Welch Leaves Reuters, Fortune After Twitter-Post Backlash
(Corrects spelling of Rosanne Badowski in fourth paragraph.)
Jack Welch, the former chief executive officer of General Electric Co. (GE), will stop writing for Thomson Reuters Corp. (TRI) and Fortune magazine after backlash to his Twitter post suggesting President Barack Obama’s administration manipulated employment data for political gain.
Welch sent an e-mail to Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler and Fortune Managing Editor Andy Serwer saying he and his wife, Suzy, were terminating their contract and would no longer contribute to Reuters or Fortune. The print title had agreed to pick up the column. A Reuters spokeswoman, Barb Burg, confirmed Welch was leaving.
The move followed criticism by Serwer of Welch’s comments on the Oct. 5 U.S. unemployment report and a Reuters story quoting a money manager who described Welch’s statements as laughable, Fortune said. Obama’s administration denounced Welch’s claims as baseless.
Welch said he and his wife were planning a piece in the Wall Street Journal, according to the e-mail, which was confirmed by his assistant, Rosanne Badowski.
“In terms of traction, it’s just a better fit for us,” Welch said in the message, posted on Fortune’s website.
Welch declined to comment further, Badowski said. Ashley Huston, a spokeswoman for Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., declined to comment.
Welch has contributed $5,000, the maximum, to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign and described him on CNBC as “the most qualified leader” to seek the office in his lifetime. His Oct. 5 Twitter message snowballed as commentators and politicians weighed in on social-media websites and television to endorse or dispute his view.
“Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers,” Welch said in the message, posted immediately after the U.S. Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month. That was the lowest since Obama took office in January 2009.
Welch’s background as GE’s chief executive officer for more than 20 years and a business-book author assured his post would attract attention. His message has been resent by Twitter users more than 5,100 times and he continued the criticism in interviews with the Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
The Obama administration defended the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which computes the figures. Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told Bloomberg Television that Welch’s remark was “irresponsible.”
Welch earned the nickname “Neutron Jack” after cutting more than 100,000 jobs at General Electric in the 1980s to help boost profits.
His successor, Jeffrey Immelt, was chosen by the White House in January 2011 to lead a panel of CEOs, labor leaders and academics charged with recommending ways to boost U.S. employment. The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness delivered its report to Obama in January.
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