"Fundamentally" wrong: CNN's King twisted facts in linking Obama to McCain's "fundamentals of the economy are strong" comment
Research ››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND
On Anderson Cooper 360, John King alleged: "The president today said there were fundamentally sound aspects of the economy. He says we'll get through this because of the innovative entrepreneurs, companies that are making good products, workers, American workers who are so productive. Almost exactly the same message he criticized John McCain for during the election." In fact, Obama criticized McCain for broadly stating that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Indeed, it was only after Obama criticized McCain that McCain revised his comments to assert that by "fundamentals," he had been referring to "the American worker, and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business."
During the March 13 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, guest host and CNN chief national correspondent John King alleged: "The president today said there were fundamentally sound aspects of the economy. He says we'll get through this because of the innovative entrepreneurs, companies that are making good products, workers, American workers who are so productive. Almost exactly the same message he criticized [Sen.] John McCain for during the election." In fact, Obama criticized McCain in September 2008 for broadly stating that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," not for, as King claimed, specifically pointing to entrepreneurs, companies, and American workers as "fundamentally sound aspects of the economy." Indeed, it was only after Obama criticized McCain that McCain revised his comments to assert that by "fundamentals," he had been referring to "the American worker, and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business."
Moments after misrepresenting Obama's criticism of McCain, King also falsely suggested that Obama had broadly stated in his March 13 remarks that "the economy is fundamentally strong." In fact, Obama did not comment on the broad "fundamentals" of the economy. As King had noted earlier, Obama pointed to specific "fundamentally sound aspects of our economy," including, in Obama's words, "all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy."
Fox News host Alisyn Camerota similarly mischaracterized Obama's remark during the March 14 edition of Fox & Friends, asserting that "this week, he [Obama] said the economy is fundamentally sound." Later in the program, Camerota aired Obama's remark, making clear that he had specified "fundamentally sound aspects of our economy" and had not made the broad statement that Camerota attributed to him. Camerota also hosted Fox News contributor Karl Rove, who claimed that "Senator John McCain last fall when the Dow was at 11,000 and unemployment was about 6 percent sa[id] essentially what President Obama said in the Oval Office this week."
According to a March 14 New York Times article, the Republican National Committee also referenced McCain's September 2008 remarks on the economy:
The Republican National Committee sent out an e-mail message comparing the condition of the economy today against where it was when Mr. McCain spoke of fundamental soundness last September.
When the Democrats ridiculed Mr. McCain for that remark, the Dow was at 10,917, compared with 7,170 at the market's opening on Friday, the Republicans pointed out. Unemployment is at 8.1 percent, compared with 6.2 percent in September, and the national debt is $1.35 trillion higher.
From Obama's March 13 speech:
If you've been laid off your job, if you've lost your home, then, you know, right now is very tough. But we're providing help along the way. That's why we put a housing program in place; that's why we're going to be announcing additional steps to help small businesses.
But if we are -- if we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy, then we're going to get through this. And I'm very confident about that.
From McCain's September 15, 2008, speech:
As you know, there's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street, and it is -- it's -- people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult time. And I promise you, we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. We will reform government.
During the March 13 Anderson Cooper segment, King aired a clip from a November 3, 2008, campaign appearance in which Obama said of McCain's remarks: " I know that not only was John McCain fundamentally wrong, it sums up this id-- the fact that he's out of touch." The Obama campaign also immediately criticized McCain's remarks. In a speech in Grand Junction, Colorado, hours after McCain's remarks, Obama said, in part:
It's not that I think John McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of most Americans. I just think [he] doesn't know. He doesn't get what's happening between the mountain in Sedona where he lives and the corridors of Washington where he works. Why else would he say that we've made great progress economically under George Bush? Why else would he say that the economy isn't something he understands as well as he should? Why else would he say, today, of all days -- just a few hours ago -- that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong? Senator -- what economy are you talking about?
As numerous media outlets documented, McCain changed his message on the economy after the Obama campaign criticized his comment. Indeed, later that day during a campaign stop in Orlando, Florida, McCain said: "And my opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals -- the American worker, and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business -- those are the fundamentals of America, and I think they're strong." During the same appearance, McCain also reportedly said: "The fundamentals of our economy are at risk. ... And those fundamentals are threatened, they are threatened and at risk because some on Wall Street have treated Wall Street like a casino.''
From the March 13 of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:
JOHN KING (guest host): And Joe [Johns], what about the political risk to the president? When they're talking up the economy -- and they have a few good days like this -- and God bless, we needed them. What's the risk next week if we say the market goes down some?
JOHNS (CNN correspondent): Well, the risk is ridicule. You don't want to appear that you're in the White House and you're out of touch with everyday Americans. You know what happened to John McCain when he talked about the fundamentals of the economy being sound.
Today, the president saying something that sounds pretty similar to that. So there's always that issue of people looking at the president and saying, "What is he thinking about? Look at what I'm going through right here on Main Street."
You know, the other thing, too, is that economists and people on TV can make fun of you. You know, economists are not necessarily comedians, but I know that joke that's been out there again and again about the highest-ranking official in the administration being a woman named Rosy Scenario.
It's a joke, it's pretty funny, and yeah, that's the kind of thing he wants to avoid.
KATIE BENNER (Fortune magazine): Sure.
How important is it that the president goes into the room and says, "Hey, I want to listen to you, and kick the tires when you want to."
BENNER: Well, it's very important. Because there is a perception amongst the business community, bankers, Wall Street traders that the Obama administration has been extremely fractured in its message and has just not known what it's doing.
Now they need business to have faith in them because they're going to be working together. Undoubtedly, the government will have to pour more money in this economy, and they want to do it on the same side as business.
They don't want to be struggling with people, fighting with people. They're going to need companies and banks to participate in certain government programs and help the government out. Because, you know, Wall Street does need to participate in these bailout programs.
KING: And Joe, I want to come back to the point you were just making about what Obama said today, as opposed to what candidate Obama said during the campaign. The president today said there were fundamentally sound aspects of the economy.
He says we'll get through this because of the innovative entrepreneurs, companies that are making good products, workers, American workers who are so productive. Almost exactly the same message he criticized John McCain for during the election.
OBAMA [video clip]: He said, and I quote, "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." You don't need to boo, you just need to vote. Florida -- Florida, you and I know that not only was John McCain fundamentally wrong, it sums up this id-- the fact that he's out of touch, this out-of-touch, "on your own" economic philosophy.
KING: Joe Johns, a couple hundred thousand jobs lost since Obama became president, the unemployment rate going up. John McCain was out of touch then, but Barack Obama can say the economy is fundamentally strong now?
JOHNS: Well, you know, people look at you and laugh. And as I was saying, I mean, peop-- there is a lot of ridicule out there. There are a lot of people saying, "What is the president talking about?" We've had two or three days that look a little promising.
I think what the administration is pointing to mainly is this issue of the appearance that confidence, consumer confidence is going up just a bit. But in the long run, the president's going to have to try to point up that the economy is doing well whenever the economy is doing well and console Americans when the economy is not doing well. It's an issue of riding out the volatility of the markets in a lot of ways, John.
KING: So Katie, a little different challenge being president than being a candidate.
BENNER: Of course, of course.
KING: All right, we'll leave it there for tonight. Katie Benner, thank you very much, and Joe Johns as well. Enjoy your weekend.
From the March 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
CAMEROTA: We're going to be soon talking to Karl because first, President Obama said that we were in an economic crisis. Then, this week, he said the economy is fundamentally sound, that we shouldn't all be panicking. Which one is it? We're going to ask Karl Rove.
OBAMA [video clips]: The greatest economic crisis in our lifetime. ... Credit crisis. ... Economic crisis. ... So that a crisis like this never happens again. ...Crisis. ... This crisis ... Crisis ... I don't think things are ever as good as we say, and they're never as bad as they say. And things two years ago were not as good as we thought because there were a lot of underlying weaknesses in the economy. And they're not as bad as we think they are now.
CAMEROTA: Well, then stop using the word "crisis." It seems the White House is giving off mixed messages about our economic situation. Are we in a crisis or are we not? Joining me now is Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff, of course, to President Bush and Fox News contributor. Karl, it was interesting because it was President Obama who had used the word "crisis" and said that we were in pretty dire straits, but then this week, he said something quite different. Let me play for you what he just said.
OBAMA [video clip]: If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy, then we're going to get through this.
CAMEROTA: Karl, what's going on with the message?
ROVE: Well, I think the White House came to understand that they sounded like they were talking down the American economy and they want to put a positive face on this. But it really is interesting to me -- I saw a clip on YouTube of Senator John McCain last fall when the Dow was at 11,000 and unemployment was about 6 percent saying essentially what President Obama said in the Oval Office this week. And then they played a clip of then-candidate Obama, Senator Obama, attacking John McCain, saying, "What universe is he living in? How out of touch is he to say those things?" Now, remember, that's when the Dow was at 11 -- nearly 11,000. Now it's at 7,000. That's when unemployment was at 6; it's now at 8.
I do think that frankly the American economy -- if you look at the American innovator and the American entrepreneur and the American worker and you look at our productivity and our innovation and our competitiveness that, look, the American economy is going to come out of this.