Stimulus Two Years Later, Networks Ignore Obama's Failed Job Promise

Just a few years ago, double-digit unemployment seemed like a crazy idea. But when the economy began to stumble, it was fear of high unemployment and a promise to prevent it that the Obama administration used to usher in the $787 billion stimulus package. As The New York Times reported on Oct. 22, 2009, "The Obama administration's forecast at the start of the year, which predicted that unemployment would not climb much above 8 percent."

A big promise to be sure and a claim that proved false as unemployment climbed higher and higher reaching 10.2 percent at its peak. Yet, ABC, CBS, and NBC referenced this promise just nine times in two years in stimulus stories mentioning unemployment.

Unemployment still exceeds the Obama-guaranteed 8 percent unemployment rate two years after the bill's passage. In the same time period, network news barely reported that the stimulus failed to halt the sharp rise in unemployment. ABC 'World News,' CBS 'Evening News' and NBC 'Nightly News' all paid plenty of attention to the stimulus and its accomplishments, but more than 98 percent of those evening broadcast stories skipped over the administration's failed prediction.

The Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute (BMI) analyzed network evening news reports that mentioned "stimulus" and "unemployment" from Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, to Dec. 21, 2010. BMI found that the networks almost completely ignored Obama's 8 percent unemployment promise and the failure of the stimulus to prevent rising unemployment.

Where Were Stories about the 8 Percent Promise? Just nine stories out of 589 (less than 2 percent) referred to the unemployment prediction in two years of network news coverage.

Networks Instead Promoted More Stimulus: When the effects of the stimulus plan were discussed, network news shows promoted even more stimulus. ABC's Bianna Golodryga asked Warren Buffet if he thought unemployment would hit 11 percent to which he said yes. Then, instead of noting that the stimulus failed, she asked if a second stimulus was needed. To this Buffet replied it may be necessary because the first bill "was sort of like taking half a tablet of Viagra."

Bush Forced to Defend 5 Percent Unemployment: Under the administration of President George W. Bush, negative economic stories were pushed when unemployment was below 5 percent - less than half the number reached after the stimulus passed. CBS' Dan Rather on Oct. 8, 2004, asked "Tonight, where are the jobs?" yet few stimulus stories have even mentioned Obama's unemployment prediction.

ABC Was The Worst With Only One Story: ABC "World News" only mentioned the 8 percent prediction one time in nearly two years of coverage, making it the worst of the three networks. Instead ABC credited the stimulus with lower unemployment as reporter Betsy Stark claimed Dec. 4, 2009, when unemployment dropped to 10 percent: "Economists credit the government's massive stimulus spending with getting the job market to this point."

CBS Was the Best With a Mere Four Stories: "Evening News" did a better job of reminding viewers of Obama's promise than ABC and NBC did, but still only mentioned it four times over two years. But unlike others Katie Couric actually brought it up in an interview with Obama on July 21, 2009 and asked him to respond. That was one of the few examples of what the networks should have done more often.

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Economy Budget ABC World News CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News
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