With Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan strongman and "sulfur sniffer," at the top of the news this week, it's high time to revisit the Business and Media Institute's Special Report on "Hugo the Boss." It can't be argued that the media cheered along with his remarks calling Bush "the devil." But the media's past record certainly underscores that Hugo hasn't exactly been presented as the far-left anti-American agitator now displayed on the world stage. BMI's Dan Gainor assembled a substantial study of TV coverage, and found it very soft:
The Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute looked at all 139 news and news-related stories on the broadcast networks about Hugo Chavez since he took power in 1998. Here are some of the conclusions:
This is shaping up as a day for lefty unilateralism. As noted here, liberal LA Times columnist Rosa Brooks saw no nuance in her Bush-hatred fueled tirade against any expansion of permitted techniques in interrogating terrorists.
Later, Good Morning America staged a global warming love-in, in which nary a dissenting voice was heard and the only question was whether it was too late to implement Al Gore's costly nostrums.
Diane Sawyer's guests were Gore and British magnate Richard Branson. The proximate cause was the announcement that over a recent breakfast, Gore managed to convince Branson to devote 100% of the profits from Virgin Airlines to the effort against global warming [someone check the OJ for Grey Goose].
For NewsBusters types, the question has always been whether Meredith Vieira would be as liberal as her Today show predecessor, Katie Couric. As of this morning, we have our answer. Yesterday, Hugo Chavez stood on the world stage and called the President of the United States a "devil" and claimed the speakers platform still stunk from his presence. Today, Meredith Vieira went on national TV and warned us not to be too quick to dismiss his message.
Interviewing Bill Clinton, she said:
"Now, it's easy to dismiss somebody like Chavez -- and some have -- as a nut. But do you think he is giving voice to to wider frustration in the developing world about this country and this country's policies? Do we need to change the way we act?"
NBC anchor Brian Williams deserves kudos for, on one night at least, giving as high a priority to declining gas prices as he and the media gave when they were rising, but then he suggested a political motive. Williams led Wednesday's NBC Nightly News by acknowledging the plunging prices and his own newscast's inaccurate predictions: “If you have filled your tank lately, then you've noticed. After some dire predictions on this broadcast and elsewhere that prices were rocketing to $4 a gallon, gas prices are coming down” to an average of $2.50 per gallon.
Reporter Anne Thompson attributed the fall to greater supplies and to no interruptions from hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Thompson concluded, however, on a downbeat note: “Despite the decreases, analysts warn that we are just one hurricane or one major political crisis away from higher prices.” Williams then raised wild speculation about oil executives, with the ability to open a "big spigot," manipulating prices for political advantage, “Now Anne, as you know there are skeptics and there are cynics out there who say there's nothing to make voters happier than paying less for gasoline and they're going to wonder: Did somebody just open a big spigot?” Thompson rejected his premise: “No, that's not true...”
In a clear attempt to throw cold water on the potential positive economic impact of falling energy prices, an Associated Press article yesterday got sloppy with the credentials of those it sought out for quotes. It also conveyed a false impression that all of those quoted were not impressed with what falling energy prices might do for the economy. Here is the headline and first paragraph of the article:
Economists Wary of Falling Energy Prices
WASHINGTON (AP) — It should only be this simple: Oil prices plunge 20 percent, leading businesses and consumers to ramp up their spending, which gives a nice jolt to the economy. That seems to be the conventional wisdom on Wall Street right now, where the pullback in energy prices is being cheered by investors. But some contrarians think that view could be missing the point.
But not all of those quoted are economists, and not all of those quoted are contrarians.
Here is the roster of the quoted (not in the same order as the article):
To keep this idea going, I wanted to first share the results from yesterday’s “What Might Get Unreported by the Media?” The Nets went 0-for-6 last night, sports fans. Not one of the broadcast network evening news programs felt the president’s approval rating at a twelve-month high, or inflation declining for the second month in a row, would interest their viewers. Amazing.
What might they ignore today? Well, as reported by Bloomberg, oil prices have now totally erased their gains this year:
Sometimes when I'm talking about the media with someone who's smart but
not particularly that political, they'll sometimes wonder why it's
worth pointing out press bias or unfairness. The way they figure it,
basically everyone is smart enough to take everything they see in the
press with a grain of salt. If they come across something that's not
true, they'll reject it.
It's a nice idea in theory, but in practice it just doesn't work that
way. Most people are either too busy, too apathetic, or not intelligent
enough to question the accuracy of something they see on TV or read
The latest Gallup survey provides a great illustration for this point.
According to Gallup, nearly one-half of the American public believes
that President Bush is deliberately manipulating oil prices to help
Republicans. The following is from USA
Today's recount of the poll (h/t: Ace):
I didn’t believe it when I saw it, nor did I believe a NewsBusters member when he/she referred to it in our comments section. But, there it was in USA Today: “Gas Price Decline May Spur Inflation.”
Can’t be, right? After all, even if you’re not an economist, you are intelligent enough to realize that inflation is typically caused by higher energy prices. Such was certainly the case in the ’70s, and has been the case in the past twelve to twenty-four months as oil and gasoline prices have skyrocketed. Isn’t that what the media have been claiming since Hurricane Katrina hit last year – higher oil and gas prices are going to lead to inflation?
Yet, this USA Today article had the gall to suggest that declining gas prices were a bad thing because they would spark inflation. If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself:
Remember last year at this time when you couldn’t turn on your television set without coming across a story on rising gasoline prices? Well, a year later, gas is now $2.50 a gallon, down 50 cents in just one month, twenty-nine cents lower than last year, and the broadcast network news programs couldn’t care less. As reported by Reuters Monday:
The freefall in U.S. gasoline prices continued as the average pump price dropped 12 cents over the last week to $2.50 a gallon, the government said on Monday.
The fall comes on the heels of an 11-cent drop the previous week.
The national price for regular unleaded gasoline is down 29 cents from a year ago and the lowest since late March, according to the federal Energy Information Administration's weekly survey of service stations.
Last September, after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, the media regularly warned of rising natural gas prices and exploding heating bills. Yet, when these same energy costs plummeted a year later – and utility companies announced large reductions in charges to consumers – the networks paid little attention to the news.
On September 14, natural gas prices declined to their lowest point in two years. As reported by the Associated Press: “October natural gas futures fell 55.7 cents to settle at $4.892 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The last time front-month natural gas futures settled below $5 was Sept. 16, 2004.”
Not everyone is happy to see gasoline prices drop. On CNN's Live Saturday, network senior political correspondent Bill Schneider raised the question of whether dipping prices are part of a conspiracy orchestrated by big oil companies.
Said Schneider about lower gasoline costs: "That's good news for Republicans if only because it could reduce voter anxiety." He then noted: "Industry sources cite a lot of reasons, including higher fuel inventories, a so far mild hurricane season, the truce between Israel and Lebanon. But this oil industry critic believes that what drove prices up was speculation. And a report from a bipartisan congressional investigation may be having an impact."
"This oil industry critic" was one Tyson Slocum of the Naderite Public Citizen. Schneider then speculated that, "The dropping prices may last just a couple of months. Long enough to get through the November election. Could that be what the oil companies want?"
In a September 15 report for "The Situation Room," CNN reporter Bill Schneider wondered if the current decrease in gas prices has been timed to help Republicans in the midterm elections. He ominously asked:
Schneider: "The drop in prices may last a couple of months, long enough to get through the November election. Could that be what the oil companies want?"
Does this mean that high prices in the spring and summer were an attempt to hurt the Republicans? This theme, that oil companies are trying to aid the GOP, was repeated or insinuated throughout the report. In the segment, which aired at 4:40PM, anchor Wolf Blitzer introduced Schneider by noting that a form of smog reducing gasoline will be pulled "as we head into the fall and the November elections."
When Ben Cardin, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Maryland, appeared on this afternoon's Hardball, host Chris Matthews played a Cardin TV ad most of which was taken up by Cardin informing voters that:
"I always try to do what's right, what's in the best interest of Maryland families: taking on the drug companies, the oil companies, the insurance companies."
Let's first note Cardin's daring admission that he tries to do 'what's right.' Bold stuff! Actually, come to think of the track record of Maryland politicians when it comes to obeying the law, maybe it is a rather maverick position after all.
But moving to the meat of his message, is this the platform that Dems in general and Cardin in particular want to offer voters? Vote for us: we'll attack our country's biggest employers and taxpayers! You might call the platform: Cardin vs. Capitalism.
Matt Lauer had a chuckle at the expense of his guests - then took Dems to task. Michael Smerconish scolded a Republican. And Meredith Vieira gave further evidence of a style looser than that of her perky predecessor.
That's the nutshell wrap on the first half-hour of this morning's Today.
Politics first. Lauer opened his interview with the chrome-domed duo of James Carville and Philly radio host Michael Smerconish by rubbing his own less-than-hirsute pate and observing with a laugh in the shot captured here: "First time in a long time I feel like I have a luxuriant head of hair."
But things quickly turned serious. Echoing a sentiment expressed by his rookie sidekick yesterday, Lauer left little doubt he feels the Democrats are squandering an electoral opening by failing to propose sufficient specifics on national security. Lauer to Carville: "if you [Dems] ever had an opportunity to take advantage of it, it's now, and the Democrats can't get their act together."
An excerpt from my latest item up at the MRC's BusinessandMedia.org Web site. See my article for more, including links to external content:
The recent discovery of new oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico was the perfect excuse for CNN’s Jack Cafferty to revisit his election-year conspiracy theory. But when the September 9 "In the Money" aired, the program’s panelists talked to an oil analyst about the future of oil and gas prices, leaving out the idea of a Big Oil-GOP axis of petrol.
"You know, if you were a real cynic, you could also wonder if the oil companies might not be pulling the price of gas down to help the Republicans get re-elected in the midterm elections a couple of months away," Cafferty suggested on the August 30 "Situation Room," just five days before the Chevron (NYSE: CVX) oil discovery.
Leave it to the Today show to find the negative side of good economic news. Reporting on the discovery of the largest oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, NBC's Martin Savidge admitted that "environmentalists might have a point," in worrying, "the discovery will hardly make a dent in America's reliance on foreign oil" and "it might cause Americans to stop conserving."
The following is the full segment introduced by Ann Curry:
Ann Curry: "Now to Today At the Pump and a major oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico. The average price of unleaded gas, nationwide, is now $2.72 a gallon according to the AAA. A steady drop over the last few weeks but drivers everywhere are wondering if the price of gas will drop even further with what could be the largest domestic oil find in 38 years. NBC's Martin Savidge has more on the potential of this new find. Hey Martin, good morning."
Apparently Jack Cafferty's colleagues, ostensibly knowledgeful business reporters, like Jack's kooky conspiracy idea that Big Oil is driving down gas prices in time to engender good will for the GOP:
Maybe it could be called “The Conspiracy Hour with Jack Cafferty.” On the September 2 “In the Money,” the program’s host recycled his theory that gas prices are dropping because of scheming oil companies.
“You know, if you were a real cynic, you could also wonder if the oil companies might not be pulling the price of gas down to help the Republicans get re-elected in the midterm elections a couple of months away,” Cafferty suggested just a few days earlier on the August 30 “Situation Room.”
That's not a typo in the headline. According to this Wall Street Journal article reprinted in the Star-Telegram, "on average, GM pays $81.18 an hour in wages and benefits to U.S. hourly workers, including pension and retiree medical costs."
But in his vituperative rant against the Big Three U.S. automakers, Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson manages to ignore the huge labor cost advantage enjoyed by non-union Toyota.
How much of an advantage? According to that same article, "Harbour Consulting President Ron Harbour estimates Toyota's total hourly U.S. labor costs, with benefits, at about $35 an hour." That's right, GM's average labor costs are 130% higher than that of the US operations of its Japanese rival. That translates into a $1,000/vehicle average labor-cost advantage enjoyed by Toyota. Thank you, UAW!
CBS News veteran Harry Smith finally confessed something that the Business
& Media Institute (BMI) have reported for a while and his
colleagues elsewhere in the media have already picked up on: gas prices
are on a downward trend.
"It seems like a month ago we were all screaming with our hair on fire
about the price of gas going over $3, no end in sight. And now it looks
like it's dropping like a stone," CBS’s Harry Smith marveled on the
August 31 edition of "The Early Show."
USA Today reported that gasoline prices could be closer to $2 a gallon by Thanksgiving. The paper sites the end of the summer driving season and decreased demand as causes for this predicted decline. Not surprisingly, CNN’s Jack Cafferty sees something more sinister at work here. Before his daily Cafferty File segment on ‘The Situation Room’ Wednesday afternoon, substitute anchor John King and news reader Zain Verjee discussed this report and cheered on lower gas prices as good news. Cafferty then spouted off the old liberal conspiracy theory connecting Republicans and Big Oil:
Jack Cafferty: "You know, if you were a real cynic, you could also wonder if the oil companies might not be pulling the price of gas down to help the Republicans get re-elected in the midterm elections a couple of months away."
Ah, the MSM, where bad news is good, and good news . . . can't be allowed to go unchallenged. So long as a Republican is in office, that is.
Take gas prices. Over the last year the MSM has had a field day with a profusion of stories on 'soaring gas prices.' 'Today' reached an absurd apotheosis on August 7th. As reported here, Ann Curry envisioned the absolute worst: a decrease of less than 1/200th in world oil supplies leading to more than a 1/7th jump in crude oil prices - a 1:28 cause-and-effect ratio. In dollar terms, Curry fretted over the possibility that the shutdown of a BP pipeline in Alaska could cause crude oil prices to leap $10/barrel.
We've been tracking prices since then and providing regular updates at the original column. Guess what? Crude was about $75/barrel on the day of Ann's report. Since then, rather than spiking to her imagined $85/barrel, it has slumped to $69 and change. Whoops!
NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell continued the skewed media reporting of the Middle East by noting the important social work that Hezbollah does and how the rest of the world has a very supportive take on the terrorist organization.
Liberal TV critic Bob Laurence hypothesized that the scant coverage of the kidnaping of two Fox News journalists was due to the frequency of abductions and the network’s "insulting" attitude towards other media outlets. (According to Laurence, nobody, not even terrorists, like FNC.)
On the August 22 edition of "NBC Nightly News," host Brian Williams described a gas station in Illinois that accidentally sold unleaded fuel for 30 cents. He sarcastically recounted the story this way:
"The pumps were quickly shut down amid fears that oil company profits might plummet. But for one brief, shining moment, we the consumers won. It was like the old days before you needed to refinance your home to refill your tank."
It should be noted, according to New York magazine, that Brian Williams makes $4 million a year. Sounding a bit like a radio DJ dedicating a song, the "Nightly News" anchor also announced that the story was "for all those who quietly suffer at the gas pump every day across this country, watching those numbers fly by."
Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s "Mad Money," appeared on the August 16th edition of "Today." Guest-host Lester Holt quizzed the always verbose financial adviser on which stocks are best in an age of terror. Holt prefaced the piece, which aired at 7:14AM EDT, by noting that Americans live in a volatile age and that he wasn’t advocating exploiting unrest in the Middle East, but that investors must react to such developments. Cramer agreed, saying that profiting from such pain "sounds ugly." A few minutes later, prompted by a question about buying stock in oil companies, he responded this way:
Cramer: "That's the profit area. You got to where I can talk about making money off of terror."
Obama showed up at his 50th town hall meeting to talk again about how SUV's are causing global warming. According to Drudge, Obama declared that part of the blame for the world's higher temperatures rests on gas guzzling vehicles. Obama says consumers can make the difference by switching to higher mileage hybrids.
Then he drove away in an SUV. At least you can't call him a limousine liberal.
His damage control countered with this: "The vehicle senator obama travels in while in illinois is a Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV), which can run on e85, a blended fuel made of 85 percent ethanol. So he in fact was practicing what he preached at the town hall meeting in Metropolis yesterday when he said we must drive fewer gas-guzzling vehicles."
As this column has oft chronicled, for the MSM gas prices are on a one-way escalator, a moving Stairway to Heaven in which prices are always "soaring." Fairness thus obliges us to report an exception to the rule on today's Good Morning America. An ABC expert actually informed us that gas prices are steadying and might even - ready? - go down.
MRC's Business & Media Institute has been tracking the MSM's slanted coverage of oil and gas. Here's a recent example. Hat tip to MRC's Ken Shepherd.
Even in its tease at the top of the show, GMA hinted that this might not be your typical gloom-'n-doom gas-price story: "Coming up, we have pain at the pump. Gas prices. With all this unrest in the Middle East and now new terror threats what will this do to the price of gas? You might think that prices automatically go up. Butyou may be surprised."
If a Senate study concluded that legislation signed by President George W. Bush and supported by Halliburton was partially responsible for today’s high oil and gas prices, do you think you would have heard about it?
Well, such a report was released by the Senate. However, the president that signed the law in question was William Jefferson Clinton, and the company that strongly lobbied for its passage was Enron.
Yet, mysteriously, this study was almost completely ignored.
A price spike 28 times larger than the proportion of global oil production lost? The loss of 0.4% of oil output leading to a 13% price increase?
It's what NBC's Ann Curry imagined on this morning's Today show. 'Soaring Gas Prices' is one of the Today show's longest-running hits. This morning's episode brought us Ann Curry trying to induce CNBC financial reporter Ron Insana to paint the gloomiest possible picture in the wake of the news that BP has shut down an Alaskan oilfield. BP shut the Prudhoe Bay field indefinitely due to the discovery of severe corrosion and a very small spill from a Prudhoe Bay oil transit line. The 400,000 represents 8% of US domestic oil output and about 2.6% of US supply, including imports.
A sample of my latest article available at MRC's BusinessandMedia.org. For the full article, click here.:
It’s not every
day a politician calls for a 100-percent tax rate on national TV. Even the most
liberal-friendly of journalists would be inclined to question such a punitive
idea. But when former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich called for such a
tax on the “windfall profits” of oil on the July 28 “Early Show,” CBS’s Hannah
Storm didn’t even bat an eyelash.
interview segment with the liberal Rep. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and the libertarian
Cato Institute’s Jerry Taylor on the so-called windfall profits tax, Storm
asked Kucinich how such a tax would “translate to consumers and help the people
who are paying at the pump.”