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White House vs. the Associated Press

Pretty soon only MSDNC will be left on the approved list of White House news providers:

The Obama administration on Thursday slammed a report from The Associated Press alleging the government had overstated by thousands the number of jobs it has created or saved with federal contracts under President Obama’s $787 billion recovery program.

The White House seized on an initial report from a government oversight board weeks ago that claimed federal contracts awarded to businesses under the recovery plan already had helped pay for more than 30,000 jobs. The administration said the number was evidence that the stimulus program had exceeded early expectations toward reaching the president’s promise of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year.

But the 30,000 figure is overstated by thousands — at the very least by nearly 5,000, or one in six, based on AP’s limited review of some of the contracts — because some federal agencies and recipients of the money provided incorrect job counts. The review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs were credited to stimulus spending when, in fact, none were produced.

Within minutes of the publication of AP’s story, the White House released a statement at 12:15 a.m. Thursday that it said was the “real facts” about how jobs were counted in the stimulus data distributed two weeks ago.

“This story draws misleading conclusions from a handful of examples,” Ed DeSeve, an Obama adviser helping to oversee the stimulus program, said.

“Tomorrow, more than 100,000 recipient reports will be posted on Recovery.gov,” DeSeve said. “Unlike the small number of reports reviewed by AP, these reports have been reviewed for weeks, errors have been spotted and corrected, and additional layers of review by state and local governments have further improved the data quality.”

Nevertheless, the White House said it is aware there are problems. In an interview, the advisor said agencies have been working with businesses that received the money to correct mistakes. It asserted that had been a test run of a small subset of data that had been subjected only to three days of reviews, that it had already corrected “virtually all” the mistakes identified by the AP and that the discovery of mistakes “does not provide a statistically significant indication of the quality of the full reporting that will come on Friday.”

“If there’s an error that was made, let’s get it fixed,” DeSeve said.

There’s no evidence the White House sought to inflate job numbers in the report, but the administration embraced the flawed figures the moment they were released.

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