* Welch suggests data an attempt to recover from debate
* White House slams Welch tweet as "ludicrous"
* Welch stands by his words but says he "not accusing anyone
By Scott Malone and Lucia Mutikani
BOSTON/WASHINGTON, Oct 5 BOSTON/WASHINGTON,
Oct 5 Jack Welch, the former chairman of General
Electric Co, provoked cries of outrage in Washington on
Friday when he suggested that the White House manipulated
September job figures for political gains.
White House officials dismissed as "ludicrous" a tweet Welch
sent to his more than 1.3 million followers that gave the
impression President Barack Obama's administration may have
rigged the data as a way of recovering from a poor showing at
Wednesday night's debate with Mitt Romney, his Republican
challenger for the White House.
"Unbelievable jobs numbersthese Chicago guys will do
anythingcan't debate so change numbers," Welch said in a
posting on Twitter. Obama formerly served as a senator from
The tweet was repeated more than 2,000 times, with many
mocking posts comparing Welch to New York real estate tycoon
Donald Trump, who during his failed bid for the presidency
loudly argued that Obama was not born in the United States, and
Clint Eastwood, who gave a widely panned speech at the
Republican National Convention in August.
Welch, who with his wife, Suzy Welch, writes a column for
Reuters, said he is not "accusing anyone of anything." But he
stood by his tweet.
"These numbers just don't go with the economic activity."
Welch said. "You draw your own conclusions."
Officials in Washington quickly dismissed the idea that the
Labor Department report - which showed unemployment falling to a
near four-year low of 7.8 percent - could be rigged.
"That's a ludicrous comment. No serious person believes that
the Bureau of Labor Statistics manipulates its statistics," said
Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic
Advisers. "The jobs report and all of their other statistics are
prepared by career employees. They use the same process every
month. They use the same process for Republican and Democratic
Later on MSBNC, Welch told host Chris Matthews: "I have no
evidence to prove (the BLS numbers were manipulated). I just
raised the question." But he said: "You don't think it's
coincidental that we've had the biggest job surge since 1983?
These numbers defy logic."
The tweet was by no means Welch's first criticism of Obama
on his Twitter feed, where he has regularly spoken out in favor
of Romney. During the presidential debate in Denver, Colorado,
on Wednesday night, Welch tweeted: "HOW can anyone vote for
Obama after this performancehe has demonstrated his
"This guy is the guy that's telling me the books are
cooked? That's hilarious," said Barry Ritholtz, CEO and director
of equity research at Fusion IQ in New York, which manages about
$300 million in assets. Ritholtz, one of the first to respond to
Welch's tweet, was referring to the allegation that during his
tenure at GE, Welch sometimes used the GE Capital finance unit
to sell quickly assets such as real estate and ensure that the
largest U.S. conglomerate regularly beat Wall Street profit
Other tweets agreed with Welch's assertion.
"In regards to today's jobs report---I agree with former GE
CEO Jack Welch, Chicago style politics is at work here," said
Florida Representative Allen West, a Republican, on Twitter.
BLS DEFENDS METHODS
Officials with the Bureau of Labor Statistics defended their
methods and findings, noting they are compiled by career civil
servants, not political appointees.
"We have done a monthly survey since 1940 and the methods
have broadly not changed," said Karen Kosanovich, an economist
with the bureau. "Fiddling with the numbers, I don't know how
that would be possible."
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told CNBC that she was
"insulted" by the remark.
As for Welch, 76, he says he went through reviews of
more than a dozen companies in different industries this week
and none were stronger in the third quarter than they were in
"You can't just call me old and senile," he said.