in the first quarter of 2023. This was well below the two percent growth economists were expecting, and a far cry from the 2.6 percent GDP growth in the final quarter of 2022. Given this news was released just days after President Joe Biden kicked off his 2024 reelection campaign touting his belief that he's "never been more optimistic about America's future," it was predictable that the "big three" evening news broadcasts would ignore the fact that Biden's economy was teetering on recession. 

While millions of Americans were struggling to afford basic necessities due to sky-high inflation, and living in constant fear of losing their jobs, ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News, all wasted time on local weather reports, and news that anti-American athlete Brittney Griner held a press conference to discuss her experience in a Russian prison after breaking the law by bringing illegal drugs into a foreign country.

In contrast, Fox News Channel's Special Report reported on the anemic GDP numbers when noting Biden's cratering approval numbers on the economy. "Fox News polls show voter concerns about the economy are more pervasive. 78 percent rating the economy negatively after today's GDP report came in below expectations with sluggish growth at an annual rate of 1.1 percent for the first quarter," Fox News White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich reported. 

She then read Biden's out-of-touch statement on the economic figures: "We learned that the American economy remains strong as it transitions to steady and stable growth." These comments from Biden, according to Heinrich are "out of sync with how many really feel."

Vazquez spent a May 2 post complaining that CNN was evolving on the possibility of a recession:

CNN apparently can’t get its talking points in order after wantonly lecturing people to “chill” with the recession talk back in February. 

CNN’s May 2 headline didn't mince words about the current precarious state of America’s economy. “Why a US recession is probably coming,” the headline read. That’s the exact opposite of what the same outlet pushed nearly three months prior. “It’s time to chill with all the recession talk,” read the competing Feb. 6 CNN headline. Make up your mind, CNN.


MRC Business Vice President Dan Schneider called out CNN for its 180-degree turnaround: "The narrative is changing on the state of our economy and our Republic." In Schneider's view, "The legacy media has previously been doing everything they could to protect Joe Biden for his reelection efforts. But recently, you see signs that the media is offering the backdoor to let Biden escape in place of a Democratic candidate in a stronger position to win another term as president."

Vazquez and Schneider didn't mention that the MRC's own recession thinking had also evolved: When there were two quarters of negative GDP, it insisted that this was the only possible definition of a recession, but it had to change that when GDP turned positive in order to keep up its talk-down-the-Biden-economy narrative. And they certainly didn't disclose that their job is to talk down the economy to hurt Biden's re-election chances.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:30 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, July 27, 2023 10:26 AM EDT

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