Williams Leads 'Nightly News' with Plunging Gas Prices, But Raises Election Motive

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...”

Williams teased the September 20 NBC Nightly News:
“Suddenly, prices are plummeting at the gas pump. Why now and for how long?”
Williams opened his newscast, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
“Good evening. 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. The two big questions tonight appear to be how far and why is this happening? First, some stats to begin with. The price of oil was down another $1.20 today to close at $60.46. Gas prices, which hit their peak six weeks ago at $3.04 a gallon, are today down to $2.50. That's on average. It's even cheaper in some places. So we'll begin there tonight. NBC News chief financial correspondent Anne Thompson is with us from the pumps with more. Anne, good evening.”
After outlining the increased supplied and running soundbites from happy drivers, Thompson concluded from an outside location in New York City:
“Despite the decreases, analysts warn that we are just one hurricane or one major political crisis away from higher prices. Brian”
Williams then asked her: “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 explained: “No, that's not true. Think about where we were six weeks ago, Brian: The fears were the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah would spread to oil producing countries in the Middle East and BP was having huge pipeline problems at its Alaska oil field that threatened to shut the oil field down. Only half that oil field closed and the fighting never spread to those other countries in the Middle East and that has taken some of the worry out of the price of oil and gasoline.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center