Wash. Post Notes Popularity of Gas Price Conspiracy Theories Among General Public

     Washington Post reporter Steven Mufson devoted an October 6 Business section article to how “Conspiracy Theories Abound as Oil Prices Fluctuate.” Yet while Mufson gave credit to CNN’s Miles O’Brien for dismissing conspiracy enthusiasts, he left out how O’Brien’s colleague Jack Cafferty entertained the notion on the network.


     “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 mused on the August 30 “Situation Room.” Cafferty again raised his suspicions on the September 2 “In the Money,” a weekend business week-in-review program which he anchors as panel moderator.


     “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 fellow panelist and CNN reporter Jennifer Westhoven before quipping, “They wouldn't pull prices down before the mid-terms now, would they?”


     While Mufson credited O’Brien for dismissing conspiracy theory-peddling bloggers as a “grassy knoll group,” the Post reporter failed to mention career journalist Cafferty’s toying with the price-fixing theory.


     What’s more, while O’Brien may not believe that oil companies are artificially driving prices down in order to help political allies in the November elections, he has previously hinted that a run-up in prices was not merely a matter of supply and demand.


     As the Business & Media Institute reported on Oct. 28, 2005, O’Brien slammed petroleum firms for their profit margins, accusing them of “profiteering” while asking if they had violated “some law” and insisting that prices were set higher than should have been when adjusted for the rising price of oil.


     Essentially O’Brien was hinting that oil companies engaged in post-Katrina price gouging, an allegation disproven by the Federal Trade Commission in a report released on May 22.


     Among the findings, the FTC found “no evidence to suggest that refiners,” “petroleum pipeline companies” or oil companies acted in a concerted effort to spike prices. What’s more, the FTC concluded, it was practically impossible for “one firm – or a small collusive group – to manipulate gasoline futures prices.”