NBC Nightly News Laments Bad Inflation Report 'A Challenge' For Biden Campaign

April 11th, 2024 11:55 AM

The network evening newscasts did their best to bury yesterday’s bad inflation news. Literally. Both by leading their newscasts off with severe weather and by running their respective inflation items after the 10-minute mark.

The most bizarre among these reports comes from NBC Nightly News, which bifurcated the story. First, a brief read by anchor Lester Holt on the inflation report’s effect on the stock market, and then the rest as part of White House Correspondent Peter Alexander’s roundup, which covered an array of subjects. Here’s that reassembled report, as aired on NBC Nightly News on Wednesday, April 10th, 2024:

LESTER HOLT:  We'll turn to the economy. Stock markets way down across the board today. The Dow losing more than 400 points after disappointing news about inflation. The government said inflation accelerated to 3.5% in March from a year ago, that was up from a 3.2% increase in prices in February.

PETER ALEXANDER: Another challenge for the Biden campaign: the economy, with today's headline that inflation ticked up again, even higher than expected. Housing and gas prices accounting for most of it. Overall prices up nearly 19% since president Biden took office. Former President Trump tonight:

DONALD TRUMP: Biden has totally lost control of inflation. It's back. It's raging back. 

ALEXANDER: President Biden saying he's made tremendous progress.

JOE BIDEN: We have dramatically reduced inflation from 9% down to close to 3%...my opposition talks about two things. They just want to cut taxes for the wealthy and raise taxes on other people.

In sum: bad news, “a challenge for the Biden campaign”, and “tremendous progress”. Peter Alexander depicts President Biden as a hapless victim of the inflation report, rather the one responsible for it. And, as always, the purest victim of any bad news is the electoral prospects of Joe Biden.

Burial notwithstanding, ABC and CBS aired more substantial reports reflecting the pain felt by consumers. At ABC World News Tonight, anchor Whit Johnson framed the report as “disappointing” and “concerning”. Correspondent Elizabeth Schulze threw cold water on the idea of the Fed cutting interest rates until inflation stabilizes. (Click “expand” to view full transcript)


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10th, 2024:

WHIT JOHNSON: Now to that disappointing report on inflation. Consumer prices in March were up 3.5%, compared to a year ago, higher than expected. Report casting doubt on an interest rate cut in the near future. Here's ABC's Elizabeth Schulze.

ELIZABETH SCHULZE: Tonight, Americans hoping to see the Federal Reserve cut interest rates as early as June may now have a longer wait, with inflation climbing for the third straight month. 

MAN ON THE STREET: The prices is too high.

SCHULZE: The consumer price index up 3.5% in March from a year ago, fueled by higher costs for rent, car insurance, clothes, medical care, and gas. 

SUSAN STANKUS: I used to fill it up for 35 bucks, it was a beautiful thing. 

SCHULZE: And now it's 45.

STANKUS: 45, and sometimes it's 60. Between food and gas, it's had a big impact.

SCHULZE: For Alexandria Jones at her vintage shop in Chicago, rent jumped from $1,400 to $1,800 a month. 

ALEXANDRIA JONES: I have to do a sale. I have to bring people in just so I can be able to deal with what is, you know, the inevitable of my rent being $400 more than it was. 

SCHULZE: To combat inflation the Fed increased borrowing costs to a 22-year high, making it more expensive to pay for a new mortgage, car, or credit card debt. President Biden today pointing to inflation's improvement from 9% two years ago, still predicting an interest rate cut this year. 

JOE BIDEN: This may delay it a month or so, I'm not sure of that. I don’t- we don't know what the Fed is going to do for certain. 

SCHULZE: Whit, that first interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve had been expected in June, but after today's report, most analysts aren't predicting it will happen until September. And that's assuming that the inflation picture improves by then. Whit.

JOHNSON: All right, concerning news there. Elizabeth, thank you.

CBS Evening News also went in-depth, depicting with greater detail how consumers are “feeling the pinch”. Correspondent Jo-Ling Kent tried to find bright spots in a report that offered none, and ended her report by also nixing the idea of a summer rate cut. (Click “expand” to view full transcript) 


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10th, 2024:

NORAH O’DONNELL: Now to some breaking news. Wall Street took a hit, with all three major indexes finishing the day in the red. The Dow fell more than 400 points after the Labor Department reported a higher-than-expected spike in inflation. The Consumer Price Index for March rose at an annual rate of 3.5%, and that is the biggest jump in six months. In tonight’s "Money watch," CBS's Jo-Ling Kent shows us how consumers are feeling the pinch.

JO-LING KENT: For the third straight month, prices have gone up more than expected, from the rising cost of car insurance and repairs. 

So how much are you paying at the grocery store every week?

TIKTOKER 1: Do you know how much one of these cost? Two freaking dollars.

TIKTOKER 2: This was $200.

TIKTOKER 3: Are we supposed to skip the power bill this month so we can buy groceries… or the mortgage? 

KENT: Before the pandemic of all of these groceries, about 30 items, cost $100 on average. Now five years later, according to Nielsen IQ, all this cost 33% more, meaning you’d have to skip about ten items. Like chicken, bread, milk, and bananas, to make your $100 budget. 

Five years ago versus today, the difference is remarkable. Is that normal? 

CARMAN ALLISON: Oh, goodness, it's not normal at all. That is why consumers are really, really scrutinizing their behaviors because, you know, prices are leveling off, but they are leveling off at these record high levels.

KENT: Higher gas prices and rent also helped push inflation up 3.5% over the last year. Also more expensive, baby food and formula spiking nearly 10%. Eldercare up over 14%. And veterinary care jumping almost 10%. President Biden responding today.

JOE BIDEN: We are better situated than we were when we took office. Where inflation was skyrocketing. And we have a plan to deal with it. 

KENT: But until then, shoppers continue to cut corners where they can. 

ALLISON: We ask Americans, have you changed your behavior? And 87% of Americans have said yes to that. We may be seeing more, you know, white meat on the barbecue than red meat this summer because beef prices have gone up 9%. Everybody's been impacted by this. There is no way you can get around it. 

KENT: The good news here is wage growth last month did outpace inflation, but this March inflation number is the biggest annual jump in six months, and it really makes it very unlikely that the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates any time soon. Norah.

The grim news, with few silver linings, was simply too much to suppress outright. The networks, compelled to cover the story, did so reluctantly and after burning the story beneath weather reports and actual local crime stories.