ABC: High Gas Prices Cancel Church, Christmas and Doctor Visits?

In one of the more hyperbolic segments to air on "Good Morning America," ABC reporter Bianna Golodryga fretted that November's unusually high gas prices could lead to poor health, less church and no Christmas. On Monday's program, Golodryga warned viewers that unnamed "reports" allege that "some people are foregoing routine visits to the doctor and are opting for cheaper foods, like pasta and peanut butter, as opposed to protein, fruits and vegetables, in order that they can save as much money as possible" at the pump.

The ABC reporter also managed to find an extreme example and introduced America to Juan Martinez of Phoenix, Arizona. According to Golodryga, the spike in prices has taken "a toll on the family's relationship with God." It seems as though the Martinez clan is cutting back on religious attendance due to the 40 mile journey trek to their church. (Are there no closer places to worship in the Phoenix area?) Additionally, GMA featured footage of Golodryga shopping with Martinez as she lamented, "...Even holiday gift shopping won't be the same." Apparently, there will be less Christmas presents this year.

Now, gas prices are certainly high for this time of year. (The average price in mid-November 2006 was $2.23.) However, Golodryga has a propensity for over-the-top rhetoric. The extreme nature of Martinez's $538 November gas bill is an example of selecting a worst case scenario. But this kind of dialogue isn't new for Golodryga. In October, the Business and Media Institute noted her odd assertion that slow sweater sales signaled an impending economic crisis.

On Monday, she began the segment in front of a New York City gas station that seemed to be doing reasonable, if somewhat slow, business. The GMA correspondent ominously intoned, "I want you to take a look at this practically empty gas station behind me, shocking because it's usually packed with cars this time of morning." According to Golodryga, this was "another example" of Americans altering their routines in the face of high gas prices. Of course, she seemed to ignore the fact that many Americans had November 12 off in honor of Veterans Day.

The ABC network also helped out in the panic department. A graphic gloomily asked, "Can you Survive $4 a Gallon?" Perhaps in an attempt to conjure up images of bread lines, co-host Diane Sawyer teased the piece by promising to investigate what "your fellow Americans are doing to get by." At that point, another GMA graphic declared that the gas situation is going "from bad to worse."

When gas prices inevitably correct downwards, can viewers expect GMA to report on all the Americans who will be rolling in money, ramping up their church attendance and splurging on gifts?

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:11am on November 12, follows:

7am tease

DIANE SAWYER: And gas prices have just gone up 30 cents a gallon in 30 days. The average family now paying $300 a month. What your fellow Americans are doing to get by. [ABC Graphic: From Bad to Worse]

7:11am

CHRIS CUOMO: File this under the category of sad but true. We can expect another new record for November gasoline prices when the government releases the latest numbers this week . Gas prices usually spike in the summer. Take a look at last year's price chart. You can see then they're supposed to go down during the winter months, but not anymore. Look what is happening this year. The national average for regular unleaded is now $3.08 a gallon. An all-time high record is expected for Thanksgiving weekend. Bianna Golodryga is out in New York City with more about this situation. Good morning, Bianna.

ABC GRAPHIC: Gas Prices Soar: Can you Survive $4 a Gallon?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA: Good morning, Chris. I want you to take a look at this practically empty gas station behind me, shocking because it's usually packed with cars this time of morning. It's just another example of how Americans are changing their everyday routine in the face of rapidly rising gas prices. Filling up his minivan cost Juan Martinez a mega-fortune.

JUAN MARTINEZ: This month, I'm tracking $538.

GOLODRYGA: He has the receipts to prove it.

MARTINEZ (ABC GRAPHIC: FED UP BY FUEL PRICES): I just can't believe it's gone from $260 to over $500 a month. It's just doubled.

GOLODRYGA: Skyrocketing gas prices are affecting this Phoenix area father of five across the board. Grocery shopping is scaled back to the basics.

MARTINEZ: You can't just pick up everything the kids want. You know, you got to make sure to cut back on certain things so, you know, it's still affordable and it's within our budget.

GOLODRYGA: Vacations will be short hops and even holiday gift shopping won't be the same.

MARTINEZ: Not get as many presents as they are as accustomed to, as they would like.

GOLODRYGA: It's even taking a toll on the family's relationship with God.

MARTINEZ: Our church is approximately 35, 40 miles away. We've really cut down on the amount of times that we've come in to service since the price has gone up.

GEOFF SUNDSTROM (AAA): These very high gasoline prices are coming at exactly the wrong time for millions of American families. It's a budget-buster and it will change their holiday spending patterns.

GOLODRYGA: In places like San Mateo, California, the price of gas is already well over $4 a gallon. And with the average American family consuming 100 gallons of gas a month, the effects could be staggering.

SUNDSTROM: We'll be seeing a gasoline credit card statement at the end of the month that says $400 a month.

GOLODRYGA: Yet another bill Juan Martinez is terrified to look at. And for some Americans, high gas prices are not only affecting their wallets, they're affecting their health as well. There are reports that some people are foregoing routine visits to the doctor and are opting for cheaper foods, like pasta and peanut butter, as opposed to protein, fruits and vegetables, in order that they can save as much money as possible when they come up to fill up at the gas station. Diane, just a quick note: A few days ago, I was here. The price for regular was $3.17, just four days later, it's at $3.29. So, it is costing a lot.

SAWYER: Woah. Four days later. Thank you, Bianna.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org