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Sarah Sanders 'sorry' for misleading black jobs numbers

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a rare apology for mixing and matching black employment numbers under Presidents Trump and Obama.
by Jonathan Allen /
Image: Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Sanders reversed course late Tuesday.Andrew Harnik / AP

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WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a rare correction late Tuesday after citing misleading numbers on black employment in defending President Donald Trump against an allegation that he has used the N-word.

"Correction from today’s briefing: Jobs numbers for Pres Trump and Pres Obama were correct, but the time frame for Pres Obama wasn’t," Sanders wrote on twitter. "I’m sorry for the mistake, but no apologies for the 700,000 jobs for African Americans created under President Trump."

During her briefing with reporters earlier in the day, Sanders had mixed and matched figures.

"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," she said. "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."

But the numbers Sanders cited, drawn from a report from Trump's Council of Economic Advisers, reflected the Trump administration's unique interpretation of the beginning of a presidential term and accounted only for the first portion of Obama's tenure. African-American employment increased by about 3 million jobs over Obama's eight years in office.

The window Sanders used for Obama reflected the period from November 2008 through July 2010 — not his entire tenure, as she'd claimed — while her numbers for Trump accounted for a parallel stretch of time.

Aside from the apples-to-oranges comparison of black employment under each president, the press secretary's mistake highlighted the CEA's decision to measure the economic records of presidents starting on the day they were elected rather than the day they took office. That means Obama's jobs numbers are weighed down by the recession at the end of George W. Bush's presidency and Trump's are buoyed by the final months of Obama's presidency.

Sanders rattled off the jobs numbers as part of her response to a question NBC's Kristen Welker asked about an allegation made by former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman in her new book: "Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people will never hear Donald Trump utter the N-word on a recording in any context?"

On Wednesday, Sanders offered a simple explanation for why she felt it was important to publicly apologize for the misleading figures.

"The information was incorrect and I wanted to make sure information from us was accurate," she said in an email. "So I put out a correction."

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