While each took a different approach, the major broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC worked Wednesday to isolate President Biden from blame for the pitiful August inflation report showing it came out to 8.3 percent (when the predicted number was 8.1 percent) with energy, food, and rent still soaring. Instead, some of them trumpeted Biden’s “positive spin” and that he’s “not worried about” it while one ignored Biden completely.
ABC’s Good Morning America co-host and former Clinton official George Stephanopoulos opened with a tease warning of “[t]he sharpest one-day stock market loss in two years and the inflation fallout” following “[t]he disappointing new economic report showing prices still climbing more than expected.”
“How the Fed could respond and what President Biden is saying about the fight against inflation,” he added.
Chief business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis gave the nuts and bolts of the inflation report with “grocery prices up 13.5 percent,” “[s]helter costs, those include rent prices, up 6.2 percent from a year ago, and medical care services, up 5.6 percent from a year ago” ahead of a likely interest rate hike of 0.75 percent hike from the Federal Reserve.
Stephanopoulos went moments later to senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce with dejection: “Mary, not welcome news at the White House.”
Always a liberal stenographer, Bruce brushed it aside by arguing Biden’s “not worried about these latest inflation numbers and he’s putting a positive spin on things.”
“He is stressing that inflation is relatively flat, up just 0.1 point since July and he argues the economy is strong, pointing to low unemployment numbers and plunging gas prices. The President is also touting Democrats' new Inflation Reduction Act. He is promising it will do just that, that it will bring down energy and prescription drug costs,” she added.
Bruce conceded that Biden “largely ignored these worse than expected numbers” during “that...a big celebration at the White House,” even though they’re “well aware that inflation is a big potential political liability.”
But since “the White House does admit there’s still a lot more work to be done here,” Bruce and Stephanopoulos were satisfied.
CBS Mornings began with co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King fretting: “Wall Street plunges on worse than expected news on prices, even as President Biden celebrates his Inflation Reduction Act.”
Senior White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe said later that it “dashe[d] hopes of a quicker economic rebound, and while the stock market goes up and down all the time, this one-day drop for most indexes was the biggest since the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He noted that the figures came “[j]ust as the President and Democrats were celebrating passage of their Inflation Reduction Act,” with a soundbite of Biden claiming it was “[t]he single most important legislation passed in the Congress to combat inflation and one of the most significant laws in our nation’s history in my view.”
O’Keefe noted a few of the provisions, but he admirably conceded it would do “nothing address short term price hikes.” However, he added, Biden “isn’t worried” while “Republicans disagree.”
O’Keefe also covered Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) proposed national abortion bill, but correctly made clear that “the economy and inflation remain the top issues of concern for voters.”
Afterward, CBS News business analyst Jill Schlessinger had more bad news about how holiday shopping could be a struggle (click “expand”):
BURLESON: All right, so gas prices are down over the month, but higher than a year ago. Other consumer prices are still up. What’s going on here?
SCHLESSINGER: So this report was really important because that headline number did go down, it didn’t go down by as much as expected, but I think the other areas of the report were really somewhat worrisome. So, let’s look at food costs, which were up by more than 11 percent from a year ago. That’s the fastest annual acceleration since 1979. So, that’s a big number and then we look at shelter. The number isn’t that big. It’s up 6.2 percent from a year ago, but think about how much money of your household goes towards rent or paying for your house. So, that core inflation rate, all the other stuff besides food and energy, rising pretty substantially. That’s the worrying aspect of the report. Great news that gas prices are down, but everything else is still expensive.
BURLESON: Okay, Jill, we’ve got holiday shopping around the corner. Will these prices come down?
SCHLESSINGER: Well, here’s the issue. I think there is another aspect to the selloff in stocks. I think that there is a worry that consumers, if you’re paying so much for food, for gas, for energy, for everything else, that you are not going to have as much money to spend on the holiday season and I’m unfortunately here to report that I don’t think prices are going to come down substantially in the next few months, and that means that you may have to spend a little bit less this holiday season.
NBC’s Today went in a different direction by not even mentioning Biden’s name in their six minutes and 10 seconds of inflation coverage (minus teases).
Here were some highlights (click “expand”):
HODA KOTB: And in just a moment, guys, we’re going to get to the fallout over that sort of unexpected, worse than expected inflation report. It sent stocks into a freefall yesterday. And coming up, we’re going to let you know what it means for your family's budget and also maybe tips that will help you make the most of your spending this fall.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: [A] key measure of inflation was not what investors or the average American wanted to see. The consumer price index, predicted to fall in August, actually rose, an increase of 8.3 percent if you look from a year ago.
MELISSA LEE: Well, there were a lot of things that were, in fact, going right. Gas prices came down tremendously, down 26 percent from its peak. It was $5 a gallon in June. We are paying 3.70 on average according to AAA right now, so that came down. Supply chains issues? They started to work out and a lot of retailers have a lot of inventory, they marked a lot of things down. So, all of those things were seen as driving prices lower. And so, that’s why there was a hope we had seen the worse of it when it came to inflation. But there were other pockets of inflation that actually went higher. Food prices went up 0.8 percent. You know, housing went up 0.7 percent. Housing is one-third of CPI. And housing is sticky. Think about it, you sign a lease, it's usual for a year. It's going to take a time for the price to come down.
KOTB: The Fed seems to keep raising interest rates like that was supposed to be the solution, the answer. So, is — do we know if it's working or do we still have to wait — give it time to see if it’ll kick in?
LEE: We have to wait and give it time. It takes six months or so for any interest rates hikes to work themselves into the economy. We’ve already seen two back-to-back 75 basis point interest hikes in the past two meetings. There is another meeting next week. Now it's believed because the inflation number came in much hotter it will be 75 basis points again. Three back to back to back. That's unprecedented.
EMILIE IKEDA: It's no secret inflation is hammering Americans from just about every angle with industry analysis revealing the average household is spending $460 more a month than a year ago. But even in this tough and uncertain economic climate, there are strategies to ease the pain. It just takes some planning and creativity.
IKEDA: The $5 Dinners Mom saying it's key to be creative with what's already in your pantry, research what's on sale, and make a shopping list before heading to the grocery store. Outside of essentials, financial experts say it's still important to plan ahead for extras like vacations, holiday gifts, or even dinners out with friends.
IKEDA: Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez posts ways to execute those plans to her Instagram, Zero-Based Budget. She says now is the time to start an emergency fund, prioritize paying off high interest debt like credit cards, and make budgeting a habit.
Wednesday’s network spin was brought to you by advertisers such as Consumer Cellular (on CBS), Subaru (on NBC), and Target (on ABC). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant transcripts from September 15, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).