NBC Notes Lack of Economic Confidence; Blames “Record” Gas Price

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on Tuesday night wondered, “with many of the numbers and many economists saying the economy is in good shape in this country, the question is: Why isn't President Bush benefitting from that?” Reporter Kelly O'Donnell inadvertently provided part of the answer when she suggested the lack of public confidence in the economy is “fueled most notably by record gas prices, an issue the White House concedes overshadows other economic successes." But while gas prices are rising, they are far short a “record” high price. NBC isn’t alone in spreading this canard. On Monday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer asserted that “the government reported today that gas prices jumped eight cents in the past week to a record high of $2.37 a gallon. And oil soared to another record high, today just short now of $64 a barrel." The same night, ABC anchor Charles Gibson falsely cited how the cost of gas and oil “hit new highs.”

Full August 10 CyberAlert item follows. For today's MRC CyberAlert, click here.

Other items in today's CyberAlert:

> Good Morning America Features “Exclusive” Interview with Sheehan
> Koppel & Brown Deny Jennings Had Bias, Brown Tags Critics “Silly”

Now, the rest of the above-summarized CyberAlert article:

In fact, adjusted for inflation -- which is the only way to accurately measure any cost trend -- to match the record price of 1980, gas would have to exceed $2.97 a gallon and a barrel of oil would need to go over $90.

Williams set up the August 9 NBC Nightly News piece: "And as for President Bush today, he was talking about the economy, talking up some recent economic indicators that are showing the country on solid footing. Those recent numbers were one of the reasons behind today's decision by the Federal Reserve Board to raise a key interest rate by a quarter point to 3.5 percent, the tenth increase since June of last year. Wall Street was happy with what the Fed did. The Dow gained almost 79 points, NASDAQ composite was up just under 10 points on the day.
“So with many of the numbers and many economists saying the economy is in good shape in this country, the question is: Why isn't President Bush benefitting from that? NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is at the President's vacation ranch, the western White House in Texas, with more on that."

O'Donnell began, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth: "Casual Tuesday for the Bush economic team at the western White House today. Assembled here to button up a range of facts and figures, touting evidence of the country's prosperity."
George W. Bush in Crawford: "The economy is growing faster than any other major industrialized country. Job growth is strong."
O'Donnell: "Add to that low inflation, below average unemployment, the kind of good news that typically drives favorable public opinion. But President Bush isn't getting the credit."
Karlyn Bowman, public opinion analyst: "But Americans at this point just don't feel it in their everyday lives, and that's the problem for the White House."
O'Donnell, over a graphic for an AP poll: "Just 41 percent of Americans polled last week approve of the President's handling of the economy, a six-point slide from 47 percent in March. Experts say many Americans are distracted from upbeat indicators by the war and other issues."
Bowman: "There clearly is a spillover from the war in Iraq, and I think there often is a lag in consumer confidence."
O'Donnell maintained: "Fueled most notably by record gas prices, an issue the White House concedes overshadows other economic successes."
Bush: "First of all, we have a challenge when it comes to energy."
O'Donnell: "And another challenge creating broader gains. Lower-income Americans are saving less, and their wages have been slower to rise. Experts say public perceptions often trail behind signs of growth in the economy. Looking to speed that process, the White House is selling hard, hoping to earn more of the credit. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, with the President in Crawford."

All year the networks have been pushing the erroneous “record high” gas and oil price line. Previous CyberAlert items:

# March 17 CyberAlert: The futures price for a barrel of oil and the cost of a gallon of gas at the retail pump have been soaring, but they are far from record highs, yet the networks make that false assertion. On Wednesday night, Peter Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight, the price of oil is at another record high." Betsy Stark soon issued an inaccurate prediction that "gas prices are now within a penny of their all-time record." On CNN, Erica Hill referred to how "crude oil prices hit a record high today closing" and the "AAA predicts U.S. gas prices could reach an all-time high tomorrow." CBS's Bob Schieffer insisted that "the price of oil hit a record $56 a barrel today." NBC's Brian Williams declared that "the price of oil set a new record high -- $56 a barrel." PBS's Jim Lehrer maintained that "the price of crude oil rose to an all-time high today." FNC's Shepard Smith warned: "The cost of oil hitting an all-time high. It looks like the cost of gas is not far from behind." In fact, adjusted for inflation, oil will have to hit $90 a barrel to set a record high and gasoline would reach a record not at $2.07 per gallon but at a $2.97. See:

# March 18 CyberAlert: CBS's Bob Schieffer repeated the error as he referred to how "the price of gasoline hit a record today" at $2.06 a gallon, but then he contradicted himself as he acknowledged that "adjusted for inflation, that's still about a dollar short" of the 1981 price. Meanwhile, NBC's Brian Williams again made the false claim that "retail prices for regular gasoline hit a record average of a little more than $2.05 a gallon," an inaccurate charge made on all the morning shows on Thursday. On Wednesday, Today's Matt Lauer had noted that "some economists are saying that if you take inflation into account that these prices are relatively better than for example some times in the late 1970s and the 1980s," but that didn't dissuade Today news reader Ann Curry, who proclaimed on Thursday morning: "Today gasoline prices are at a record high."

# March 22 CyberAlert: Gas prices have "forced" a man to sleep at the office? The CBS Evening News on Monday night aired its silliest story since Bob Schieffer slid into the anchor chair nearly two weeks ago. After forwarding the canard about how gas prices "hit a new record," Schieffer warned that in Southern California "gas prices are forcing some drivers to take drastic action." Sandra Hughes looked a man who is "forced by economics to drive up to five hours a day" to his job in Malibu since he supposedly "can't afford to move closer to work" and "can't work closer to home," so he "sleeps overnight on a cot in his office."

# April 6 CyberAlert: Adjusted for inflation, oil will have to top $90 a barrel to set a record and gas $2.97 a gallon at the retail pump, but network anchors continue to falsely describe much lower prices as a "record" high. On NBC's Today on Tuesday morning, Ann Curry asserted: "Gas prices have hit a record for a third week in a row, now averaging $2.22 a gallon for regular." The night before, CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer called $58 a barrel "the highest price ever" for oil and claimed that $2.22 a gallon "for self-serve regular" represented "yet another record."

# April 12 CyberAlert: Adjusted for inflation, gas at the retail pump will have to hit $2.97 to match a record high, but that didn't deter ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday from falsely describing much lower prices as a "record" high price. "Gasoline hit yet another record high," CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer insisted as he cited a $2.28 price. ABC's Good Morning America painted "Record Breaking Gas Prices" on screen over a story in which David Muir claimed that "the price of a gallon of regular gas is now at an all-time high" and highlighted a woman who supposedly moved in order to avoid driving. Katie Couric declared on NBC's Today: "Gasoline prices have hit an all-time high today averaging $2.32 a gallon." Couric soon suggested that "political analysts say one of the main reasons" for President Bush's falling approval level "is the record high gas prices." Maybe it wouldn't be such a problem if the media weren't making such false statements about "record" high prices.

Oil & Gas Prices NBC Nightly News
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