Director of U.S. Census Bureau Robert Groves talks to the media after a presentation of the 2010 Census U.S. population at the National Press Club in Washington December 21, 2010.
Yuri Gripas/Reuters

An old conspiracy theory makes a comeback

Updated
About a year ago, as the nation’s jobs market improved, the unemployment rate dropped below 8% for the first time in several years. Many on the right were outraged – conservative conspiracy theorists falsely claimed without proof the figures had been manipulated – and Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee threatened to hold hearings.
 
In time, even the most unhinged voices on the right gave up on this, but it appears the conspiracy theory is poised for a comeback. Hannah Groch-Begley reported this morning:
Fox News is helping promote a baseless conspiracy accusing the Obama administration of manipulating employment data for political gain. The accusation, fed by a thinly sourced New York Post column, is now being used to push for congressional investigations.
 
On November 18, The New York Post blasted the headline: “Census ‘faked’ 2012 election jobs report.” The basis of that claim is a single source, a Census worker who allegedly was caught fabricating data while measuring unemployment in 2010. Beyond that uncorroborated evidence, the Post offers a single anonymous source who claims that Census employees manipulated unemployment data throughout 2012. The Post concluded by calling for a congressional investigation into the supposed “manipulation of data.”
And right on cue, House Republicans are following the New York Post’s suggestion. The Hill reports today that the House Oversight Committee “is vowing to thoroughly investigate a report that unemployment data was falsified months before the 2012 presidential election.” Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), who chairs the subcommittee with oversight jurisdiction over the census, called the allegations from Republican media “extremely serious.”
 
Before your wacky uncle who watches Fox News all day emails you an all-caps message that reads, “I knew it!” encourage him to take a deep breath. As conspiracy theories go, this is weak tea.
 
Part of the problem here is that Republicans don’t seem to understand exactly what they’re alleging. The cast of “Fox & Friends,” for example, told viewers that the White House “cooked the books” to lower the unemployment rate before the election.
 
But not only is that incorrect, it’s not quite what the New York Post is even alleging. As Joe Weisenthal noted, the charge here is that those conducting the survey that’s used to determine the unemployment would sometimes rely on bogus surveys “in order to fill in data gaps” when it was “difficult to get adequate response rates on its surveys.”
 
It’s a practice that, the New York Post alleges, goes back to at least 2010 (which is to say, it was not used specifically to manipulate the pre-election jobs report in October 2012).
 
And really, there’s very little to suggest it happened at all.
 
In other words, there’s just not much here, through far-right media can barely contain its excitement, and at least one hearing is probably inevitable given the far-right’s reaction.
 

Conservative Media and Conspiracy Theories

An old conspiracy theory makes a comeback

Updated