CNN Jumps on Mitt Romney's 'I'm Also Unemployed' Joke, But Barely Touched Obama's Joke About Lack of 'Shovel-Ready' Jobs

Both President Obama and leading Republican candidate Mitt Romney got into hot water for supposedly making insensitive comments about the economy this week. But CNN's response offers a textbook case of media bias, as the supposedly-objective news network virtually ignored Obama's gaffe while trumpeting Romney's comment.

President Obama poked fun at the ineffectiveness of his own stimulus bill in creating certain "shovel-ready jobs" on Monday and Republicans pounced on the joke, claiming it was not funny when unemployment remains high. However, CNN barely reported the president's joke and the ensuing Republican outrage.

Flash-forward to later in the week, when wealthy Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney quipped to a table of listeners in a Florida restaurant that he is "also unemployed." Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) slammed the remark as "inappropriate and insensitive" to unemployed Americans and "incredibly out-of-touch." Schultz's press release went out at noon Thursday, and by the 3 p.m. EDT news hour CNN was touting Romney's remarks.

Obama's comment warranted a brief 25-second soundbite from CNN political analyst Gloria Borger Monday night and no other coverage throughout the week. Meanwhile, by the 1 p.m. EDT news hour Friday afternoon, the network had spent a total of 33 minutes of air time mulling over Romney's remarks Thursday and Friday.

CNN first reported Romney's joke at the end of Thursday's 3 p.m. EDT news hour, and by the 5 p.m. EDT hour of The Situation Room, they devoted a segment to it. John King, USA at 7 p.m. EDT and both 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. EDT hours of Anderson Cooper 360 ran segments on the joke. CNN also reported on Romney's gaffe every hour Friday morning from 6 a.m. EDT until noon.

On Monday night, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger briefly mentioned Obama's shovel-ready joke, and not until Thursday night's Anderson Cooper 360 did it receive coverage again on CNN – but it was mentioned by a guest, GOP strategist Tony Blankley. CNN almost completely ignored Obama's joke throughout the week, even though a leading Republican senator and two presidential candidates publicly decried the humor.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized it on the Senate floor Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney ran a press release Monday titled "No Joke," and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called the joke "disgraceful" Wednesday.

However, apparently all it took for CNN to jump on the Romney story was a press release by the DNC chair; within hours it was a hot topic.

Below is a transcript of some of CNN's coverage of the Obama remarks, and then the Romney joke:

CNN
JOHN KING, USA
6/13/11
7:55 p.m.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN senior political analyst: It's very clear that Mitt Romney wants to be the one running against Barack Obama now. I just got an e-mail from the Romney campaign, all in caps, no joke, picking up on something the president said today about the failed stimulus package, that it wasn't as shovel-ready as they had hoped in certain instances. And so the Romney campaign sends out a big e-mail to all the press saying this is not a joke. So, it's very clear Romney is already wanting to make this a two- man race.

(...)

CNN
JOHN KING, USA
6/16/11
7:14 p.m. EDT

[7:14]

JOHN KING: Still ahead, the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney discovers that joking about unemployment, well, isn't very funny. Perhaps not smart politically either.

(...)

[7:47]

KING: Well, let's start with the guy you say who by logic and by Republican tradition would be next in line. That's the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as you mentioned. He is concentrating mostly on New Hampshire. But he was in Florida today, and was having a conversation with unemployed workers, again focusing like he vows to do almost exclusively on the economy. Now, in the last campaign, people said Romney was too wooden, he was too stiff, he was too disconnected from everyday Joes because he's a rather wealthy guy. So, here he is trying to make a joke at the end of the conversation with a group of unemployed voters.

(Video Clip)

MITT ROMNEY Republican presidential candidate: Well, maybe I should also tell my story. I'm also unemployed.

(Laughter)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Are you on LinkedIn?

ROMNEY: Yes, actually. And – and I'm networking. But I have my sight on a particular job, I'm working –

(End Video Clip)

KING: Now, a bit later, we questioned him about this, and asked him, because the Democrats seized on this, they said this guy is worth a couple hundred million dollars, he shouldn't be joking about being unemployed. He just wants to be president of the United States and Governor Romney says, I was just trying to be funny. Listen.

(Video Clip)

ROMNEY: You know, I will always make light of myself. And self-deprecating humor is part of who I am. But the reality is that we have a president that doesn't understand the plight of the unemployed.

(End Video Clip)

KING: You know, I'm going to ask the Democrat first. I was going to ask the Republican first, but I'm going to ask the Democrat first. This is a hard one. It's a hard one. He's not – he's probably not a natural stand-up comedian. So, was that funny or could he just not even try to go there?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN political contributor: Well, I mean, I'm not going to play Democrat. I'm just going to play strategist right now. I understand what he's trying to do because he's got to look like a regular guy. I mean, he's worth a couple hundred million dollars. And so, he's trying really hard. But it's the in-authenticity thing that it fails on him. Voters can smell that a mile away. He's having a hard time connecting to regular Joe, and he's got to do that better.

KING: But Erick Erickson, the knock on him last time was too wooden. Now, he tries to be funny and a couple of his jokes recently have fallen flat. What's the guy to do? Come up with better jokes maybe?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN political contributor: You know, I'm with – maybe so. I'm with Cornell on this one. He really needs to figure out a way he can connect to voters. And, frankly, I think it's on message, is where he is connecting. I'm with a lot of Republicans down in New Orleans, at the Republican Leadership Conference, and there are a lot of people who are still trying to find the alternative Romney and you're starting to hear people – I was sitting at a restaurant tonight listening to people talk about maybe having to settle for Romney. No one wants to but they may have to.

 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014