The White House’s top economist on Monday acknowledged President Trump made a false statement about the economy hours earlier when he used a pair of statistics to describe the strong economy.
Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett, in comments in the White House press room, said he did not know how Trump obtained the false information.
“The history of thought about how errors happen is not something I can engage in because from the initial fact to what the president said, I don’t know the whole chain of command,” Hassett said.
“I’m not the chairman of the council of twitter advisers,” he added later.
On Monday morning, Trump wrote in a Twitter post that “The GDP Rate (4.2%) is higher than the Unemployment Rate (3.9%) for the first time in over 100 years!”
The Washington Post, Fox News, Bloomberg and several other news organizations have published reports finding that this information is false. This relationship between GDP and the unemployment rate has occurred many times, most recently in the first quarter of 2006, before the financial crisis pushed the unemployment rate up high and economic growth slowed markedly.
It also isn’t clear why Trump focused on this statistic — economists do not usually compare the GDP rate, which measures the pace of economic growth, with the unemployment rate in this way.
Hassett said the correct statement the president should have made is that the GDP rate rising above the unemployment rate had not happened in 10 years. He said the “100 years” statement was a mistake Hassett himself could not explain.
“What is true is that it’s the highest in 10 years and at some point somebody probably conveyed it to him adding a zero to that and they shouldn’t have done that,” Hassett said. “You’d have to talk to the president about where the number came from, but the correct number is 10 years.”
Hassett’s press briefing was largely supportive of Trump’s record on the economy, and the comments about the erroneous Twitter post came in response to a question from a reporter.
Trump at times posts boastful economic news that he sees on Fox News in the morning, but Fox News was one of the news organizations that characterized the Twitter post as wrong.
Trump is frequently accused of spreading false information by critics and even a number of Republicans, but top advisers usually fervently defend the president, as Trump has made loyalty a top focus of his White House. In fact, Trump’s top advisers often pride themselves on showering the Trump with praise.
There was one other occasion, though, when Hassett sought to correct something Trump had done. Several months ago, Trump issued a Twitter post that appeared to tout government data that had not been released. This broke precedent, as administration officials have historically avoided weighing in on such sensitive information before their public release.
At a Washington Post event a few weeks later, Hassett said it was “probably best” for the president not to tweet before data like this is released.