Obama Blames High Unemployment on ATMs, Media Shrug Off Gaffe

On the June 14 edition of NBC's Today, President Barack Obama ascribed part of the blame for the high unemployment rate to ATMs, yet most media outlets continue to ignore the gaffe.

"There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers," lectured Obama in an interview with NBC's Ann Curry. "You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don't go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you're using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate."

Curry moved on to another subject without addressing the faux pas, but she's not the only journalist to gloss over the story. Despite the fact that the automated teller machine was invented decades before Obama took office, a Lexis search revealed that not a single major news network, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and MSNBC, has covered the remark on air.

Fox Nation linked to the "Today" interview and CNN buried a brief blurb on John King's blog, but other than that the networks have been mum on a story that Red State's Erick Erickson described as demonstrating that Obama "is completely and utterly ignorant about job creation and economics."

While the media give Obama a pass on ATMs, they afforded then-President George H.W. Bush no such luxury during the 1992 presidential campaign, when the Republican incumbent was mocked as out of touch for reportedly marveling at a grocery store scanner. The story was later exposed as "almost wholly untrue," but that didn't stop former ABC anchor Peter Jennings from reviving the contrived controversy years later on "World News Tonight."

"News for everyone, but former President Bush might take note," inveighed Jennings on March 31, 2000. "Self-scanning check-out systems are catching on at supermarkets. Customers scan and bag the groceries themselves and then to keep people honest, it checks to see if the weight of the groceries equals the weight of the items which were scanned."

Contrary to the president's assertion that ATMs contribute to nagging unemployment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that teller jobs would grow about 6 percent from 2008 to 2016.

In addition, NRO's Jonah Goldberg pointed to statistics indicating expansive growth in banking jobs since the self-service banking era began in 1985: "At the dawn of the self-service banking age in 1985, for example, the United States had 60,000 automated teller machines and 485,000 bank tellers. In 2002, the United States had 352,000 ATMs – and 527,000 bank tellers."

Adding insult to injury, the ATM Industry Association took a swipe at Obama in an email to the Washington Examiner: "Given these major roles of the ATM, it would be quite irrational to turn the clock back to the 1960s to a time before ATMs."

- Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.