During Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in rather forceful fashion, used very false numbers to argue that President Donald Trump, in his brief tenure, had already created more jobs for African Americans than President Barack Obama had.
Specifically, she said President Trump had created 700,000 jobs for African Americans since he took office. That part is true.
This part is not: “When President Obama left after eight years in office, eight years in office he had only created 195,000 jobs for African Americans. President Trump in his first year-and-a-half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years.”
In fact, as ThinkProgress reported Tuesday, President Obama presided over an economic recovery that created 2.96 million jobs for African Americans, from January 2009 to January 2017.
A couple hours after the briefing ended, the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) tweeted some new numbers, none of which confirmed the 195,000 figure Huckabee Sanders used. It made the case that Trump has created more jobs for African Americans and Latinos than Obama did at the outset of either of his terms.
— CEA (@WhiteHouseCEA) August 14, 2018
For some reason, they begin the each term in November of the year before each president was inaugurated. Per the CEA, under “Obama term 1” African Americans lost 636,000 jobs through July 2010. In November 2008, Barack Obama was president-elect, but George W. Bush was still president, and would continue setting economic policy until January 20, 2009.
Similarly, “Trump term 1” begins in November 2016, when he still lived in Trump Tower and was not setting economic policy for the nation. This is a rather absurd and false thing to say: that the first term of a president began during the last months of his predecessor.
Unless, of course, they defined “presidential terms” in this fashion because it is the only way they could juke the numbers to show that Trump outperformed Obama in some way related to African American employment. It still, however, does not at all offer support to Huckabee Sanders’ false statement.
There were further attempts at clarification to come. At 6:33 p.m., the CEA tweeted “Apologies for @WhiteHouseCEA’s earlier miscommunication to @PressSec.” It is neither apparent which numbers were “miscommunicated” to the president’s chief spokesperson, nor is it apparent what she had meant to say in the first place.
Then at 9:15 p.m., Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “Correction from today’s briefing: Jobs numbers for Pres Trump and Pres Obama were correct, but the time frame for Pres Obama wasn’t.” Huckabee Sanders’ non-apology apology got the facts entirely wrong, again.
Correction from today’s briefing: Jobs numbers for Pres Trump and Pres Obama were correct, but the time frame for Pres Obama wasn’t. I’m sorry for the mistake, but no apologies for the 700,000 jobs for African Americans created under President Trump https://t.co/EXGvbliwlS
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) August 15, 2018
She said that the numbers for Trump were correct (they were) and also that the numbers for Obama were correct. They very much were not. The White House has not issued any time frame under which President Obama only created 195,000 jobs for African Americans. So there is no way the numbers for Obama could be correct, unless you pick an arbitrary date partway through his presidency to another arbitrary date partway through his presidency, which the CEA did not do.
The comparison is wildly inaccurate, and because the facts conflict with the Trump White House’s goal of touting its own accomplishments by maligning Barack Obama’s record, it is unable to issue a correction correctly.
She also apologized for the mistake, but again bragged about Trump creating 700,000 jobs for African Americans — not the 848,000 jobs in the CEA’s numbers. The CEA’s bungled attempt to explain the reality of economic data has no bearing on Huckabee Sanders’ correction.
This entire episode of fact abuse — the misstatement, the attempted correction, the non-apology apology — is not something that Fox News viewers spent much time considering. They couldn’t have. After airing the actual briefing, Fox did not fact-check her misstatement, much like other cable news outlets throughout the evening. Fox actually doubled down. Two hours later, Bill O’Reilly protégé and favored Trump mouthpiece Jesse Watters, helming The Five, parroted Huckabee Sanders’ false numbers.
“I think Sarah Sanders said the right thing today when she was confronted about the racial issue,” he said. “She said in one and half years, Donald Trump has created 700,000 jobs for African-Americans in this country and in eight years, President Barack Obama had only created 195,000.”
“I just let that speak for itself,” said Watters, about demonstrably incorrect job numbers.
Juan Williams replied “I think that’s pretty ridiculous,” but did not take issue with the falseness of her numbers. He argued, correctly, that Trump had inherited an economy that was recovering, but then pivoted to Trump calling Omarosa Manigault-Newman a “dog.”
The other networks did eventually report about the falsehood weaponized in the White house briefing room, and Huckabee Sanders’ attempted correction.
CNN’s Don Lemon ran the clip of Sanders’ misstatement late Tuesday night, then said, “So for the record, 3 million jobs for African-Americans were added during the Obama era.” Follow-up segments ran on CNN Wednesday morning also included a fact-check beginning “so that’s not even close to true.” MSNBC ran a segment Wednesday morning about the mistake and the correction, saying “The entire argument that Sarah Huckabee Sanders made, the idea that trump had tripled Obama’s numbers, completely false and not substantiated by Bureau of Labor Statistics stats.”
Fox News has not, as of the time of this writing, mentioned Huckabee Sanders’ statement or attempted correction at all. That speaks for itself.