On January 31, President Bush became only the second sitting president to walk the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, just hours after the federal government released new data showing the economy grew at a healthy 3.4-percent growth rate last year.
Yet network reporters downplayed the good economic news – particularly ABC’s Betsy Stark, who highlighted liberal-sounding applause lines in the president’s Wall Street speech on the “state of the economy” while leaving out the president’s defense of his tax cuts.
CBS’s Katie Couric and NBC’s Brian Williams both briefly addressed the economy’s strong growth rate and the president’s speech, but ABC’s “World News” was the only program among the three New York-based newscasts to offer viewers a fully packaged story on Bush’s “state of the economy report.”
“It’s hard to imagine a warmer reception” than how stock exchange traders greeted Bush on the floor of the NYSE, ABC’s Stark conceded. But, she added, “his message to the nation’s leading capitalists was laced with tough love” as he warned corporations to pay executives based on merit and performance.
Following Bush’s remarks on CEO pay, which sounded similar to the media’s usual shock and awe at corporate salaries, Stark said, “For the first time in a high profile way,” Bush “acknowledged that not everyone has shared equally in the recent economic prosperity.”
But while the clip Stark aired featured the president saying “income inequality is real,” Bush immediately added that “the question is whether we respond to the income equality we see with policies that help lift people up or tear others down.”
Yet rather than informing her audience of the policies the president favors related to income, Stark turned her attention to casting doubt on the economy’s overall health.
The new GDP number “bolstered the perception of economic success,” she said, but “for now, though, a majority of Americans have another view” as “most say they disapprove of his management of the economy, despite these good numbers.”
Missing from all three newscasts was any mention of the president’s defense of his tax cuts.
“Since we enacted major tax relief into law in 2003, our economy has created nearly 7.2 million new jobs,” the president told members of the Association for a Better New York. “Our economy has expanded by more than 13 percent … This economic growth has led to record tax revenues, which has helped us cut the deficit in half three years ahead of schedule.”
“One fact should be clear when you look at the statistics: The fastest way to kill a recovery would be to raise taxes on the people who created it. Now is not the time for the federal government to be raising taxes on the American people,” Bush also argued, according to the official White House transcript.
President Bush’s speech came two weeks after the Business & Media Institute (BMI) released its latest Media Myth report: “The Recession/Depression of 2006: Hint: It Never Happened.” That report revealed that ABC, CBS and NBC referenced the Great Depression or suggested that recession was on the horizon a total of 49 times in 2006, despite strong economic growth.