ABC, NBC Ignore Shocking Economic Slowdown

Latest GDP announcement unmentioned by two networks while CBS downplays weak growth.

With a head in the sand approach, the networks failed to report on the latest economic weakness revealed to happen during President Barack Obama’s tenure.

The Commerce Department announced on April 30, that the United States economy barely grew in the first quarter: by only 0.1 percent. That was a sharp decline from 2.6 percent growth rate for the fourth quarter of 2013.

In the 24 hours following the announcement of gross domestic product, ABC and NBC morning and evening news shows ignored the GDP news. While CBS had little to say about the slowdown as “Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley blamed it on the weather, repeating the Obama administration’s excuse. This slowdown was a departure from optimistic predictions the administration made about 2014’s economic prospects.

NBC “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams ignored the GDP news, but mentioned an IMF report that warned China’s economy may overtake the US. This report would have fit well into a discussion of American economic slowdown, but Williams didn’t made a connection.

CBS mentioned the 0.1 percent GDP growth on both “This Morning” and “Evening News.” “This Morning” co-anchor Norah O’Donnell spent eight seconds on it in a story heralding the stock market’s success, as an onscreen chyron touted the Dow’s “record high.”

“Evening News” host Scott Pelley also barely covered this economic data. While pointing out the slowdown, he maintained that “the harsh weather this past winter all but froze economic growth.” As he spoke, CBS displayed a picture of money with the caption “economic growth,” distracting from the point that the economy had barely grown at all.

The economic slowdown does not mean a new recession since recessions are defined after the fact and require a period of negative economic growth, but the bad economic news did warrant attention.

Although it got little notice from the networks, print media including The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal ran lengthy stories on the weak growth data.

Unsurprisingly, openly liberal outlets like The Huffington Post and even the Obama administration also blamed the slowdown on cold weather last winter. Investor’s Business Daily quoted chief Obama economist Jason Furman stating, “the first quarter of 2014 was marked by unusually severe winter weather.”  

Of course, not all economists agree that the weather is to blame. The Bureau of Economic Analysis instead pointed to “a slump in exports and a fall-off in domestic investments,” as reported by International Business Times

— Sean Long is Staff Writer at the Media Research Center. Follow Sean Long on Twitter.