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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Sunday Replay

This week’s Replay starts off with a dust-up about Fox News’ handling of – what else? – the Shirley Sherrod story. We also found misleading statements about unemployment and New Jersey’s budget.

 Dean: Fox ‘Absolutely Racist’

On "Fox News Sunday," former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean accused Fox News Channel of an "absolutely racist" action by playing the now-famous edited clip of Shirley Sherrod’s remarks. Host Chris Wallace indignantly countered by saying Fox News didn’t play the clip until after officials in the Obama administration forced Sherrod to quit her job.

Wallace was correct, but there’s more to the story.

Dean started by accusing Fox News of racism:

Dean: I think Fox News did something that was absolutely racist. They took a — they had an obligation to find out what was really in the clip. They had — they had been pushing a theme of black racism with this phony Black Panther crap and this business and Sotomayor and all this other stuff. You — I think you’ve got to be very — I think the — look the Tea Party called out their racist fringe, and I think the Republican Party’s got to stop appealing to its racist fringe. And Fox News is what did that.

You put that on.

At that point, "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace corrected Dean:

Fox News’ Wallace: The fact is that the Obama administration fired or forced Shirley Sherrod to quit before her name had ever been mentioned on Fox News Channel. Did you know that, sir?

Wallace is correct, as far as he goes. As reported by The New York Times and others, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly had recorded a program in which he called for Sherrod to resign, but she submitted her resignation before the show was broadcast. The liberal Media Matters organization, which monitors and records Fox News and other television news outlets in search of what it considers conservative bias, called O’Reilly’s airing "Fox News’ first on-air mention of Sherrod." In a well-documented timeline, it put the time O’Reilly aired the clip at 8:50 pm on Monday, July 19, about an hour after the first news of Sherrod’s resignation had begun to circulate on the Internet.

However, Fox News had posted stories about the video on FoxNews.com (which included a link to the video on YouTube) and on the Fox Nation site (which included the video itself) before the resignation. The Fox Nation site also linked to Andrew Breitbart’s conservative site, where the video first appeared earlier that same day. The Fox Nation headline: "Caught on Tape: Obama Official Discriminates Against White Farmer." Both of these posts were updated after the resignation, and they no longer appear online. However, a cached version of the Fox Nation posting was still available as we wrote this, and the FoxNews.com story had been copied and re-posted on other sites, where it still appears. And the current version of the story on the FoxNews.com site, posted July 20, states that Sherrod resigned "shortly after FoxNews.com published its initial report on the video."

Unemployment: Bad Enough As It Is

Two guests on CBS’ "Face the Nation" gave outdated unemployment numbers for African Americans. Georgetown University sociologist Michael Eric Dyson said that "16.5 percent of African-American people are unemployed," while Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund said there was "50 percent teenage black unemployment" and 16 percent adult unemployment.

The current numbers are a little lower for black unemployment overall. The June unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) is 15.4 percent. The rate was 16.5 percent, as Dyson said, in April. (For adults, over age 20, the rate is higher for men — 17.4 percent — than women — 11.8 percent.)

As for black teens, the unemployment rate is 39.9 percent. It hasn’t hit 50 percent since November 2009, when the rate was 49.8 percent. However, both rates are considerably higher than the rates for white Americans, and that was the point both men were making. White unemployment was 8.6 percent and white teen unemployment was 23.2 percent in June.

 Gingrich: More Unemployment

On "Fox News Sunday," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich misstated the administration’s unemployment projections:

Gingrich:  [T]he Obama administration apparently announced on Friday they expect unemployment for all of next year to be at 9 percent. … This is the first time since the Great Depression that we have had this level of unemployment continuing for more than a year.

Not quite. Gingrich referred to the "Mid Session Review" released by the White House Office of Management and Budget. OMB did include in its economic assumptions (Table 2, page 9) that the unemployment rate would average 9 percent during calendar year 2011. But it didn’t say the rate would stay there during the entire year. To the contrary, it projected that the rate will fall to 8.7 percent by the last three months of the year.

Even so, that would make the current job slump the most prolonged stretch of unemployment exceeding 9 percent since 1948, the earliest year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping records. June’s 9.5 percent rate was the 14th consecutive month above 9 percent, and if the OMB projection is correct it will still be above 9 percent through the end of this year and well into 2011. Gingrich was right to that extent.

But he was slightly off when he said "this level of unemployment" had never continued for more than a year. The unemployment rate exceeded 9 percent for 18 consecutive months starting in April 1982. And it exceeded 9.5 percent (the current rate) for 13 straight months starting that June.

New Jersey’s Budget Cuts

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, appearing on ABC’s "This Week," went beyond the facts to take a bit too much credit for cutting spending to balance New Jersey’s 2010-11 budget.

While talking about the need for Congress to work on bipartisan solutions, the Republican governor claimed the budget passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature contained $11 billion in cuts. That’s about $2 billion off the mark.

Christie, July 25: I’ve passed a budget with those $11 billion in cuts with a Democratic legislature, a property tax cap with a Democratic legislature, pension reforms with a Democratic legislature.

According to the New Jersey Department of Treasury’s Budget in Brief, Christie proposed, and got, cuts of just over $9 billion (page 64) to close a $10.7 billion budget gap. This included $1.94 billion in reductions to the base budget, $7 billion in the elimination or reduction of projected growth, and $198 million from the elimination of programs.

Christie closed the rest of the budget gap with increased federal aid, including $490 million in additional federal Medicaid funding; tax policy changes to raise more revenue; and a shift of state money to the state’s general appropriations fund.

On a lighter note, the governor was right when later he said that "most of the people on ‘Jersey Shore’ are New Yorkers," not New Jerseyans. The MTV reality show, which Christie said hurts New Jersey’s image, lists eight cast members for the second season, and six of them are from New York.