CBS Acknowledges Public Unaware of Good Economic News -- Which CBS Skipped

In reporting on President Bush’s nomination of Henry Paulson as his new Secretary of the Treasury, CBS’s Jim Axelrod on Tuesday night suggested that "the administration needs a salesman,” citing how “no matter how much they trumpet 5.3 percent economic growth in the first quarter, 5.2 million more jobs since August 2003, or unemployment down to 4.7 percent, there's another number to contend with. In the most recent CBS News poll, just 34 percent approved of the President's handling of the economy.” But might not part of the problem lie in lack of media attention to the booming economy? For instance, Axelrod’s citation of the 5.3 percent GDP growth in the first quarter, the fastest rate in two-and-a-half years, was the first on the CBS Evening News which ignored it when the number was announced last Thursday.

Earlier is in his story, Axelrod snidely marveled at why anyone would want to join the declining Bush administration: “Leaving a job that paid him $38.3 million last year in salary, stock, and options, to take one that pays 175 grand, and to join the last two and a half years of a struggling administration, the question isn't why the White House would want him, but why he would want the job?" (Transcript follows)

On Thursday, May 25, the day the Commerce Department announced the impressive 5.3 percent GDP number, the CBS Evening News led with the Enron verdicts, followed by more on the overplayed stolen VA data and online selling of personal data, then the Haditha Marines killing innocent Iraqis incident, Jim Axelrod on the Capitol Hill fight over the FBI’s search of the office of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson and how President Bush sequestered the documents, the Pope in Poland and, finally, people who use RVs to travel. The only mention of the economy came in a bumper on that day’s jump in the NASDAQ and the Dow Jones Industrial average.

The MRC’s Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the May 30 CBS Evening News story:
Anchor Bob Schieffer: "There was another big sell-off on Wall Street today. The Dow fell 184 points, the NASDAQ lost 45. And if you want to know why, just connect the dots: Higher oil prices have led to a drop in consumer confidence in the economy, and Wall Street is worried that that will lead to a drop in spending. All this on a day when President Bush decided to shake up his economic team. From the White House now, here is Jim Axelrod."

Jim Axelrod began: "Washington's worst-kept secret is now a matter of fact. The President wants a new Treasury Secretary. John Snow is out, and Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson is the man Mr. Bush wants in."

George W. Bush in Rose Garden Tuesday announcing naming of Paulson: "The American economy is powerful, productive and prosperous, and I look forward to working with Hank Paulson to keep it that way."

Axelrod: "Paulson, the top man at arguably Wall Street's most prestigious firm, now becomes the chief salesman for the U.S. economy."

Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury nominee: "It is truly a marvel, but we cannot take it for granted. We must take steps to maintain our competitive edge in the world."

Axelrod: "Leaving a job that paid him $38.3 million last year in salary, stock, and options, to take one that pays 175 grand, and to join the last two and a half years of a struggling administration, the question isn't why the White House would want him, but why he would want the job?"

Tony Snow, at press briefing: "It's stimulating, it's important, it's exciting, and it's unlike any kind of job that you'll ever have for the rest of your life."

Axelrod, with numbers beside him on screen: "The administration needs a salesman. No matter how much they trumpet 5.3 percent economic growth in the first quarter, 5.2 million more jobs since August 2003, or unemployment down to 4.7 percent, there's another number to contend with. In the most recent [May 16-17] CBS News poll, just 34 percent approved of the President's handling of the economy. And the market didn't exactly present Paulson with a parting gift. The Dow plunged today. Even so, former Bush Commerce Secretary, Don Evans, says Paulson will play well on both Wall Street and Main Street in the long run."

Donald Evans, former Commerce Secretary: "He knows what we need to do here in America to remain competitive when it comes to attracting capital, which leads to investment, which leads to more jobs in America."

Axelrod: "Paulson's a huge supporter of environmental causes, and by huge, I mean he donated $100 million in Goldman Sachs stock to a family foundation dedicated to conservation. He also believes global warming is a threat, and that could put him at odds with some members of the Bush administration."
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