CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pressed McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina about oil companies "awash in record profits" on Tuesday’s "The Situation Room." The CNN host used ExxonMobil as an example five different times in his questioning. "...ExxonMobil has got these billions and billions of dollars in record profits. They can afford to not necessarily get additional tax cuts."
After Fiorina outlined McCain’s proposal to lower the federal business tax rate at the beginning of the segment, which began 14 minutes into the 5 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, Blitzer took a persistent stance in asking if the reduction in taxes included "big oil." First, the CNN host asked, "Would that reduction of the tax rate also include, as Obama says, ExxonMobil and the other big oil companies, who are awash in record profits?"
The three broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage, of a Democratic Senate plan to somehow lower gas prices by imposing a “windfall profits” tax on oil companies which they would just pass on to consumers, around how Republicans “blocked” the effort. No one cast any doubt on the presumption the oil companies are earning “windfall” and/or “excessive” profits.
Fill-in NBC anchor Ann Curry's very short update: “Now to the high price of oil and gas. Senate Republicans today blocked a Democratic plan to impose a windfall profit tax on oil companies.” CBS's Katie Couric, who unlike Curry at least noted how “Republicans said it would have done nothing to lower the price of gas,” asserted: “Senate Republicans today blocked Democrats from slapping a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies.”
ABC twice displayed on screen text favorable to the liberal position: “Senate Republicans block Democratic plan to tax oil companies' windfall profits.” And: “Special tax for excessive oil profits.”
Blame do-nothing Republicans for high gas prices. That was the impression visitors to ABCNews.com got this afternoon.
Among the "top headlines" lineup Web site editors included a story on "Fueling Anger" with the teaser headline: "Rejected! Big Oil Tax Gets Shelved." [see related post about CBSNews.com's bias here]
The accompanying caption to the ABC photo illustration read, "With prices soaring, GOP halts Democrats' wide-ranging energy plan."
The article itself, by writer Z. Byron Wolf, was front-loaded with bias, slamming Republicans for their filibuster of a new windfall profits tax measure while dismissing the GOP's energy plan as ineffective in the short term (emphases mine):
"Republicans Block Taxes on Big Oil Profits" blares the teaser headline on the front page of CBSNews.com. Under a graphic of the Capitol dome and a fuel gauge nearing empty, the caption reads "Senate GOP Stops Dems' Effort To Rein In Profits Of Largest Oil Companies As Gas Prices Soar."
That's a lot of bias packed into 24 words, and that's before the reader gets to the actual article. Notice the lack of cynicism as to the motive of the Democrats, who are painted on the side of consumers against industry, although the primary beneficiary of a windfall tax would be, well, the Democratic Congress.
There are limits to what you can properly communicate in a headline, but a more neutral treatment might have been: "Republicans Block Advance of Oil Profit Tax: Democrats say tax will encourage alternative fuel research, Republicans argue it will worsen energy problems."
In the AP/CBS article itself, oil industry claims that a windfall tax is counterproductive were summarily dismissed with a populist soundbite by a Democratic politician:
Today's dramatic $6-a-barrel spike in oil has been blamed on a couple of factors - a forecast by Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) claiming oil would hit $150 a barrel by July and a weakening dollar off news unemployment increased half a percent for the month of May.
But CNBC contributor John Kilduff, who is also the vice president of risk management for MF Global (NYSE:MF), told viewers on the June 6 "Squawk on the Street" geopolitical factors, specifically remarks from an Israeli official about attacking a nuclear facility in Iran, is behind the spike.
"[W]hat's really lit up this market big time here is, which hasn't been really mentioned. I haven't heard too much and I'm surprised at, is deputy minister in Israel said this morning that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities is quote, ‘unavoidable,'" said Kilduff on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."
Today's Web poll on Time.com asks "Should gas and heating oil be rationed until prices come down?"
It's a non-scientific Web poll of course, so in some sense it's just mindless, fluffy filler. But on the other hand, including this only serves to further the MSM's fear-mongering about the economy while banging its left-wing drum beat about oil and gas prices.
Since taking that second screencap earlier today, more votes have been cast by readers, with the numbers shifting slightly in favor of gas rationing to 39 percent of respondents.
"It's not just here and it's not just GM. Since 2005, the big three - GM, Ford and Chrysler - have had 70 plants and supplier shutdowns with a total loss of 149,000 American jobs," CBS correspondent Cynthia Bowers said. "At the same time, foreign automakers selling more fuel-efficient vehicles are building five new U.S. plants that will employ 24,000 workers over the next three years."
In a hard economic times story by NBC's Kevin Tibbles on Monday's "Today" show there was a not-so-subliminal pro-Obama message on display as several times pro-Obama signs found their way into the background. Reporting on the increased traffic to pawn shops by the desperate to make ends meet in the "rocky economy," Tibbles, didn't mention Obama by name but the Illinois senator's name or image popped up in the background several times.
Tibbles, or at least his cameraman and/or producer, seemed to be sending the not-so-subtle message that the presumed Democratic presidential nominee could be the savior from these tough economic times.
The following is the full story as it occurred on the June 2, "Today" show:
The economy plodded ahead at a 0.9 percent pace in the first quarter - slightly better than first estimated - but still underscoring caution on the part of consumers and businesses walloped by housing, credit and financial problems.
On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show" co-host Julie Chen introduced a segment on rising gas prices and what people are doing to ease the cost: "This morning in our series 'Running on Empty' the news gets worse about gas prices. They jumped 15 cents in one week to a national average of $3.94 a gallon, according to the Energy Department. That is a record price. And it's forcing some drivers to take extreme measures to save money on gas."
Correspondent Jeff Glor then reported on how, "...desperate times call for desperate measures. Some people are doing anything they can to save on gas, while others are trying to avoid buying gas altogether." As one example, Glor highlighted a woman from San Antonio, Texas named Jessica Busby: "Then there's Jessica Busby, using her bike to get to a blood donation center two times a week. She pumps out her own blood, making $40 a pop so she has enough money to pump gas."
In an April Fool’s edition of the Media Research Center’s Notable Quotables in 2005, the MRC’s Rich Noyes came very close to Glor’s report with this fictional quote from "Early Show" correspondent Thalia Assuras: "The evidence is all over the Internet: healthy young people are putting their own organs up for sale, desperate for money to deal with fast-rising gas prices. Grad student Julie Potts just sold her kidney on Ebay."
The media have been quick to paint the slow-growing economy as though it's in recession. Indeed, as our friends at the Business & Media Institute discovered, the MSM now is painting the economy much worse than the print media reported the 1929 stock market crash that marked the beginning of the Great Depression.
But kudos are due U.S. News & World Report's Rick Newman for staking out a contrarian stand.
In his May 27 piece, "Why Consumers Are Underconfident," Newman lists five reasons why consumers are overly pessimistic and hence consumer confidence numbers misleading as far as being an accurate barometer of the economy. Here's an excerpt including one of those reasons, "the freak-out factor":
If a new poll identified an overwhelming majority of Americans favored increased energy costs associated with a global warming bill currently before Congress, do you think media would report it?
Probably 24 hours a day, seven days a week until every citizen had heard about it, correct?
Well, on Wednesday, the National Center for Public Policy Research, an admittedly conservative think tank, released a poll conducted by Wilson Research Strategies which found "65% of Americans reject spending even a penny more for gasoline in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" (emphasis added throughout):
Catching up with ABC, which in the past couple of weeks has featured complaints from viewers about how higher gas prices mean they can't afford breakfast and a woman who whined that she can “no longer take joy rides on my days off,” NBC Nightly News caught up Tuesday night with its own set of hapless Americans who claimed they are forced to grow their own food, two who went with burgers (!) over ribs over the holiday weekend and teen girls who make their boyfriends drive them on dates.
Brian Williams noted NBC had “asked people to e-mail us with their stories about how gas prices were affecting their plans for the Memorial Day holiday weekend this year.” Amongst the replies he highlighted: A woman in Nebraska: “I guess it's a good time to become green and start growing our own produce, baking our own bread, and limiting the meat,” a woman from Sacramento: “We usually do rib eye steaks and racks of ribs with lots of sides -- macaroni salad, corn on the cob, baked beans, etc. This year it will be homemade hamburgers with french fries and soda instead of beer” and a woman from California: “Instead of our usual ribs, we are having burgers. As bleak as it sounds, next year we may have a cup of soup.” Finally, “Miguel from Miami: 'Our three girls are asking their boyfriends to come to the house to pick them up instead of using their cars to go on a date.'”
As the oil executives hearings on Capitol Hill received great media attention given soaring gasoline prices, supposedly impartial press members missed a classic gaffe by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as it pertains to the benefits of OPEC raising production quotas versus America drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
On Wednesday, Schumer once again claimed "if [Saudi Arabia] did a million barrels of oil a day increase from today, it would go down about -- the translation to gasoline would be about $.50 a gallon, maybe $.62."
Yet, on May 7, Schumer felt a likely similar increase from drilling in ANWR would "reduce the price of oil by a penny."
As Marc Sheppard over at the American Thinker cleverly pointed out Thursday, in Schumer's odd calculus, only increases in foreign oil production will bring down the price (file photo courtesy FoxNews.com):
"[up arrow] Energy conservation: The one clear winner as oil creeps toward $200 a barrel."
So declares Newsweek.com's Conventional Wisdom for May 22.
THE only clear winner? That may be a talking point suitable for Sen. Barack Obama's campaign, but it's hardly THE only clear winner for solving America's energy problems, that is, unless your "conventional wisdom" leaves out the views of conservatives.
How about drilling in ANWR, removing barriers to offshore drilling, and building more refineries? All of those are solutions furthered by conservatives in Washington, but which apparently don't dawn on the editors at Newsweek.
As political rituals go, the phony denial of interest in the VP nomination is among the most annoying. So credit Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee for unequivocally stating their willingness to serve as McCain's running mate.
But please, politicians out there, spare us the feeble non-denial denials such as the one Jim Webb offered up on today's Morning Joe. Isn't Webb supposed to be Mr. No-Nonsense Macho Man? After all, he was on the show to tout his new book, A Time to Fight, and to talk up his rough 'n tumble Scots-Irish roots. But judging by his wimpy response to the Veep question, perhaps the book should be renamed A Time to Fumfer. His reply to Mika Brzezinski's question on his interest in the Veep nomination has to go down as one of the lamest of an already-lame genre.
News Flash!: Liberal politician decries price gouging, vows to use government to fix problem, mugs for cameras to hog credit.
Oh wait, that's not really news at all. Unless you work for the Chicago Sun-Times.
The online edition of the paper gave Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin a virtual press release with a 9-paragraph story by reporter Maureen O'Donnell. Here's an excerpt:
The Second City has become first in the nation for high gas prices, with consumers struggling as oil company profits soar, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday.
"We've got to stop the price-gouging,'' Durbin said.
He took credit for a new Federal Trade Commission probe into record fuel prices as he spoke before a BP station at Roosevelt and Wabash with regular gas selling for $4.25.
At no point did O'Donnell mention that previous FTC studies on price gouging have given liberals little if any ammo on the price gouging charge. Perhaps most notable among them the spring 2006 FTC study conducted to probe if there was price-fixing after Hurricane Katrina (available here as PDF).
Six days after ABC's World News fretted over a New Jersey woman who said she must skip breakfast to put $4 a day toward gas, Monday's newscast featured an even more hapless woman, a Massachusetts resident who to afford gas sacrifices a “much needed” $45 prescription, says she can “no longer take joy rides on my days off” and, horror of horrors, has been forced into “buying store brands instead of name brands.” Now, Rosaria Giamei complained in a soundbite: “I don't get out and enjoy things anymore. I just kind of sit at home and only go to and from work and, like, grocery shopping and that's it.” How about taking a walk or riding a bike?
“Tonight, gas and diesel hit another record,” anchor Charles Gibson teased his lead story, “people tell us they're sacrificing food, health, and their lifestyle just to fill the tank.” Dan Harris reported:
The pain is being felt all over the country. We here at ABC News are getting flooded with messages from people like Rosaria Giamei, who says, "I even stopped filling a much needed monthly prescription that costs $45 so I will have more money for gas." We found Rosaria in Massachusetts today fuming at the oil companies and bemoaning the changes she's had to make in her personal life.
You'd think gas prices are high enough as it is. But for some reason, the NBC "Today" show needed to make prices seem even worse by showing a picture of a gas station with above-average prices.
Co-host Ann Curry reported that "gasoline prices are up again. Today AAA said the average price for regular gas hit $3.80 a gallon."
But a viewer with the television on mute would have seen only video of a station with regular gas priced at $4.15 - 35 cents higher than the national average. Curry also added that, "in some cities it is much higher than [$3.80]."
For several weeks, NewsBusters has been reporting the changing media tide concerning ethanol.
On Thursday, PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" joined the growing chorus of press outlets pointing fingers at biofuels as being partially responsible for the growing international food crisis:
The cost of food has soared as more and more corn is being produced for fuel, not food...[I]t is the government's mandate for ethanol that has doubled the demand for corn and sent prices soaring.
Sadly, the segment ignored Nobel Laureate Al Gore's involvement in this matter, as well as his biofuel investments, but still went where few mainstream media outlets would have gone just two months ago (video available here):
President Bush's effort to coax the Saudis to boost oil output was given wildly different treatments on the front pages of the Washington Post than the British broadsheet the Financial Times.
"Saudis bow to oil pressure: Kingtom to lift output to highest in two years; US lobbying comes after price nears $128" reads the May 17 front page FT headline. (The headline for the online version is slightly different: "Saudis to boost oil output after US pressure.")
Of course, the Saudis DID agree to boost daily output by 300,000 barrels. As the Post's Abramowitz noted, "[t]hat would take Saudi production to 9.4 million barrels a day" whereas the max the kingdom can pump out a day would be "11.3 million barrels."
Just when you thought every possible gas price angle had been explored by the media, they found another fresh angle - gas prices are forcing cutbacks within the Louisville, Ky. municipal government, including swimming pools that little girls will be deprived of.
"When we arrived in Louisville [Ky.], we headed straight for the Breslin Park pool," CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes said on the May 15 "Evening News." "Half the city's public pools will be padlocked this summer leaving these little girls high and dry."
Cordes's "CBS Evening News" story was a part of its "Eye on the Road" series - an effort to show how people are affected by gas prices throughout the country. For the series two reporters have been driving across the country in opposite directions, one in a Toyota Prius and the other in a Ford Fusion.
ABC's "Nightline" on Monday continued the network's trend of hyperbolically, and in this case, apocalyptically, fretting over high gas prices in America. Anchor Martin Bashir introduced a segment by wondering if $4 a gallon gas might result in some people stealing gasoline, or, as he put it, "taking some drastic measures." Speaking to a car security expert who claimed that such theft would be a misdemeanor because the total cost would be below $1000, reporter John Donvan lost all perspective and replied, "But we may soon be paying more than $1,000 for a tank of gas." [audio available here]
Donvan, in a snarky tone, even cited the plot of the futuristic thriller "The Road Warrior" to support his argument. He speculated, "And in the future, of course, they will be stealing gas and fighting over it. We know that because of the 1981 Mad Max classic 'The Road Warrior.'"
"Gas prices hit yet another record high this morning and as you suffer, the oil giants are making billions," co-host Meredith Vieira teased at the top of the "Today" show. Well, with an introduction like that, viewers should expect a fair interview, right?
A week after ABC focused a story on two pitiable Minnesota families living in the dark because higher energy and food prices mean they “can no longer afford to pay for electricity,” Tuesday's World News highlighted the replies from sad case stories solicited on ABCNews.com, starting with a woman who says she must skip breakfast to put $4 a day toward gas. ABC displayed “FEELING THE PAIN” on screen as Charles Gibson set up the story that David Muir started by fretting about “the price of a gallon of gas jumping more than a dime in just the last week” -- which is a piddling $2 more to fill a 20-gallon tank. Nonetheless, he asserted “the e-mails we've received show the pain is being felt far and wide. Single mother Caroline Saunders wrote to us from New Jersey.” He read aloud from her e-mail with her quote on screen:
I now skip breakfast to save the extra $4 per day. That gives me an extra $20 added to my gas budget.
Muir proceeded to recite two less ridiculous complaints, a trucker upset about a 60 percent hike in diesel fuel over the past in two years and a woman who found a job that requires $110 a week in gas to commute 140 miles round trip.
Since media began recognizing the international food crisis and its ties to biofuels, NewsBusters has been wondering when press members will expose how intricately linked Nobel Laureate Al Gore is to this controversial issue.
On Sunday, Fox News's Sean Hannity finally did just that.
In a segment on "Hannity's America," the host addressed much of what NewsBusters has been reporting for the past several months about this matter, and established a template that hopefully others in the media will emulate if they are indeed interested in helping to solve this growing problem (video embedded right):
"Average gas prices set record at $3.72 a gallon" reads the teaser headline on the USAToday.com Web site. Yet the photo (by Justin Sullivan, Getty Images) accompanying the teaser on the front page shows a gas marquee with gasoline at $4.09-a-gallon.
If there were a Society of Global Warming Alarmists, Bill McKibben might get kicked out for being too much of a worry wart . . .
You've probably seen those phone-message forms with check boxes in ascending order of urgency from "FYI—no need to return call" all the way up to "the future of civilization hangs in the balance." We might see that last category as light-hearted exaggeration, but it's no laughing matter to McKibben. In his jeremiad in today's LA Times literally entitled "Civilization's last chance," McKibben solemnly declares that "the world looks a little terminal right now" and "it isn't morning in America, it's dusk on planet Earth." OK. Just so long as it's nothing serious.
McKibben's lament is based in important part on a paper that James Hansen and several co-authors have submitted to Science magazine which concludes that "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."
On a "MSNBC Live," report on "sky high gas prices" anchor Tamron Hall relayed the story of one man who is using a horse rather than a vehicle, but did not explain some important reasons why prices have soared.
"The high prices have led ... one Tennessee man to find a more fuel efficient way to get around town in Bradley County: The guy is riding a horse," Hall said on the May 9 broadcast. "It is cheaper to maintain a horse than it is to fill up a gas tank. He says that it costs $150 to $200 a month to ride and feed that pony."