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By Caryn Shinske November 27, 2011

New Jersey Tea Party blames Barack Obama for unemployment of 540,000 blacks since January 2009

Black and recently unemployed? Blame President Barack Obama, says the New Jersey Tea Party.

"Since Obama took office, a net of 540,000 additional black Americans – Obama’s strongest supporters – have lost their jobs," the Tea Party retweeted to its followers on Sept. 2. The original tweet came from Ken Gardner, a junior fellow for The Right Sphere, a conservative website, and was retweeted by Jeff M. Weingarten, president of Morristown Tea Party Organization.

Pinning a race’s employment status solely on the president of the United States seemed rather strong so PolitiFact New Jersey checked the statement. Turns out the unemployment statistic in the tweet is accurate, but blaming the president is less clear.

First, let’s break down the different elements of the statement.

The number of employed blacks dropped by 540,000 people from January 2009 through August 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, DC. The number of employed whites for the same time frame dropped by 2.15 million.

But that doesn’t matter, Weingarten said in a phone interview, because the percentage of unemployed blacks is disproportionately higher than that of whites, which has a larger population.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People acknowledges the high rate of unemployment for blacks, but doesn’t blame Obama, said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau and senior vice president for advocacy and policy.

Both Shelton and the U.S. Department of Labor noted that initiatives such as education and more training and employment services could help blacks get more jobs.

But Weingarten said other issues need to be addressed. He said Obama "is squarely to blame" for the employment decrease among blacks because of programs such as "Obamacare" and unwillingness by corporations to spend money in a still-shaky economy.

"When you are the commander in chief and leader of the country, you are the one that promulgates and sees to it that policies are enacted or not," Weingarten said.

Issues critical to the black community, including jobs, has always been on Obama’s radar, according to a recent Associated Press article.

Appearing at a daylong White House summit of black business, community and political leaders on Nov. 9, Obama said the current 15.1 percent unemployment rate among blacks is "way too high," and that other problems that plagued black communities before he took office, such as housing and education, have worsened.

The White House also disputed arguments that Obama has not targeted problems faced by blacks, according to the article.

"Since day one, the president has fought for the policies that matter to the African-American community," White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said.

Shelton said Obama has attempted to address unemployment for all races but a number of bills have stalled or failed in Congress, or couldn’t get committee hearings.

Given that, blaming the president seems disingenuous, Shelton said.
"It’s almost like someone deciding to knock you down and then blame you for falling," he said.

But blame can be placed on Obama, said Mychal Massie, chairman of the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives.

"Does Obama represent the government of the United States? If he represents the government of the United States then the answer is yes, unequivocally so, disgracefully and shamefully so, but not because he’s black," Massie said. "He is a poor example of leadership, and his profound ignorance of what it takes to rally an economy and his even more vacuous understanding of free-market enterprise and how it contributes to the creation of jobs."

Our ruling

The Tea Party blames Obama for an additional half million blacks being unemployed since he took office. The group’s number of 540,000 unemployed is correct, and the NAACP concurs that blacks are among Obama’s biggest supporters. We heard varying opinions on whether the president is to blame for that job loss and it’s clear there are a variety of factors at work -- some under the president’s jurisdiction, some not. Partially accurate claims that leave out important details fits the definition of our ruling: Half True. 

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Our Sources

Phone and email interviews with Jeffrey M. Weingarten, president, Morrisotwn Tea Party Organization, Nov. 15 and 17, 2011

Phone interview with Gary Steinberg, press officer, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nov. 17, 2011

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment and unemployment databases, accessed Nov. 17 and 18, 2011

Email and phone interviews with Kevin Lewis, White House, Nov. 17, 2011

Phone interview with Hilary Shelton, Washington bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Nov. 18, 2011

Email interview with Dave Roberts, spokesman, U.S. Department of Labor, Nov. 21, 2011

U.S. Department of Labor report, "The Black Labor Force in the Recovery," accessed Nov. 21, 2011

Phone interview with Barbara Gonzalez, founder, Bayshore Tea Party, Nov. 22, 2011

Phone interview with Mychal Massie, chairman, National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, Nov. 22, 2011, "Obama seeks ideas on reducing black joblessness," Nov. 9, 2011, accessed Nov. 22, 2011 

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New Jersey Tea Party blames Barack Obama for unemployment of 540,000 blacks since January 2009

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