Fox Still Reporting Myth That Census Director Reported To White House


Reviving a nearly two-year-old GOP falsehood, Fox News' White House correspondent Wendell Goler falsely reported that under the Obama administration, "the Census director report[ed] to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel instead of the Commerce Secretary." In fact, the administration made clear that the Census director reported directly to the Commerce Secretary.

Zombie Myth: Fox Still Reporting Long-Debunked Claim That Obama Moved Control Of Census To White House

Goler: "[H]aving The Census Director Report To Former White House Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel ... Drew Republican Complaints." On Special Report, Goler reported on Republican House seat gains following results from the 2010 Census:

That could be a recipe for Republicans to draw more Republican-friendly congressional districts, something they suspected Democrats would have done if statistical sampling had been used to correct what Democrats say is a tendency to undercount inner city populations. That, combined with having the Census Director report to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel instead of the Commerce Secretary, drew Republican complaints last year. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 12/21/10]

In Fact, White House Made Clear -- Nearly Two Years Ago -- That Census Director Would Report To Commerce Secretary

White House Statement: Census Director "Who Works For The Commerce Secretary And The President" Would "Work Closely With White House Senior Management." According to a statement by White House spokesman Ben LaBolt, reported by the Washington Post: "There is historic precedent for the director of the Census, who works for the commerce secretary and the president, to work closely with White House senior management, given the number of decisions that will have to be put before the president. We plan to return to that model in this administration." [The Washington Post, 2/5/09]

Republicans Seized On Statement To Falsely Claim That Rahm Emanuel "Would Be In Charge Of The Census." The New York Times reported on February 19, 2009, "An administration official said Mr. Gregg's office signed off on the statement but other Republicans quickly shorthanded it to mean that Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, would be in charge of the census." [The New York Times, 02/19/09] WH Spokesman Said "The Census Director Will Report To The Commerce Secretary." On March 11, 2009, reported:

"The president wants to ensure that the census conducts a fair and accurate count. The census director will report to the commerce secretary," White House spokesman Benjamin La Bolt said in a statement.

"Like in every census under Democratic or Republican administrations there will be interest in Congress and at the White House in this national priority," La Bolt added. [, 3/12/09]

Census Spokeswoman: White House Did Not Propose "Any Organizational Change." reported on June 26, 2009, that Census Bureau public affairs specialist Shelly Lowe said that the White House "has not proposed any organizational change. Given the scope and scale of the operation, in any census there is additional interest on behalf of the White House, as well as status updates, participation in promotional events, etc. The Census Bureau remains under the umbrella of the Department of Commerce." [, 6/26/09]

Obama Admin Said It "Has Not Proposed Removing The Census From The Department Of Commerce." The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reported on February 12, 2009, that LaBolt said, "This administration has not proposed removing the Census from the Department of Commerce and the same Congressional committees that had oversight during the previous administration will retain that authority." [The Washington Post, 2/12/09]

Previous Census Directors Reportedly Said Some White House Involvement Is Appropriate. According to The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe:

But Kenneth Prewitt, who served as Census director from 1998 to 2001, said he worked with White House staff during the 2000 Census on budgeting, advertising and outreach efforts. In an e-mail, Prewitt said he never met with anyone "more senior than a deputy chief of staff, except once when I met with the entire cabinet on how each member could assist in the large outreach effort then underway."

Other former Census directors agreed that coordination with the White House on budgeting and outreach was appropriate while data collection and analysis should be kept separate.

As for potential political interference, "It's virtually impossible to do something wrong without someone finding out about it," said Vincent P. Barabba, who ran the 1980 Census. "It's about as transparent an agency that exists."

Barbara Everitt Bryant, who served as director during the 1990 Census, said: "I would have liked a little of the bully pulpit help, because one of the big things is just to get everyone to answer the questionnaire. The president would have a lot more clout on that than anything we could have done at the Census bureau." [The Washington Post, 2/12/09]

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Wendell Goler
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