Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scrambled on Friday to explain what he meant when he called February's 36,000 lost jobs "really good" news, while attacking Republicans for "mischaracterizing" the remark.
Speaking on the Senate floor, the Nevada Democrat said that "today is a big day in America. Only 36,00 people lost their jobs today, which is really good."
Conservative media outlets immediately ran with the story, highlighting both Reid's claims that the job losses were from "today" -- a clear slip-up -- as well as his claim that the jobs report is "really good."
The Drudge Report ran it as its main story Friday afternoon, under the headline, "REID: GOOD NEWS, ONLY 36000 LOST THEIR JOBS TODAY," with a link to a brief YouTube clip of the remark.
In its report, Fox News inserted a subtle jibe, asserting that other Democrats were "a bit more tactful" in their description of the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows the unemployment rate holding steady at 9.7 percent, despite net job losses of 36,000 for the month of February.
In a statement released Friday, Reid said his remarks "are being irresponsibly mischaracterized by those seeking to score political points."
Today we learned that 36,000 Americans lost their jobs in February. ... It’s undeniably devastating news.
But if we’re going to discuss the state of our economy and the direction in which it’s going – and if we’re going to talk about it like adults – we have to take a step back and put this number in context.
Economists thought 75,000 Americans were going to lose their jobs last month. That’s more than double what the actual number turned out to be. But that number is still too high.
Reid "warned" the GOP that "this country has no place and no patience for those who root for failure."
In a Tweet, Reid indicated he was comparing February's job figures with the much-worse numbers reported in February of last year.
"Going from 750K job losses to 36K is a step in the right direction but I don't pretend for a minute that it's enough. Much work still to do," Reid wrote.
Reid is facing an uphill battle for re-election this fall in Nevada, where he is trailing an as-yet-unchosen Republican challenger in the polls.
But Las Vegas Sun political columnist Jon Ralston doesn't believe Reid's comments Friday will hurt the politician's chances.
"I know what Reid meant. Most people know what he meant. Even Republicans who will attack know what he meant," Ralston Tweeted.
This video is from C-SPAN 2, broadcast March 5, 2010.