Blog ››› ››› SOPHIA TESFAYE
The New York Post responded to a new report debunking the paper's conspiracy theory that the Census Bureau manipulated unemployment data for political reasons by doubling down on its unsubstantiated conspiracy campaign.
In November 2013, the New York Post cited an anonymous Census Bureau employee to claim that the government dishonestly manipulated unemployment figures while President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012. The conspiracy theory quickly became a right-wing talking point, despite the fact that the Post failed to provide evidence that the September 2012 unemployment rate was either unusual or manipulated and attributed the supposed data manipulation to a Census worker who was not even employed by the Bureau at the time in question.
On May 1, the Commerce Department inspector general (IG) issued its investigative report on the claims, finding "no evidence" to support them. The report thoroughly debunked the Post's accusations, noting that it had "exhaustively investigated these allegations and found them to be unsubstantiated."
The Post responded to the debunking by doubling down, standing by its original claim that "Census 'faked' 2012 election jobs report" in an effort to help re-elect President Obama. In a May 1 article, John Crudele called for a "special independent prosecutor" and disputed the IG findings with his own "investigation":
Now it's my turn to speak. My own investigation over the past six months has found the following facts:
- In the course of my own investigation several whistleblowers have come forward to allege that Census workers regularly fabricate or fudge economic data. In addition to the Philadelphia Census office, whistleblowers who work in the Chicago and Denver regions have alleged that data was regularly falsified and higher-ups told them to shut up about it.That casts a shadow on three of the six regions in the newly aligned Census organization. I don't know if workers in the other three regions will make similar claims because I have spoken to any yet.
- One of those whistleblowers has told me -- and has also told the Oversight Committee and the IG -- that supervisors in Philadelphia were particularly concerned about the unemployment data during the last Presidential election. And this source has said Buckmon wasn't the only one messing with data.The IG's report said "we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office." And it concluded that moving the national unemployment rate would simply be too hard to do.The word "systemic" is loaded. As I mentioned, Buckmon's actions alone could have affected the results for half a million households. If two or three others were also falsifying data that would have changed the results for 2 million households. Would that have constituted a problem with the "system?"
- One of those whistleblowers has told me -- and has also told the Oversight Committee and the IG -- that supervisors in Philadelphia were particularly concerned about the unemployment data during the last Presidential election. And this source has said Buckmon wasn't the only one messing with data.The IG's report said "we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office." And it concluded that moving the national unemployment rate would simply be too hard to do.
Yet again, the Post's conspiracy theory relies on anonymously sourced whistleblowers and unsubstantiated speculation. In contrast, the IG report identified the specific evidence that informed its finding:
OIG thoroughly investigated these allegations, and found no evidence that management in the Philadelphia Regional Office instructed staff to falsify data at any time for any reason. Further, we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office. Addressing allegations raised in the media, we found no evidence that the national unemployment rate was manipulated by staff in the Philadelphia Regional Office in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election. To accomplish this, our analysis concluded that it would have taken 78 Census Bureau Field Representatives working together, in a coordinated way, to report each and every unemployed person included in their sample as "employed" or "not in labor force" during September 2012, an effort which likely would have been detected by the Census Bureau's quality assurance procedures. Moreover, our analysis shows that the drop in the unemployment rate at that time is consistent with other indicators, including payroll estimates by Moody's Analytics and Automatic Data Processing (ADP).