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Why the White House got African-American job numbers very wrong

The White House has started to believe Trump's bizarre exaggerations about his economic record, which necessarily leads to embarrassing mistakes.
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. 

This past weekend, the Associated Press published an unflattering report fact-checking Donald Trump's rhetoric on the economy, explaining in some detail that the president has been reduced to "pulling numbers out of thin air." The AP added that figures Trump peddles "don't even come close" to being true.

Two days later, the president seemed eager to prove the AP correct, delivering remarks in which he repeated claims about his record on job creation and economic growth that were plainly wrong.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went even further yesterday, pointing to a truly ridiculous argument while defending Trump against allegations of racism.

"Just look at the economy alone. This president, since he took office, in the year and a half that he's been here, has created 700,000 new jobs for African Americans. That's 700,000 African Americans that are working now that weren't working when this President took place."When President Obama left, after eight years in office -- eight years in office, he had only created 800 -- or 195,000 jobs for African Americans. President Trump in his first year and a half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years."

Even by Trump World standards, this was hopelessly bizarre. As a CNBC report explained, "During the eight years President Barack Obama was in office, black employment rose by roughly 3.2 million, or more than four times the 700,000 jobs added so far since Trump took office."

Soon after, the White House Council of Economic Advisors apologized, insisting it was responsible for Sanders' mistake. The press secretary added the numbers she used "were correct, but the time frame for [President] Obama wasn't."

Except, this was wrong, too, since the revised numbers included jobs that were lost during the Great Recession before Obama took office.

But as important as these factual details are, I'm also curious about why the White House thought the absurd claims were true.

Again, Sanders' original claim was that more African Americans have gotten jobs in the last year and a half than in the previous eight years. Why would anyone believe that?

My hunch is that White House officials have become a little too convinced of their dubious sales pitch. They hear the president falsely claim every day that the United States has the strongest economy in history (it doesn't), and that Trump has produced record-breaking job creation (he hasn't), and the lies have probably affected their perspective.

Which is a shame, because the truth is readily available. In reality, Trump's first year as president was the worst for American job creation in six years. In reality, Trump has been in office for 18 full months, and in that time overall job growth in the United States has slowed compared to the previous 18 months.

By all appearances, the White House has no idea that these facts are true. It's likely why, when presented with an outlandish statistic, it didn't occur to Sarah Huckabee Sanders to say, "Wait, that can't be right."