Networks Submerge Disastrous GDP Numbers Into Debt Ceiling Impact; ABC Spikes Revised 1st Q Flatline

The broadcast network evening newscasts on Friday night noted the very anemic second quarter GDP growth rate at 1.3 percent, but instead of stressing how it showed the weak economic state well before the debt ceiling showdown, they submerged it into warnings of how the delay in getting a deal is hurting the economy.

On ABC’s World News, Bianna Golodryga, aka Mrs. Peter Orszag, the wife of Obama’s former OMB Director, helped her husband’s ex-employer by failing to even mention the worst news of the day: the revision of the first quarter GDP down to a flat line 0.4 percent from the original 1.9 percent estimate. At least CBS and NBC considered that newsworthy.

“Sounding the alarm,” Diane Sawyer teased ABC’s July 29 World News, “the stock market sinks again as we learn the economy is grinding to a halt. Is the debt stalemate in Washington sending the U.S. straight into another recession?”

Golodryga used the weak GDP as justification for a debt ceiling deal: “Washington was looking for any sense of urgency to break their political impasse. They got it with today’s weak numbers. And while America and the world waited for action, they once again saw nothing giving them hope.”

She highlighted how the debt ceiling situation has cost people money, only after that getting to the better of the two fresh GDP numbers:

While the clock has been ticking down toward the debt deadline, so to has the stock market. In just the past week, the stalemate in Washington has contributed to a total loss of $183 billion in Americans' retirement accounts with the average 401(k) losing $4,300. All this while today’s numbers show that the economy grew by just 1.3 percent during the last three months, a big disappointment, half of what economists say we need to see a drop in the unemployment rate...

Fill-in NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt announced: “Gross Domestic Product, the broadest measure of the economy, rose just 1.3 percent this spring. That's weak. And below what economists had forecast. The really bad news came in the revised number for the first quarter of this year, 0.4 percent. The economy was basically flat lining.”

To CNBC’s David Faber, Holt recognized: “There is no way to sugar coat the numbers. Is the bottom line was the recession deeper than any of us thought?”

Instead, however, of looking at the weak economy illustrated by the low GDP, Holt focused on how the debt ceiling debate is hurting the economy: “All the anxiety and uncertainty in Washington is taking a toll on Wall Street and on Main Street as well. NBC's Ron Allen joins me now from Detroit with more on that.”

Ron Allen began:

Good evening, Lester. So many people we talked to said they are concerned about interest rates rising on home mortgages, on credit cards, worried about their 401(k) plans taking yet another hit. Especially here in the Midwest, cities like Chicago and here in Detroit, where they finally are beginning to see some signs of the economy picking back up. The lunch crowd at Detroit's 1917 American Bistro has been pretty steady lately. A great indicator for owner Donald Studvent who lost his job and started his own business about two years ago. Now he sees what is happening in Washington as a real threat...

On CBS, anchor Bob Schieffer fretted over how “Washington was dithering” at a time when the economy “is already a basket case.” Reporter Anthony Mason warned: “The economy’s in even worse shape than we thought. It grew at a meager 1.3 percent in the quarter just ended, while growth in the first quarter was revised down to just .4 percent.”

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