CNN's Blitzer held Republican, Democratic guests to different standards of accuracy

››› ››› NICOLE CASTA

On CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, when Bush-Cheney '04 campaign adviser Mary Matalin repeated the inaccurate Bush-Cheney '04 talking point that "we have wiped three-quarters of the [Al Qaeda] leadership," host Wolf Blitzer let her false claim go uncorrected -- despite his own network's correction of that falsehood in a CNN.com fact check of the final presidential debate. Yet when U.S. Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) asserted that President George W. Bush was responsible for "three million lost jobs," Blitzer quickly rebutted his claim, using a number that is more favorable toward Bush.

From the October 14 edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports:

MATALIN: What the president was saying about Osama bin Laden is that we have wiped three-quarters of the [Al Qaeda] leadership, that he's trapped somewhere. We don't know where he is, but he's surely not in charge anymore. This battle has shifted. The front line is in Iraq. Zarqawi is the one that is making all the trouble there. And we're going to spread freedom there. We're going to get rid of these terrorists there. We're going to have elections and we're going to be more secure.

BLITZER: Did the president know that that company that was manufacturing the flu vaccine in England, it's an American company with a plant in England, and that the British government actually shut it down because of fear of contamination, that it wasn't a British company doing that?

[...]

EMANUEL: Second, George Bush cannot afford this election to be about George Bush and John Kerry cannot afford this election not to be about George Bush. And John Kerry in each of the debates and in the 19 remaining days has got to make this election about what George Bush has done to give us $3 trillion of additional debt, three million lost jobs, and the fact that America has found itself in an endless occupation and in a jobless economy, because we can do better.

[crosstalk]

BLITZER: All right. It's closer to 700,000 lost jobs net as far as this administration is concerned, but we'll leave it there.

Matalin's unfounded claim that three-quarters of Al Qaeda's leadership have been "wiped" is based on a CIA estimate of the known leaders as of September 11, 2001. As MMFA has noted, not even the administration knows how many leaders the 75 percent figure they are claiming represents. In addition, The Christian Science Monitor reported on October 5 that as Al Qaeda's pre-9-11 leaders have been killed or captured, a "new wave" of Al Qaeda leadership has emerged from Pakistan, with numbers of new recruits on the rise since the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq. Even CNN.com said Bush was "incorrect" when he made the 75 percent claim in the last presidential debate -- but Blitzer let Matalin get away with saying something his network says isn't true.

Emanuel claimed that Bush gave us "3 million lost jobs." According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between January 2001 -- when Bush took office -- and December 2003, 3 million private-sector jobs were lost. But with gains made in 2004, the current net loss is 1.6 million private-sector jobs. When Blitzer corrected Emanuel, he used the "total non-farm employment" numbers to calculate the 700,000 figure. (The number of jobs lost using "total nonfarm employment" numbers posted by the BLS was 821,000, but after a recent preliminary Labor Department adjustment, which found that 236,000 more jobs that were created between April 2003 and March 2004 than originally reported, the figure is 585,000 jobs lost since President Bush took office, according to a Knight Ridder Newspapers report.) But, as MMFA has noted, the "private-sector jobs" number, which includes all non-government jobs, is arguably a more important measure of a president's economic stewardship than total non-farm employment. Non-farm employment includes public-sector employment, which depends primarily on political decisions rather than on the state of the economy.

Stories/Interests
Media Ethics, 2004 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.