ABC on Thursday and Friday hyped the idea, pushed by Nancy Pelosi, that oil speculators on Wall Street are to blame for high gas prices, citing a "top government watchdog." Of course, the network neglected to inform viewers that Bart Chilton, who is a commissioner on the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, is an ex-Democratic staffer.
On Friday, Good Morning America's Josh Elliott described the options as blaming "tension in the Middle East or speculators on Wall Street for the skyrocketing prices." Not offered as a choice was Barack Obama. Now, when gas prices were high under Bush, there were more stories and the blame was directed at the Republican President.
On World News, guest anchor George Stephanopoulos did allow that it may be a "tough sell" for Obama to avoid blame for the high price of gas. He admitted the President was facing a "political problem."
However, a full segment was devoted to a "warning from a top government watchdog who tells us that a big chunk of the pain at the pump is Wall Street's fault."
Reporter Mark Greenblatt paraphrased Chilton (first appointed by George W. Bush), insisting that big banks "gambling on oil are spiking the prices that you pay at the pump."
Greenblatt cited no one else in his story, simply repeating, "Now, Commissioner Chilton estimates that speculators actually play a part, as much as 90 percent of all trading that goes on during the day in energy futures markets, underscoring his point that this all impacts you in a big way, right here at the pump."
Compounding the one-sided nature of ABC's reporting, Greenblatt's story was simply a rehash of claims made by Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday:
Oil speculators, not a lack of domestic drilling, are to blame for the nation's rising gas prices, the top House Democrat argued Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said unscrupulous Wall Street investors have artificially inflated prices at the pump, which are climbing toward $4 per gallon.
The California Democrat called on Congress to take "strong action" to rein in the allegedly excessive speculation, and accused Republicans of protecting Wall Street profits at the expense of consumers.
A transcript of the February 23 World News segment can be found below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Tonight, under pressure. Soaring gas prices force the President to speak out today. And an alarming warning. Are Wall Street traders pocketing $10 every time you fill up your tank?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You see it, you feel it and most of you are angry about it. Gas prices, they've gone up every, single day for almost a month. 28 in a row. And with Americans from coast-to-coast fed up as they fill up, President Obama did what he could, today, to channel that anger. Speaking out to calm fears, explain the cause and make the case that he's not the one to blame. That may be a hard sell. And those runaway gas prices are certainly the President's political problem. Tonight, our reporters tackle the issue on two fronts, with a warning from a top government watchdog who tells us that a big chunk of the pain at the pump is Wall Street's fault.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, to the government watchdog who says you can bring down gas prices by cracking down on Wall Street. He claims that every time you fill up your tank, up to $15 goes straight into the pockets of traders. And tonight, the newest member of our ABC News team, Mark Greenblatt, an award-winning investigator from Houston, joins us for the first time with that story.
MARK GREENBLATT: You already know part of this story.
MAN: Outrageous and I think they are too high.
GREENBLATT: Because you pay for it every time you fill up. But as gas prices go up more-
BART CHILTON (U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission) Yeah, I'm fired up.
GREENBLATT: Commissioner Bart Chilton is fighting back. He is one of Wall Street's top regulators, sitting on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. And his warning that much of the problem is actually made in the USA. Ground zero? Wall Street, where he says big banks gambling on oil are spiking the prices that you pay at the pump.
CHILTON: There aren't any markets without speculators. It's the excessive speculation we're concerned about.
GREENBLATT: Chilton got a hold of this Wall Street report, which actually spells out just how much extra prices go up because Wall Street gambles on it. Chilton estimates it actually drives the price up as much as 22 percent, before it's sold to be made into gas. So, what does it all mean to you? According to Chilton, if you drive a Ford F-150 and fill-up a typical tank of gas, it will cost you an extra $14.56 that you pay right to Wall Street speculators. Or more than $750 over the course of a year. For their part, the big banks say there's no evidence that their trading is driving up the price of oil. But Chilton doesn't buy that argument, which is why he and the commission that he sits on are trying to rein the speculation in. But get this: Wall Street is actually suing them now, trying to keep things status quo.
CHILTON: They don't want these limits. They want unbridled ability to speculate in these markets. And that's not good for consumers. It's not good for markets. And it's not good for our economy.
GREENBLATT: Now, Commissioner Chilton estimates that speculators actually play a part, as much as 90 percent of all trading that goes on during the day in energy futures markets, underscoring his point that this all impacts you in a big way, right here at the pump. George?