NBC Suggests Trump Trade Policy Caused Farmers to Commit Suicide

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On Thursday, only NBC’s Today show provided a full report on the landmark trade deal President Trump signed with China on Wednesday. However, that coverage included a shocking claim that U.S. trade policy pursued by the Trump administration actually caused American farmers to commit suicide.

Despite noting that “The White House calls this an historic agreement, with the President delivering on a campaign pledge,” correspondent Tom Costello warned that “American families are unlikely to see lower prices on most Chinese-made products already under tariffs, including TVs, shoes, and clothing.”

 

 

He then highlighted how “China has agreed to buy $200 billion worth of American products and services, including $40 billion in U.S. farm products.” The reporter hyped financial difficulty for farmers during the trade dispute:

For farmers like John Boyd of Virginia, that can’t come soon enough. Soybean prices were cut in half with the trade war. For a year, Boyd has struggled to pay the mortgage on his farm. Government relief checks provided just a fraction of his normal income.

Amid the fairly standard coverage, Costello’s report took a wild turn when he uttered: “Across the country, farmers have gone under. The financial stress even leading some to take their own lives.”

It’s one thing to talk about the costs and benefits of tariffs and the President’s overall trade strategy, it’s quite another to argue that people killed themselves because of the policy.

Costello ominously declared: “The hope now, that China will soon start placing the orders before it’s too late.”

On Wednesday’s Nightly News, Costello provided a similar report downplaying the trade deal, but there was no mention of farmers committing suicide. That irresponsible assertion was added to the story for the Today show.

Thursday’s CBS This Morning only offered a scant 24 seconds to the U.S.- China trade agreement, while ABC’s Good Morning America skipped Trump’s policy achievement completely.

Once again, skeptical coverage of any government policy is completely acceptable, but blaming that policy for tragic deaths is beyond the pale.

Here is a full transcript of the January 16 report:

7:10 AM ET

CRAIG MELVIN: The White House is hailing a new deal signed with China aimed at ending the heated trade war that’s dragged on for two years now. So what does it all mean for American consumers? NBC’s Tom Costello has that for us this morning. And Tom, this is one of those where both China and the United States are saying it’s a win.

TOM COSTELLO: Yeah, both say that. The White House calls this an historic agreement, with the President delivering on a campaign pledge. The deal does not require China to change any of it’s laws and it’s not clear what this means for main street Americans yet. But this agreement was good enough for Wall Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: 29,035, the record closing high.

COSTELLO: Wall Street’s record close on Wednesday actually began hours earlier at the White House, as President Trump and the vice premier of China signed the first phase of a deal meant to end a nasty two-year trade war.

DONALD TRUMP: Today we take a momentous step, one that has never been taken before with China, toward a future of fair and reciprocal trade.

COSTELLO: But most U.S. tariffs will remain in effect until phase two of the deal is completed. That means American families are unlikely to see lower prices on most Chinese-made products already under tariffs, including TVs, shoes, and clothing. China has agreed to buy $200 billion worth of American products and services, including $40 billion in U.S. farm products.

For farmers like John Boyd of Virginia, that can’t come soon enough. Soybean prices were cut in half with the trade war. For a year, Boyd has struggled to pay the mortgage on his farm. Government relief checks provided just a fraction of his normal income.

JOHN BOYD: We’re feeling the pinch. This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. When I can’t pay my bills, I can’t pay my bills.

COSTELLO: Across the country, farmers have gone under. The financial stress even leading some to take their own lives. The hope now, that China will soon start placing the orders before it’s too late.

For it’s part, China is anxious to regain access to U.S. consumers while providing American food and products to Chinese consumers.

LARRY KUDLOW [DIRECTOR OF WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC COUNCIL]: For both teams, for both sides, this is a pro-growth deal.

CRAIG MELVIN: So, Tom, do we have any idea when consumers might start to see the prices drop on some common products?

COSTELLO: So this is a complicated answer because many U.S. companies ate the cost of the tariffs, did not pass them on to consumers, but analysts say that could change this year. Companies are expected to start hiking prices since most tariffs are saying in place for now. So prices could go higher in the short run, then go back down when all the tariffs are removed and that may not come until the end of the year.

MELVIN: Alright, Tom Costello for us there in Washington. Thanks, Tom.

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