ABC and CBS Ignore Plunge in Unemployment Rate to Lowest Since Before 9/11

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that the unemployment rate for January fell by 0.2 percent from December, down to 4.7 percent, the lowest level since July of 2001. But viewers of ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Evening News on Friday night heard nothing about it, though ABC had time for another full story on the “cartoon outrage” by Muslims and a full piece on an Institute for Highway Safety study on how design changes in SUVs have reduced deaths in smaller vehicles they hit. CBS managed to find time for how, as relayed by anchor Bob Schieffer, when asked about President Bush’s contention that “the Constitution gives him the authority to eavesdrop without a court order on U.S. citizens suspected of having ties to the terrorists”and that “his predecessors have used that same authority,” Bill Clinton “told CBS Radio that as far as he knows, all wiretapping done by his administration was done with the authority of court orders." Before getting to some downbeat stock numbers, NBC anchor Brian William at least devoted twenty seconds to how “job creation was solid last month” as the “unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percent to 4.7, the lowest it's been since July 2001.” (Brief transcripts follow.)

The MRC’s Brad Wilmouth alerted me to the absence of the unemployment news and he also observed that the CBS Evening News didn’t even put the new unemployment number in its “Market Watch” bumper which listed just stock market numbers. ABC’s World News Tonight, anchored by Elizabeth Vargas -- and which spent much of its time on video of Bob Woodruff just before the bomb struck and on tributes to the soldiers who saved him -- didn’t even have a stock market bumper.

The AP's story, "Unemployment Rate Drops to 4 1/2-Year Low." The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Check here for month by month unemployment rates over past decade.

Anchor Brian Williams read this short item, with matching numbers on-screen, on the February 3 NBC Nightly News:
"There is news on the economy tonight. Job creation was solid last month, it turns out. Payrolls grew by 193,000 in January, a bit below what was forecast, but impressive nonetheless. The unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percent to 4.7, the lowest it's been since July 2001. The news stoked inflation fears on Wall Street, and stocks finished lower today. The Dow off more than 58 points. Nasdaq was down just under 19. For the week's trading, the Dow was down almost 114. Nasdaq lost nearly 42 points this week alone."

Instead of telling viewers about the lowest unemployment rate in four-and-a-half years, CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer made room for this tidbit:
"President Bush contends the Constitution gives him the authority to eavesdrop without a court order on U.S. citizens suspected of having ties to the terrorists, and he says his predecessors have used that same authority. Well, asked about that today, former President Bill Clinton told CBS Radio that as far as he knows, all wiretapping done by his administration was done with the authority of court orders."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center