Media Ignore Obama's 'Economic Disaster' Declaration

     Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a disaster as “a sudden calamitous event bringing great damage, loss or destruction.”

     Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama used it to describe one quarter of slight economic contraction followed by two consecutives quarters of slow economic growth. At an August 19 town hall meeting in Albuquerque, N.M, Obama said an “economic disaster is happening right now.”

       No one in the media seemed to notice the exaggeration Instead, reporters credited Obama with “sharpening his message.”

     “Then he started running ads saying oh, Obama’s just going to raise your taxes and he'll lead to an economic disaster,” Obama told his campaign audience. “Mr. McCain, let me explain to you, the economic disaster is happening right now. Maybe you haven't noticed.”

     The U.S. economy hasn’t even hit the technical definition of a recession – two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. There are encouraging numbers for the economy as well, as CNBC’s “Kudlow & Company host Larry Kudlow pointed out on National Review Online.

     “If the economy is in recession, why are business durable-goods orders and shipments booming?” Kudlow wrote. “Non-defense capital goods (capex) excluding aircraft rose 1.4 percent in June, or 19 percent at an annual rate over the last three months. Capex shipments rose 0.7 percent in June, or 8 percent annualized over the last three months. Business looks pretty healthy to me.”

     But instead of noting the liberty Obama took with the economic reality – the media have instead heaped praise on him for his aggressive tone.

     “Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., continued his sharper attacks on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., today at Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque, NM,” ABC News senior national correspondent wrote in a August 18 piece about Obama’s remark.

     Time magazine’s Karen Tumulty had a similar reaction to Obama’s economic pronouncement.

     “Barack Obama seems to have gotten the message about his message. In the past few days, amid growing concerns among Democratic allies, Obama has begun campaigning in a different gear, one that is more aggressive in attacking John McCain and more focused on the economic concerns of struggling Americans,” Tumulty wrote for on August 19, in an article headlined “Obama Sharpens the Message.”

     CBS News’ Maria Gavrilovic also called Obama’s attack “sharper” and described him as “fired up” in a piece posted on the network’s Web site on August 18 about the remarks.

     “For the second day in a row, Barack Obama has demonstrated a change in attitude,” Gavrilovic wrote. “At a town hall meeting today, he was fiercer, his attacks on John McCain were sharper, and he seemed to be, as he likes to say, ‘fired up.’”

     The August 18 ABC’s “World News” and “NBC Nightly News” also noted the “sharpness” of Obama’s rhetoric and ignore the embellishment in his economic analysis.

     The media have given both candidates a pass on economic exaggerations during the campaign. The broadcast networks have engaged in their own exaggeration, as a recent Business & Media Institute report, “The Great Media Depression,” revealed. The media compared current economic conditions to the Great Depression more than 40 times in the first four months of 2008. Coverage of the Bear Stearns collapse was four times more negative than coverage of the stock market crash that led into the depression.