Veteran economics reporters and columnists are strongly criticizing conservative claims that the unemployment data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday was manipulated to benefit President Obama politically, calling such allegations "implausible" and "unfounded."
Shortly after the BLS announced that the unemployment rate had fallen to 7.8%, former GE CEO Jack Welch tweeted, "Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers." Welch's tweet was quickly highlighted by the Drudge Report. Since then, conservative media figures, including multiple Fox News personalities, have tried to cast doubt on the new jobs numbers.
But experienced financial journalists at outlets like The New York Times and The Economist say the contention that the new unemployment rate is fraudulent is not based on any valid proof.
"It is completely implausible to me that they would actively rig the thing to help Obama," said Joe Nocera, New York Times business columnist. "The guys are green eye-shaded career bureaucrats who have no particular vested interest one way or another in who wins the presidential election."
Nocera was referring to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the unemployment rates and has no political ties to the White House.
"They come out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you are going to cook them, how exactly would you go about it, it is pretty implausible that the career bureaucrats at the Bureau would cook the books for Obama," Nocera added. "Everybody likes a conspiracy theory, but it is hard to understand how they would do it."
Jesse Eisinger, senior reporter for finance at ProPublica and a former seven-year Wall Street Journal reporter, agreed.
"This is complete fantasy," he said about the claims of political influence. "It is yet another one of these right-wing denialist ideas. They're perennial ideas that government statistics are manipulated. These are flawed measures, certainly, but the flaws are not due to any partisanship ... These are done by reputable civil servants. There is almost no way that these numbers could be manipulated for political gain. It doesn't hold up in any way you think about it."
Martin Wolk, executive business editor for NBC News Digital, also called such claims baseless.
"I've been covering economics for a long time and I have been watching these reports come out every month and I talk to these economists and I think that those claims are unfounded," Wolk said in an interview Friday. "They do the best to present those claims honestly. I have never seen a pattern where the numbers consistently favor one party or another. I would defy anyone to find a pattern in those numbers that is politically motivated."
Added David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times economics reporter and author of many books on taxes and business:
"This claim gets made often. It has never been shown to have any basis in fact afterward during previous administrations."
About half way through a piece in today's New York Times titled "Gulf Oil Spill Is Bad, but How Bad?" reporters John M. Broder and Tom Zeller, Jr. turn to the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation (GMF) for comment:
"The sky is not falling," said Quenton R. Dokken, a marine biologist and the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, a conservation group in Corpus Christi, Tex. "We've certainly stepped in a hole and we're going to have to work ourselves out of it, but it isn't the end of the Gulf of Mexico."
The Times is sure to make note that Dokken is a "marine biologist" but what the paper didn't note is that the organization he leads has close ties not only to the oil and gas industry but to the very rig at the center of the ongoing Gulf Coast disaster.
As Newsweek's Daniel Stone notes on The Gaggle blog (emphasis added):
The piece quotes a fellow named Quenton R. Dokken, identified as a "marine biologist" and head of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, described as a conservation group. Except that describing the Gulf of Mexico Foundation as a conservation group would be like describing Focus on the Family as a pro-choice organization.
Earlier this afternoon, ProPublica offered even more detail (again, emphasis added):
At least half of the 19 members of the group's board of directors  have direct ties to the offshore drilling industry. One of them is currently an executive at Transocean, the company that owns the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded last month, causing millions of gallons of oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico.
Seven other board members are currently employed at oil companies, or at companies that provide products and services "primarily" to the offshore oil and gas industry. Those companies include Shell, Conoco Phillips, LLOG Exploration Company, Devon Energy, Anadarko Petroleum Company and Oceaneering International.
The Gulf of Mexico Foundation's president is a retired senior vice president of Rowan Companies Inc., an offshore drilling contractor.
Meanwhile, Transocean hosted the group's winter board meeting in January and sponsored a dinner for the board of directors. Past board meetings have been hosted in full or in part by Anadarko Petroleum Company, Shell Exploration and Production, Valero Refinery and Marathon Oil Corporation.
In an update to its original story, ProPublica's Marian Wang quotes the Times' Zeller claiming "space constraints" were at least partially to blame even though it was "probably always better to err on the side of full disclosure."
Disturbingly, Zeller essentially dismissed concerns about the GMF's industry ties and never addressed the chilling fact that the group has ties to the very company that owns the "rig that exploded last month, causing millions of gallons of oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico" as ProPublica put it in its initial story.