After consistently blaming Republicans for the government shutdown, on Sunday's NBC Nightly News, fill-in anchor Carl Quintanilla warned that while the budget stalemate ended days earlier, "Many people who were furloughed or otherwise affected are still paying the price, and will do so for some time." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
In the report that followed, CNBC correspondent Bertha Coombs touted: "A new survey says about forty percent of consumers cut their spending because of the government shutdown. And store traffic was down seven percent compared to last year." She then proclaimed: "Retailers are hoping the shutdown doesn't become the Grinch that stole Christmas, but they're worried it will."
In his Tuesday column, Media Research Center president Brent Bozell compared such pronouncements to the nearly identical coverage of the last government shutdown:
They created Republican victims in 1995, too, when reporters in that "Gingrich shutdown" filed stories saying federal employees wouldn't be able to afford a Christmas tree that year. On October 4, 2013, NBC led off with sympathetic Head Start teacher Wendy Robinson, single mom of three, who had just been paid, but complained: "I'm at a loss for words, really, about it because I'm not used to not giving my kids a Christmas."
On Tuesday's Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams suggested weak September job growth was caused by the October shutdown: "There's widespread worry out there that the numbers should be better. Worry about the sluggish pace of the recovery, the number of people discouraged and all but permanently unemployed, and the unknowns about the full impact of this government shutdown."
Like Coombs on Sunday, correspondent Ron Mott hinted at a ruined Christmas: "This [jobs] report doesn't even factor in damage done by the government shutdown. Paulette Force is back on the job at the EPA, uncertain about her finances and holiday spending."
Furthering the notion that the temporary partial shutdown was to blame for the weak Obama economy, Mott declared: "Experts worry the shutdown will slow down an already sluggish recovery, blaming politicians for weakening consumer confidence."
In his column, Bozell summed up the media strategy post-shutdown: "Once the networks blamed the Grinchy conservatives for the shutdown, viewers can be led to believe that conservatives hate Christmas as much as they hate a functioning government."
Here is a full transcript of the October 20 report from Coombs:
CARL QUINTANILLA: While the government shutdown may be over, the pain it caused is not. Many people who were furloughed or otherwise affected are still paying the price, and will do so for some time. We get that story tonight from CNBC correspondent Bertha Coombs.
BERTHA COOMBS: Jessica Moss of Antelope, California, is busy making holiday presents because she can't afford to buy as much this year.
JESSICA MOSS: We might spend about fifty percent less on our own kids for Christmas gifts and use a lot of hand-me-down gifts that we have received from friends.
COOMBS: As a military wife, she usually shops at the base's discounted store. But during the shutdown, she had to shop elsewhere, which took a big bite out of her budget.
MOSS: Some people might be getting, you know, back pay if they don't have their checks. I'm not going on get thirty-three percent of my grocery bill back. It's gone.
COOMBS: She's not the only one feeling the pinch. A new survey says about forty percent of consumers cut their spending because of the government shutdown. And store traffic was down seven percent compared to last year. Retailers are hoping the shutdown doesn't become the Grinch that stole Christmas, but they're worried it will.
DAVID FRENCH [NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION]: Most of the recovery since 2009 has been based on consumer spending, and we're very concerned that a retreat by the consumer could push us back towards recession.
COOMBS: The ripple effects of the shutdown were also felt in housing. Mortgage applications fell seven percent to a six-year low as the uncertainty helped send mortgage rates higher. In Baton Rouge, the Malloys were in the process of buying a bigger home for their family of seven when their loan was stalled due to the shutdown. They were forced to get a new mortgage which cost them an additional $10,000.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [MOTHER, MALLOY FAMILY]: That's gonna be their Christmas present, is that they get a new set of bunk beds and they get new bedding for their beds or something else for the house instead of having some big gift to unwrap.
COOMBS: More than gifts, Jessica Moss will miss her family this holiday. Furloughed this month, her kids' grandparents now can't afford to visit, especially with another budget fight looming in January.
MOSS: Those are memories we're going to be missing out on. My husband's side of the family hasn't even seen our youngest son yet. And it's going to be even longer until they get to finally meet him.
COOMBS: A gift they'll never get back. Bertha Coombs, NBC News, New York.