CNS Still Flips for Trump on Employment Data
The contrast between CNSNews.com's relentlessly negative reporting on unemployment numbers under President Obama and its relentlessly rah-rah reporting on them under Trump becomes more glaring than ever.
By Terry Krepel
Few things better demonstrate the right-wing bias at the Media Research Center's "news" division, CNSNews.com, than its history of reporting on monthly employment numbers. Under President Obama, CNS repeatedly played up negative and unflattering numbers and buried evidence the economy was improving; when Donald Trump replaced him, CNS rushed to give him credit for increased employment that merely continued a trend that began under Obama.
Over the past year, CNS has continued that pro-Trump bias on employment numbers, gushing over data that, again, showed a continuing trend that began under Obama. It has also shifted its minority focus from blacks to Hispanics -- who turned out to be more exploitable for the MRC's anti-media agenda -- and found a way to avoid blaming Trump over a statistic it regularly used to attack Obama.
Let's look at how CNS reported those numbers over the past year.
The main story by Susan Jones began by touting the number of jobs created, as expected. She did surprisingly acknowledge in the third paragraph the low labor force participation rate, but unlike her reporting on this during the Obama years she quickly dismisses its importance by claiming it was being "held down in part by a wave of Baby Boomer retirements." It was during the Obama years too, but Jones rarely bothered to explain it, and never so far up in a Obama-era jobless numbers article.
CNS editor in chief Terry Jeffrey contributed his usual article on manufacturing jobs under the headline "Manufacturing Jobs Hit Highest Level Since Obama’s Inauguration." Jeffrey omitted the relevant fact that the economy was in free fall at the time of Obama's inauguration and gives Obama no credit for the fact that manufacturing jobs are up about 1 million from the depth of the recession.
Then -- as if he read the ConWebWatch article noting that he hadn't written about black unemployment since Trump took office, presumably because he now had to make Trump look good -- managing editor Michael W. Chapman wrote about it for the first time during the Trump presidency, making sure to put a pro-Trump spin on it:
Although the national unemployment rate for July was 4.3%, the unemployment rate for black workers was nearly double that of white workers, but it was also at a rate for blacks not seen since December 2000, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Needless to say, Chapman gives Obama no credit whatsoever for cutting the black unemployment rate by more than half from the depths of the recession (and, like Jeffrey, fails to mention there even was a recession that hindered employment).
As has been a staple in recent months, CNS also published an op-ed by the Heritage Foundation's Timothy Doescher touting the low unemployment rate -- claiming without evidence that "gains have likely come from reductions in harmful regulations that make it easier to run businesses in the U.S." -- and cheerleading for Trump policies that would purportedly cut the unemployment rate even further.
Apparently, pro-Trump rah-rah has its limits even at CNS. For her main article on August's unemployment numbers, Jones did what she usually did under Obama and has rarely done under Trump -- lead with unpleasant statistics about the relatively low labor force participation rate:
Heading into the Labor Day weekend, the latest jobs report is a disappointment.
Of course, Jones rarely mentioned the Baby Boomer factor in playing guilt-by-association in blaming low labor force participation on Obama.
Jeffrey contributed his usual article on manufacturing jobs, but he remained on message in dishonestly blaming a decline in them on Obama and crediting Trump's election for an increase:
When Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, there were 12,561,000 people employed in manufacturing in the United States. But in the next month, February 2009, manufacturing employment dropped to 12,380,000. Manufacturing employment would eventually dropped to 11,4530,000 [sic] in February and March of 2010.
Jeffrey again didn't mention that the country was in the middle of a recession when Obama took office, nor did he explain why Obama doesn't get credit for the increase of nearly 2 million manufacturing jobs between the 2010 low and the election (or afterward, since it's unlikely that any action Trump has taken can be directly attributed to the increase).
Jeffrey also contributed his usual article on the number of government jobs, while Chapman added for only the second time under Trump his regular Obama-era feature on black unemployment vs. white unemployment; Chapman finally concedes that high black unemployment is a longtime trend, though he'll only admit that it's been since 2007 (as we've noted, it's been that way since statistics were first compiled in 1972).
After taking a couple months to actually acknowledge some bad news in jobless numbers under President Trump, CNS was back in pro-Trump rah-rah mode for September's unemployment figures. The head cheerleader, of course, was Jones:
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are long gone, and despite dire predictions, they did not dampen the September jobs report in most key areas.
It's not until the seventh paragraph that Jones got around to mentioning the real news: that 33,000 jobs were lost in September, largely due to the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Jones didn't mention, though, that this is the first time in 83 months that there wasn't a net creation of jobs.
The only other article this time around is yet another piece by Jeffrey on his obsession with comparing manufacturing jobs with government jobs.
CNS ran into another one of those situations where the latest month of Trump-era unemployment news was too bad to spin away in yet another fit of pro-Trump stenography.
The main story by Jones led with the good news, but also gave prominent play to the bad, mainly because it directly impacted its longtime obsession, the labor force participation rate:
The economy added 261,000 jobs in October the most since President Trump took office -- and the nation’s unemployment rate dropped another tenth of a point to 4.1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday.
That story was CNS' lead story when posted early on Nov. 3, but it didn't stay that way for long -- can't have negative news on Trump leading a pro-Trump "news" site, can we? So that was quickly supplanted as the lead by its sidebar -- the usual story by Terry Jeffrey on manufacturing jobs -- which had the necessary pro-Trump spin.
After the previous month's reality-acknowledging blip, Jones' main story on November's jobless numbers was back in full rah-rah mode, cheering that "The economy added 228,000 jobs in November and the employment rate stayed at 4.1 percent -- a 17-year low." The inconvenient fact that the number of people out of the labor force hit another record high under Trump didn't get mentioned until the fourth paragraph. She then emphasized a different cherry-picked number, claiming that the number of people working part-time but desiring a full-time job "was down by 858,000 over the year."
The only other story was the usual Terry Jeffrey sidebar on manufacturing jobs vs. government jobs, cheering that "Employment in manufacturing in the United States has increased by 189,000 in the year since Donald Trump was elected president" while "employment in the federal government has declined by 3,000 since Trump was elected." No mention of what it claimed was the "real" employment rate, a staple of CNS reporting under President Obama.
CNS primed its year-end pro-Trump barrage with a Dec. 18 article by Chapman cheering how "the unemployment rate for black Americans is the lowest it has been since the year 2000, 17 years ago." Needless to say, Chapman doesn't mention that this is simply the continuation of a trend that began under Obama.
When December's unemployment numbers came out, it was a blitz of pro-Trump rah-rah -- the complete opposite of CNS' coverage of the December 2016 numbers. Jones, that Trump fangirl, cheered in her main story:
On November 20, President Trump tweeted: "Under President Trump unemployment rate will drop below 4%. Analysts predict economic boom for 2018!"
The article was illustrated with a picture of a Trump "Make America Great Again" hat, just to hammer home the point that Jones is doing Trump's bidding here.
By contrast, Jones' main article on the December 2016 unemployment rate led with the number of people not in the labor force, didn't mention the December unemployment rate until the seventh paragraph and waited until the 13th paragraph to concede that 14.8 million people found jobs during Obama's presidency. Speaking of which, Jones failed to mention that those 1.7 million jobs created in 2017 was the lowest one-year total since 2011.
CNS then churned out a raft of Trump-fluffing sidebars:
By contrast, CNS sidebars related to the December 2016 unemployment rate referenced high black unemployment (despite the fact it has always been higher than white unemployment), the decline in manufacturing jobs (which have been declining for 30 years) and the purportedly "real" unemployment rate (a metric CNS has never referenced during Trump's presidency).
CNS' coverage of January's unemployment numbers managed to be even more dishonest than ever, thanks to CNS being desperate to put a positive pro-Trump spin on things. The main article by Jones touted how "The new year is off to a strong start on the employment front. The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that a record 154,430,000 people were employed in January, a gain of 309,000 from December." She sycophantically adds: "The number of employed Americans has broken seven records since Donald Trump took office."
Jones waited until the 10th paragraph of her article to mention that only about 200,000 jobs were created in January, but added revised numbers from November and December to come up with her pumped-up 309,000 number. However, in a rare bit of honest reporting in her pro-Trump rah-rah piece, Jones did concede that "the number of Americans not in the labor force also set a new record at 95,665,000 the fourth such record since Trump took office."
It was up to Chapman to spin the hardest regarding the most negative number: the spike in black unemployment from 6.8 percent in December -- a figure Trump was heavily touting over the past month -- to 7.7 percent in January, a huge increase CNS would be repeatedly highlighting if a Democratic president was in office. Instead, Chapman buried the spike and insisted that the high number is still pretty darn good, under the headline "Black Unemployment Still Low at 7.7%":
Although the black unemployment rate in December of 6.8% was the lowest ever recorded, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, the black unemployment rate of 7.7% in January was still among some of the lowest rates moving downward since last April.
We hope Chapman got a hefty bonus from the MRC for his valiant effort to spin such bad news on behalf of the Trump administration.
The last time the United States had more than 12,555,000 employed in manufacturing was in January 2009, the month President Barack Obama was inaugurated. In that month, there were 12,561,000 employed in manufacturing. But in February 2009, the month after Obama's inauguration, manufacturing employment dropped to 12,380,000, according to the BLS.
Jeffrey conveniently omits the inconvenient fact that the country was free-falling into recession when Obama took office. And the chart accompanying Jeffrey's article makes it clear that manufacturing jobs have been on an upward trajectory since about 2011, which undercuts Jeffrey's implicit credit to Trump for the increase over the past year since it is simply continuing Obama-era trends.
Since February's unemployment numbers were better than the previous month, CNS didn't have to severely spin things as it did for January. Instead, it was full pro-Trump rah-rah mode. The chief cheerleader, as always, was Jones, who declared: "To put the unemployment rate in perspective, the last time we saw rates this low, Bill Clinton was president. In the final four months of 2000 -- Clinton's final full year in office -- the unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, and it dipped to a Clinton-era low of 3.8 percent for one month only, in April 2000." No talk about the "real" unemployment rate, of course, just as there was no talk about putting employment numbers "in perspective" under Obama.
The sidebar on black unemployment by Chapman saw better numbers this time as well, to the point where he proudly harrumphed: "It is a historical fact that the unemployment rate for black workers in America has been the lowest in nearly 50 years, and this occurred under the Trump Administration."
Even Jeffrey went the pro-Trump stenography route for his sidebar, declaring that "The United States added 31,000 manufacturing jobs in February and employment in the manufacturing sector has now increased by 263,000 since December 2016, the last month before President Donald Trump took office." He went on to assert:
The last time there were more manufacturing jobs in the United States than there were in February was in December 2008, the last month before President Barack Obama took office. That month, according to BLS, there were 12,850,000 manufacturing jobs. But, in January 2009, the month Obama was inaugurated, manufacturing jobs dropped to 12,561,000and did not move back above 12,600,000 until last month.
Jeffrey didn't mention that the U.S. was suffering a major recession at the time of Obama's inauguration. Gee, wonder why...
March's job news wasn't all that positive -- only 103,000 jobs created -- so CNS went into cherry-picking mode to push numbers that reflect better on Trump. Jones' main story was headlined not with the overall numbers -- that didn't get mentioned until the 11th paragraph -- but with the claim that a "record number of women" were employed. She couldn't quite spin it away in the article proper, conceding the total number of Americans employed dropped.
Jones also conceded something else: that CNS' obsession with the labor force participation rate under President Obama hasn't paid off under Trump, admitting that "The labor force participation rate has been stuck at or near the 62.7-63.0 percent level for the past four years."
So, CNS had to turn to Trump-fluffing sidebars to stay in rah-rah mode. Jeffrey contributed his usual piece on manufacturing jobs, cheering that "employment in the manufacturing sector has now increased by 281,000 since December 2016, the last month before President Donald Trump took office." Jeffrey also misled by writing, "In January 2009, the month Obama was inaugurated, manufacturing jobs dropped to 12,561,000. The number of manufacturing jobs in the United States did not exceed that number until February of this year, when it hit 12,610,000." Jeffrey once again forgot that there was a major recession during the Obama administration that caused manufacturing jobs to fall far below that number, and that manufacturing jobs have been on an upward trajectory since 2011.
Jeffrey also penned another fluff piece highlighting that the number of federal government jobs has dropped by 21,000 under Trump.
As it did the previous month, CNS' coverage of April's job numbers downplayed the number of new jobs created -- a sign it doesn't consider that number impressive enough -- in favor of cherry-picked stats that make President Trump look better.
Instead, Jones' main story touted how "Not since May 2001, 17 years ago, has the number of unemployed Americans been this low." It's not until the ninth paragraph that Jones mentioned that there has been no real change in the labor force participation rate under Trump. The jobs-created number didn't get mentioned until the 10th paragraph.
This story is joined by the usual Trump-era sidebars by Terry Jeffrey on government employment and manufacturing jobs. The latter attacked Obama for "a one-month decline of 289,000" in manufacturing jobs the month he took office but didn't mention that the economy was in the midst of cratering into a major recession at the time. Jeffrey also credited Trump for 304,000 manufacturing jobs since he took office but not Obama for the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs created under his presidency since the end of the recession -- a fact illustrated by the chart accompanying his article.
An article by Chapman asserted how "The national unemployment rate for blacks in April 2018 was 6.6%, the lowest it has been since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started compiling such data in 1972, some 46 years ago," but he again failed to mention that the rate decline is merely the continuation of a trend begun under Obama.
Tellingly, Jones waited three days after the release of the numbers to do an article offering a closer look at the labor force participation rate and how it hasn't really changed under Trump -- something she would never have waited to do under Obama. The article's headline is quick to hype that the stagnant participation rate is driven largely by baby boomers retiring -- another fact CNS was reluctant to admit during the Obama years.
The employment numbers for May were good, so needless to say, CNS wasted no time in pegging the pro-Trump rah-rah-meter.
CNS also served up the usual sidebars from editor in chief Terry Jeffrey on increased manufacturing jobs and decreased federal employment, which Jeffrey quickly attributed to Trump (despite the fact that the increased manufacturing jobs continues a trend that began in 2011 under Obama).
CNS then took a partisan hit at Nancy Pelosi in an anonymously written article, framing her as being critical of "record employment" when she was pointing out that poorer Americans face higher health care costs because of Republicans' dismantling of the Affordable Care Act and tax cuts that favored the rich.
Jones figured out a way to distract from non-Trump-friendly employment numbers: lead with a rah-rah Trump quote. And that's what she does in her lead article on June's numbers:
"Our economic policy can be summed up in three very simple but beautiful but beautiful words," President Donald Trump told a rally in Montana Thursday evening: "Jobs, jobs, jobs," he said.
Jones' article is accompanied by Terry Jeffrey's usual article about increased manufacturing jobs and Michael W. Chapman's usual article about falling black unemployment -- needless to say, neither of them reported that both of these trends began under President Obama.
Missing this time around was an article on black unemployment; it was replaced by an article by Craig Bannister highlighting that "The national seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S. labor force fell to the lowest level on record in June of 2018." But the accompanying chart shows that this trend began as well under Obama. Bannister did concede this in an article, but in a convoluted way that tries to make Obama look bad and avoid giving him credit for the decline:
During the 17 full months of the Trump administration, beginning in February 2017, Hispanic-Latino unemployment has averaged 5.0%.
Turns out there was a reason for the change in minority group: so its Media Research Center parent could use the cherry-picked stat to attack media outlets it doesn't like for not reporting it.
And the MRC did indeed get a lot of mileage out of it:
And just to bring things full circle, Bannister wrote a blog post at CNS about Oliver's TV appearance promoting his CNS article. Bannister did helpfully include the disclaimer that "MRC Latino, like CNSNews.com, is a division of the Media Research Center (MRC)."
A truly independent news organization -- which the MRC likes to portray CNS as -- would not be writing "news" articles for the apparent sole purpose for use as activism by the parent organization. It's time for the MRC to publicly explain to readers what line, if any, exists between the editorial side and the activism side.
Jones loves to crank up the rah-rah for the monthly employment numbers now that Donald Trump is president (compared to her less-than-enthusiastic reception for positive numbers under President Obama). Here's how her lead story on July's numbers kicks off:
Following last month’s strong employment report, the numbers released on Friday were even better in some respects.
It's not until the last half of her article that Jones notes a less-than-positive number: Not only did the labor force participation rate -- something CNS was obsessed with during the Obama years -- remain steady, federal officials project that it will continue to decline over the next decade.
After all those years of blaming Obama for the low labor force participation rate while he was president, CNS has found a way to avoid blaming Trump for the same trend.
CNS' coverage also included Jeffrey's usual sidebars about manufacturing jobs and government jobs. There's also the second appearance of an article about the Hispanic unemployment rate, having proven more exploitable by CNS' MRC parent than previous articles about the black unemployment rate. And, indeed, the MRC did just that, as MRC Latino's Garvin Oliver and Ken Oliver touted how "The Trump administration’s winning record on Hispanic unemployment finally received a long overdue nod of recognition from top national Spanish-language media outlets Univision and CNN en Español." Well, that's why CNS published it -- so the Olivers can harangue others into promoting it.