CNBC 'Skeptical' of White House Claim about Labor Report

CNBC offered skepticism of the White House Aug. 7, bringing up a “conspiracy theory” about whether President Obama learned ahead of time that the unemployment rate had fallen to 9.4 percent in July.


Co-host Erin Burnett asked correspondent Steve Liesman about that possibility: “The conspiracy theory about whether the president knew anything. (CNBC’s) John Harwood has said, you know debunked that, but, um, some people are still gonna be skeptical.”


Liesman replied skeptically: “Yeah, just a quick aside Erin on the thing about the president. We’ve reported this and I’ve reported this over and over for years that the White House gets that number sometime around 4 o’clock on Thursday.”


Liesman explained that he had reported it “years ago” because “somebody said something about jobs and we wondered, ‘Do they know something?’ My opinion is that these guys – since we know they get the information a day before – should shut up. They shouldn’t talk about jobs on, after we think they have the number …”


Burnett asked Liesman directly if the White House was being “dishonest.” “They’re saying he didn’t get it at all.”


“Well, no they say the president didn’t get it but the administration, key government officials get the number at 4 o’clock. That being, that the president didn’t get it I find unusual, I have to say. I would think a number like the jobs number the president would get. I’m very confused as to why he didn’t get it. But that being the case I have no information that they’re lying about that,” Liesman concluded.


“Riiiiight.” Co-host Mark Haines interjected sarcastically. “Yeah. One of the president’s aids gets a peek at the labor report which shows a better than expected number and doesn’t tell the boss. Riiiiight.”


Liesman told Haines: “I’d say your skepticism is well placed.”


During the segment Burnett also pointed out that the drop in unemployment “appears” to be caused by a decline in the number of people seeking jobs. In other words, people “dropped out of the workforce.”


According to NPR’s Planet Money blog, the total labor force fell by 442,000 people in July.