Treasury Secretary John Snow uttered the word "myth" while speaking about job losses and budget surpluses during his remarks at the Hancock County Republican barbecue Monday - setting off a storm of political controversy.
Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry issued a statement yesterday claiming that Mr. Snow's comments "reflect the callous disregard this administration has shown for the millions of people who are out of work and seen their quality of life suffer over the last four years."
Mr. Snow, a Toledo native, did indeed use the word "myth" during his address at the University of Findlay, but it was in response to the criticisms from Mr. Bush's opponents about the President's record on the economy and the budget, said Tony Fratto, a Treasury Department spokesman.
Mr. Snow was a guest of U.S. Rep. Mike Oxley (R., Findlay), who faces Democrat Ben Konop for Ohio's 4th Congressional seat in the Nov. 2 election.
In a Tuesday story in the Findlay Courier, reporter John Graber paraphrased Mr. Snow, writing, "Claims like the one that Bush will be the first president to end a term with fewer jobs than when he started are nothing more than 'myths.'●" Mr. Graber also paraphrased comments from the secretary calling the idea that the Bush administration squandered a $5.4 trillion surplus a myth.
"The Democrats are taking it out of context," Mr. Fratto said yesterday. "The Democrats are saying that [Mr. Snow] said the job losses in Ohio are a myth. He said no such thing."
The reporter and the managing editor of the newspaper stood by the article yesterday as calls poured in from national media after Senator Kerry and vice-presidential hopeful John Edwards responded to Mr. Snow more than a day after the story was published.
"I hadn't heard anything about it for a day-and-a-half, and all of the sudden my ear is sore," Mr. Graber said. "If this was going to raise the firestorm it has, I thought it would have done it Tuesday morning."
Mr. Edwards, campaigning in Oregon yesterday, slapped back at Mr. Snow's comments.
"I wonder if the 4 million Americans who have fallen into poverty in the last four years, I wonder if that is a myth," he said. "What about the fact that folks' income is going down, at the same time that the cost of everything - health care, child care, college tuition - are going up, I wonder if they think that's a myth."
While acknowledging that the nation has lost jobs during the past four years, Republicans say that nearly 1.7 million jobs have been created since August, 2003, as jobless claims are decreasing in many states.
They also contend that the nation has had 13 consecutive months of job growth, despite the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq, and a bust of the booming technological sector of the economy.
"Because of the President's policies, we've seen continuous economic growth across the country," said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mr. Bush's campaign. "There's been a difficult time in Ohio, and he's committed to the economic policies that will bring Ohio back."
Democrats said President Bush lost 1.6 million jobs since taking office and will be the first president in 72 years to lose jobs while in office.
Before yesterday's debate, Mr. Kerry said the President would have to "answer directly for this outrageous slap in the face to America's middle class."
"He'll also have to answer for the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover," Mr. Kerry said.
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