NPR Runs to Obama's Defense on Economy; Romney Not Telling 'Whole Story'

NPR's Scott Horsley could have been mistaken as a spokesman for the White House or President Obama's campaign on Wednesday's All Things Considered, as he defended the Democrat's record on the economy. Horsley also claimed that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's claim that on women losing the bulk of the jobs over the past three years was "not really the whole story."

The only expert the correspondent cited during the segment was a low-level economist at the Labor Department, who stated that "more recently, we've seen more jobs being lost in education and health services and in government, which historically is where women tend to hold the majority of jobs." Horsley placed more of the blame on Congress (which is partially controlled by Republicans) than Mr. Obama: "The President has been pushing for billions of dollars in additional aid to keep teachers in the classroom, but Congress has not been willing to go along."

Host Robert Siegel brought on the NPR journalist to discuss Romney's recent attack on the President. After noting that the former Massachusetts governor alleged that "92.3 percent of the jobs lost on the President's watch were held by women," Siegel asked Horsley, "Scott, that's a very striking number. How exactly did the Romney campaign come up with the number of over 90 percent of the jobs lost during the last three years were women's jobs?"

The correspondent immediately launched into his defense of Obama's record on jobs:

HORSLEY: Remember, the U.S. economy has actually been adding jobs for the last year and a half, but we're still not back to the point where we were in January of 2009, when President Obama took office. We're still about 740,000 jobs short. Now, if you just look at the number of women who are working today, that's down about 683,000 from where it was in January of '09. If you divide 683 into 740 that is 92 percent. So Romney's statement is not plucked out of thin air, but it's not really the whole story either.

Siegel followed up by asking, "If it's not the whole story, what's he leaving out?" The journalist answered by continuing his apologia for the President:

HORSLEY: Well, one thing to keep in mind is the unemployment rate for women is still lower than it is for men. It's 8.1 percent for women last month, compared to 8.3 percent for men, and while January of 2009 was an important month on the political calendar, it just sort of falls in the middle of the economic downturn. By 2009, when President Obama came into office, the economy had already lost some four and a half million jobs, and those job losses were disproportionately among men.

Horsley then played his sole clip from Megan Barker, who works at the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. He added that "even after the private sector began adding jobs back, job losses have continued in the government sector, as local governments dealt with their budget deficits. A lot of those jobs that were lost were teachers, and a lot of those teachers were women." The host replied by asking, "So how much blame does President Obama deserve for that?"

The correspondent returned to defending the chief executive in his answer:

HORSLEY: Well, the administration would say we would have seen even bigger losses at the local government level, even more teacher jobs lost had it not been for the economic stimulus plan that he pushed for. Of course, that money ran out at the end of 2010. Since then, the President has been pushing for billions of dollars in additional aid to keep teachers in the classroom, but Congress has not been willing to go along. The one encouraging sign is that we've begun to see the layoffs at the state and local government level taper off in recent months, and so, what we're really seeing is women sort of felt the recession later and now they're feeling the recover later.

Near the end of the segment, Siegel pointed out the "obvious political context here, this argument of Mitt Romney that 92 percent of the jobs lost on President Obama's watch have been women's jobs. This comes after the Romney campaign has noticed a serious drop in his support among women." Horsley responded, in part, that "now that we have the general election card sort of all set, we're going to see the Romney campaign reaching out to women...and drive a wedge between women and President Obama. This numbers game is a part of that effort."

Just under three months earlier, during a January 18, 2012 report on Morning Edition, the NPR correspondent played up Romney's "same low tax bracket as the billionaire [Warren] Buffett" and labeled it a "provocative tax detail."

2012 Presidential Campaigns & Elections Morning Edition All Things Considered NPR Radio Scott Horsley Robert Siegel
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