In Gregg Stories, Short Shrift to White House's Census Grab

ABC, CBS and NBC centered their Thursday night stories, on Senator Judd Gregg's decision to withdraw as Commerce Secretary-nominee, around his disagreement with the Obama administration's “stimulus” plan -- with only passing mention, if any, of the administration's wish to move the 2010 census count from Commerce to the White House.

CNN's Jessica Yellin reported at the top of the 6 PM EST Situation Room that “sources close to Senator Gregg say the bigger issue for him was the White House's effort to take control of the census,” yet that politicalization of the census wasn't mentioned at all in a full CBS Evening News story from Chip Reid, who found time to relay how “a top Democratic source on Capitol Hill was more blunt, saying Gregg actively campaigned for the job, then 'erratically dropped out without warning,'” nor in a Katie Couric-Bob Schieffer discussion.

On ABC's World News, George Stephanopoulos offered a clause about the census, but couched as merely a GOP allegation: “Since the nomination became public there were two public issues over who would administer the census -- that was getting politicized according to Republican officials -- and also over the stimulus bill.”

Only after a full story on Gregg and Obama campaigning in Illinois for the “stimulus” bill did NBC's Chuck Todd get to the census issue:
There actually might have been a raw political reason and that was the fact that the White House was going to take control of the census away from the Commerce Department and into their own hands. And that had become sort of a mini firestorm, both on the right and the left, and at the end of the day, with the White House and Rahm Emanuel wanting control of that census, that was yet another reason why Judd Gregg decided he didn't want the job.
A February 10 NewsBusters item by Rich Noyes, “Networks Silent on White House Grab of 2010 Census,” recounted:
The Obama administration's decision to have the White House supervise the 2010 Census -- a response to left-wing complaints that the Census was too important to leave under the authority of Republican Judd Gregg, the nominee for Commerce Secretary -- has thus (as of Tuesday morning) far drawn absolutely no attention from the three broadcast networks, with not a single mention on the ABC, CBS or NBC morning or evening newscasts.

This would undoubtedly be a huge story if the White House were still in Republican hands and it was the GOP that was attempting to take over the Census. As the Wall Street Journal's John Fund reported on Tuesday: "'There's only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement,' a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. 'And it's called politics, not science.'"
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