NBC's 'Today' Raises 'Vast Right Wing Conspiracy' On Gas Prices

     Less than two weeks before the November elections, an NBC “Today” show co-host asked, “are we being manipulated” by falling gas prices. Reporter Carl Quintanilla dismissed the idea but still cast “Big Oil” and conservatives as “on the defensive” over the baseless claims.


     “The good news is that gas prices are down. But do the elections have anything to do with it,” anchor Meredith Vieira wondered as she teased a story in the first half hour of the October 25 program.


     Later in the same half-hour, co-host Matt Lauer noted that “falling gas prices” were “fueling conspiracy theories.” “The price of a gallon of gas” is at $2.21 a gallon, reported Lauer adding, “Is it a coincidence? Some people say no.”


     From there correspondent Carl Quintanilla picked up the story.


     “As conspiracy theories go, this one’s a doozy,” he said, going on to blame “Internet blogs” and “liberal talk radio” for fanning the flames. Quintanilla chalked up the price drop to a calm hurricane season and supply and demand factors and included a sound bite from independent trader Eric Bolling making a similar point.


     Yet even as he debunked the validity of the conspiracy charge, Quintanilla set out to put the oil industry, and conservatives, on the hot seat.


     Asserting that “Big Oil’s on the defensive,” Quintanilla characterized a recent statement from a Shell Oil executive who denied working with the White House to fix prices as “strong denials even as others see a vast right wing conspiracy that leads right from the pump to the booth.”


     What’s more, missing from Quintanilla’s story was any reference to how mainstream media journalists like CNN’s Jack Cafferty have toyed with the liberal conspiracy theory.


     “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.”


     After a few days to rethink his conspiracy theory, Cafferty stood by his claim on the September 2 edition of “In the Money,” a weekend business program.


     “Certainly the thought had crossed my mind. I mean, the oil companies have a vested interest in seeing that the Republicans remain in control of the federal government,” Cafferty told co-host Jennifer Westhoven, before adding facetiously, “They wouldn't pull prices down before the mid-terms now, would they?”