Wednesday’s White House press briefing wasn’t smooth sailing for Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (as most if not all are for someone in way over their head) with Fox’s Peter Doocy and a select few others reporters who pressed her on the Biden administration’s disinformation campaign to redefine what a recession is ahead of what’s expected to be a dour second quarter number on Thursday.
Doocy began with the premise that the American Rescue Plan contributed to inflation, but Jean-Pierre wasn’t having it. Instead, she claimed Biden came into office facing a litany of crisis, but he still “turned the economy back on” and created “a stronger labor market” despite remaining “outside factors.”
Doocy used her answer to then corner her on defining a recession: “If things are going so great, though, then why is it that White House officials are trying to redefine recession?”
Jean-Pierre predictably walked right in to the trap, insisting “we’re not redefining a recession,” leaving Doocy to hit back:
If we all understand a recession to be two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth in a row and then you have White House officials come up here to say, “no, no, that’s not what a recession is. It’s something else.” How is that not redefining recession?
When Jean-Pierre twice said “that’s not the definition,” Doocy quoted comments from National Economic Council director Brian Deese on Tuesday and compared them to Deese himself from 2008:
Brian Deese said in 2008, “of course, economists have a technical definition, which is, of a recession, which is two consecutive quarters of negative growth.” And yesterday he said, two consec — “two negative quarters of GDP growth is not the technical definition of a recession.” What changed?
Jean-Pierre thought she could simply repeat nothing has, so Doocy threw one last fastball: “What’s the difference other than who’s president?”
The press secretary engaged in more gaslighting, insisting “there are many factors — economic factors and indicators to consider” before stooping further: “I will say that the textbook definition of recession is not — is not two negative quarters of GDP. We have a strong labor market. We have business [sic] that’s investing.”
Before moving on, Jean-Pierre clung to the esoteric definition from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and specifically a column in Project Syndiate by research associate Jeffrey Frankel. As our Joseph Vazquez reported, Project Syndicate has received over $1.5 million from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.
And over at Townhall, Spencer Brown noted that members have largely donated to Democrats.
Before Doocy, Reuters’s Trevor Hunnicutt and Team Biden flack Mary Bruce of ABC gently brought it up (click “expand”):
HUNNICUTT: Let me ask you just a quick question on the economy. So, Fed Chair Jay Powell, after raising rates again today, he said in his press conference that the U.S. economy is not in a recession, but that the path to have a soft landing clearly has narrowed, which to translate the jargon, means that it’s much more likely that we will have a recession as these — as they continue to try to fight inflation in the future. So, is that the White House's assessment as well? And what would you do to kind of make that less likely?
BRUCE: You noted we are not currently in a recession, you don’t think. But are you concerned that these Fed rate hikes could push you into a recession?
BRUCE: We are hearing from companies like Walmart and target who are starting to say that, you know, they’re seeing how inflation is impacting their customers. And there are a lot of Americans who, even though you may say that we’re not in a recession, that’s not how it feels to them. You know, what is your answer to those consumers, those Americans who very much feel that we are in one?
After Doocy, however, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins was a little more direct as if she had gone back to her roots with the Daily Caller: “[I]s it a risk for President Biden to say he does not think the United States is going to be in a recession and does the White House have any concerns that it will look misguided if the U.S. does enter a recession?”
Jean-Pierre brushed it aside, insisting her question was “speculation” and economists from Citi and Moody’s have said the U.S. isn’t in a recession.
Collins asked a basic follow-up if the White House could provide their “definition of what a recession looks like,” but Jean-Pierre demurred and outsourced it to the leftists at NBER.
Near the back end of this tire fire, The Washington Post’s Tyler Page called out the fact that the same White House officials who wrongly insisted inflation was “transitory” and “temporary” are the same ones decrying recession fears (click “expand”):
Just want to go back on some of the economic messaging. There’s been a lot of debate over the technical term of recession and it somewhat harkens back to earlier economic messaging you guys had around inflation where you insisted that it was transitory for months, then it was temporary, and then we’ve seen it continue to persist. So, I’m wondering if you can take just us in a little bit about how do you think about economic messaging, particularly as it relates to recession, the argument about whether we are or are not in a recession — when we talk to Americans, sort of misses the point about economic attitude and feeling that they have and the struggles that they face with increased prices across the board as we’ve seen over the many months. And I'm wondering if the White House finds it effective to debate the technical term of recession, versus speak more broadly to Americans who it doesn’t really matter whether a group of economists that they’ve never heard of declare a recession when it comes to their, you know, just getting by.
Later, Pager had two short follow-ups that didn’t interest Jean-Pierre (click “expand”):
And just to quickly follow-up, you’re setting up the expectation now that we’re not headed to a recession, we’re not in a recession. What happens if then NBER does declare we’re in a recession?
And last one very quickly, does the President have confidence in his economic team's ability to forecast and protect, obviously, on the inflation number, something that we heard from the whole host of the same economic officials we’re hearing now that inflation was temporary, was transitory, would not persist. And that’s been the opposite. They’re now saying the same thing about recession.
To see the relevant transcript from July 27's briefing, click here.