Focus on Exxon Profits, Skip How Government Gets More in Taxes --4/28/2006
2. Morning Shows Ignore How Big Government Takes More than Big Oil
3. Low Consumer Confidence Baffles Couric, But What Has NBC Shown?
4. Ari to O'Reilly: Stupid Questions Have Led to Media's Decline
5. Left-Winger Rosie O'Donnell to Replace Vieira on ABC's The View
The broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday night hyperventilated over "record" profits for ExxonMobil, but failed to point out how government taxes exceed oil company earnings. ABC even fretted about how much ExxonMobil "spent rewarding shareholders," though it was less than the federal government took in taxes, and NBC excoriated the company for "cashing in" at 9.5 cents per dollar.
"Today, ExxonMobil reported profits of $8.4 billion for the first three months of this year, its best first quarter ever," ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas asserted at the top of World News Tonight before Betsy Stark complained: "The company says that's a record level of investment in new supplies. Maybe so, but it's less than it spent rewarding shareholders. 15 percent of profits went directly to shareholders in the form of cash dividends, and the biggest chunk, 40 percent, was used to repurchase Exxon's own stock." But ExxonMobil paid 83 percent as much as the $8.4 billion it earned, $7 billion, $2 billion more than a year earlier, in just federal income tax -- and a lot more in other taxes.
Over on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams promised, in his tease, "a reality check on sky-high oil company profits," but all Lisa Myers delivered was demagoguery. Myers began by charging that "for outraged consumers, the staggering profit numbers boil down to this: Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process." Yes, ExxonMobil cashed in by investing and working to get their product to the retail customer while the federal government collected 18.4 cents per gallon in tax for doing nothing. Federal, state and local taxes total an average of 46 cents per gallon -- significantly more than the 28 cents Exxon earned on a $3 gallon of gas.
Without any mention of barriers put up by environmentalists, Myers also relayed how "consumer groups argue that oil companies are profiting unfairly from their own failure to invest in refineries, which is now driving up gas prices."
[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
The CBS Evening News held its coverage of ExxonMobil's profits to the tease and introduction of its lead story on comments from the Fed Chairman and the latest silly pandering ideas from politicians. Anchor Bob Schieffer teased:
Schieffer opened his newscast: "Good evening. And there are no surprises tonight. Gas prices are still going up, and so are profits for ExxonMobil. The world's largest publicly traded oil company set another record. Profits of $8.4 billion dollars for the first three months of the year, the company's best ever first quarter. The big part of that comes from overseas sales, but economists still wonder what the impact is going to be on the economy of this country. That was the question when the Chairman of the Federal Reserve went to Capitol Hill today. Here's Byron Pitts."
In his Thursday afternoon NewsBusters posting (reprinted as CyberAlert item #2 below) on morning show coverage of ExxonMobil's anticipated first quarter earnings report, "Networks Ignore How Big Government Rakes In More than Big Oil," the MRC's Rich Noyes recounted: "Unstated in the network coverage was the fact that the U.S. government took in more than $7 billion [in income tax] from ExxonMobil during the first quarter of 2006, a jump of more than $2 billion from the same time period in 2005. And that doesn't count the more than $7.6 billion in excise taxes -- the gas tax -- that ExxonMobil collected for the government during the same quarter. Plus another $11 billion in 'other taxes' and ExxonMobil sent the government more than $25 billion in the first quarter of 2006 -- three times more than the amount [$8.4 billion] network reporters seem to feel is obscene." See: newsbusters.org
ExxonMobil's posting of its first quarter results: home.businesswire.com
A September Tax Foundation analysis, "Local, State and Federal Gas Taxes Consume 45.9 Cents Per Gallon on Average," cited the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax and provided a state-by-state "effective gasoline taxes per gallon" map. Notably, the most liberal states with the most demagogic politicians on the Big Oil profits topic, have the highest taxes. Federal and state taxes, for instance, top 60 cents per gallon in New York. See: www.taxfoundation.org
The American Petroleum Institute has posted a PDF, "State Motor Fuel Excise Tax Rates," with very detailed state-by-state data: api-ec.api.org
Now, as provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, who corrected the closed-captioning against the video, the April 27 ABC and CBS coverage of ExxonMobil's earnings:
# ABC's World News Tonight. Elizabeth Vargas, in opening teaser: "I'm Elizabeth Vargas. Tonight, the world's largest oil company reports record profits as Senators look for ways to save Americans pennies at the pump."
Vargas soon opened the newscast: "Good evening. We begin with the rising oil pressure in the United States, fast becoming the country's economic and political priority. For oil companies, the economics could hardly be better. Today, ExxonMobil reported profits of $8.4 billion for the first three months of this year, its best first quarter ever. For consumers and politicians, it's more complicated. President Bush took time out on his trip to the Gulf Coast today to stop at a gas station, where he said high prices are like a new tax on working Americans. But as ABC's Betsy Stark explains, there is little agreement on how to find a solution."
Betsy Stark: "In Washington today, it was hard to find a politician who wasn't talking about gas prices."
Lisa Myers, over the supposedly embarrassing number on screen: "For outraged consumers, the staggering profit numbers boil down to this: Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process."
All three network morning shows played the envy card Thursday morning, as they hyped the "record high profits" and "corporate greed" of American oil companies. High on their agenda: ExxonMobil's announcement of $8.4 billion in profits, which the networks implied was scandalous given the high price of oil.
But unstated in the network coverage was the fact that the U.S. government took in more than $7 billion from ExxonMobil during the first quarter of 2006, a jump of more than $2 billion from the same time period in 2005. And that doesn't count the more than $7.6 billion in excise taxes -- the gas tax -- that ExxonMobil collected for the government during the same quarter. Plus another $11 billion in "other taxes" and ExxonMobil sent the government more than $25 billion in the first quarter of 2006 -- three times more than the amount network reporters seem to feel is obscene.
Big Government is making more off of high gas prices than Big Oil.
[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, Newsbusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
If it was a contest, the anchors and reporters of CBS's The Early Show seemed the most outraged by the "greed" of oil companies this morning. Co-host Renee Syler teased at the top of the show: "As Americans struggle to keep up with high gas prices, oil companies are reporting record earnings. Is this a case of corporate greed out of control?"
The drumbeat resumed a few minutes later. "As consumers pay record highs at the pump, oil companies are reporting record profits," co-host Hannah Storm announced. Reporter Bianca Solorzano amplified: "America's big oil companies are announcing record high profits. Wednesday, Conoco Phillips reported first quarter earnings just over $3 billion. Later today, ExxonMobil is projected to announce more than $9 billion in profits. And on Friday, Chevron is expected to announce close to $4 billion in profits. These increasing profits are raising questions of corporate greed."
She ended by suggesting dividing the wealth: "Exxon Mobil could make a record $41 billion in profit by the end of this year. That's enough money to give every American man, woman and child a check for $137."
As for "record profits," ExxonMobil's actual profits, announced later in the morning, amounted to $8.4 billion, $1 billion less than CBS predicted and a 22 percent decline from the $10.7 billion achieved in the fourth quarter of 2005. See the reports posted here: home.businesswire.com
Similarly, during ABC's 7am news update, Good Morning America's Robin Roberts played to the public's emotion: "Now to those ever rising gas prices sure to fuel drivers' anger. The world's largest oil company, ExxonMobil, is expected to announce record breaking profits this morning in the neighborhood of $9 billion. The nation's top five companies combined profits are an estimated $27 billion."
During the 9am news update on Today, after the actual figures were announced, NBC's Ann Curry noted "ExxonMobil reported record first quarter earnings and profits that were up 7% over last year. On Wednesday, as part of an investigation into industry profits and soaring pump prices, the Senate Finance Committee asked to see tax returns from major oil and gas companies." While Curry spoke, viewers saw (but did not hear) New York Democrat Charles Schumer in front of a gas station price sign, presumably railing against the oil companies.
As for ExxonMobil, in 2005 the company reported paying just under $99 billion in taxes -- $23.3 billion in income taxes, $30.7 billion in excise taxes, and $44.6 billion in "other taxes." And yet politicians are preparing to extract still more in taxes from the big oil companies, as if those costs won't ultimately be incurred by consumers. AP story: www.breitbart.com
NBC's Today show on Thursday was full of negative news for President Bush, as it usually is, so it was a bit surprising when Katie Couric asked Tim Russert why the President hasn't gained from positive consumer confidence. Maybe it's because, according to a quick Nexis search of Today, the phrase "consumer confidence" hasn't even been uttered all year long.
During an April 27 segment on the bad news for the President in NBC's latest poll which pegged Bush's approval at 36 percent, Couric noted: "We just see the right direction, wrong track question Tim and we can follow that by the economy. Only 19 percent feel confident when it comes to, excuse me, the economy and 77 percent are uneasy. One of Josh Bolten's five point plans, as you know, Tim was to brag more about the economy and there is good news. Consumer confidence this month is at its highest in four years. The Dow is trading at a six-year high. Obviously they've got their work cut out for them, but why aren't some of those good things reflected in the poll numbers?"
[This item is excerpted from a Thursday afternoon posting, by the MRC's Geoff Dickens, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Russert answered: "Gasoline prices, Katie and Iraq. Three out of four Americans believe that they don't have confidence in the economy. And yet as you said some of the indicators are quite good. But when people go to the gas pump and it costs them $60, $70 to fill up their car and they hear the Today show every morning when they wake up, more deaths in Iraq the administration hopes that some of the steps they're gonna take with gasoline prices and the new government in Iraq will begin to pacify things and by the summer things will stabilize for the President's poll ratings."
In the first interview segment on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor on Wednesday night, Bill O'Reilly told former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer that it would be nice to be able to tell reporters like Helen Thomas (politely) that everyone knows they have an agenda, but they can't. Ari responded by saying that questions that the public thinks are stupid is one reason the media are in decline in public esteem: "The Press Secretary's job is to mix it up a little bit with the press in a respectful way but also in the modern media world, where the country gets to watch the questions, that's one of the reasons I think, Bill, the press is in decline substantially because they bring a bit of it on themselves. I know one reporter who once said there's no such thing as a stupid question. I think the reality is, the public watches some of these questions, not all, but some of them, and they think, that was really a stupid question."
(Actually, as for O'Reilly's point, Fleischer grew confident enough to suggest that to Helen, saying after the 2002 elections, that "Helen, you sound like a [campaign] commercial that didn't work." See: www.mrc.org )
The above was excerpted from a Thursday posting, by the MRC's Tim Graham, on the MRC's NewsBusters blog. To read all of what Graham wrote about Fleischer and the White House press corps, go to: newsbusters.org
ABC on Friday is expected to name the comedic lesbian activist/former daytime host Rosie O'Donnell as Meredith Vieira's replacement on ABC's daytime show, The View, the AP reported in confirming a pick first reported by the syndicated Extra TV show. Last year, O'Donnell declared: "This President invaded a sovereign nation in defiance of the UN. He is basically a war criminal. Honestly. He should be tried at The Hague."
The lead of David Bauder's late Thursday night dispatch for the AP:
For Bauder's report in full: news.yahoo.com
the The View, which may have been taped earlier in the week, made no mention of
The MRC's Tim Graham observed in a Thursday night NewsBusters blog posting: "The circle of liberalism is complete. Liberal Katie Couric, replaced by liberal Meredith Vieira, replaced by liberal (to put it mildly) Rosie O'Donnell. That's quite a jump from Vieira, a news anchor-type who was said to be 'the glue.' From the glue to unglued." Graham then provided "some Rosie stunners over the years," to which I added some links to audio and/or video clips. For the examples and links to the audio/video, go to: newsbusters.org
Or, just read on below:
# In 2004, she told ABC's Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America that Bush was historically heinous for mildly suggested he opposed so-called gay marriage: "I think the actions of the President, which are, you know, in my opinion, the most vile and hateful words ever spoken by a sitting President, in my opinion." For details, check the February 27, 2004 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
# In 2000, she insisted to National Review that the National Rifle Association didn't care about the children: "I would say, maybe their own kids, but not kids in general. The only life that is important to them is white, Republican life. Regardless of skin color, it offends me when someone is shot dead in America. [The NRA's position] is based on financial gain, not patriotism or love of children."
Go to go to the May 21, 1999 CyberAlert where you'll be able to stream a five-minute long, very small and low-quality 45 kbps RealPlayer clip: www.mediaresearch.org
-- Brent Baker