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Focus on Exxon Profits, Skip How Government Gets More in Taxes --4/28/2006


1. Focus on Exxon Profits, Skip How Government Gets More in Taxes
The broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday night hyperventilated over "record" $8.4 billion first quarter profits for ExxonMobil, but failed to point out how government taxes exceed oil company earnings. ABC's 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, in just federal income tax -- and a lot more in other taxes. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams promised "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 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.

2. Morning Shows Ignore How Big Government Takes More than Big Oil
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.

3. Low Consumer Confidence Baffles Couric, But What Has NBC Shown?
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.

4. Ari to O'Reilly: Stupid Questions Have Led to Media's Decline
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."

5. Left-Winger Rosie O'Donnell to Replace Vieira on ABC's The View
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."


Focus on Exxon Profits, Skip How Government
Gets More in Taxes

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:
"I'm Bob Schieffer. A big day for ExxonMobil as it marks another record profit. But will rising gas prices set off inflation again? That's what economists are wondering."

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

An October, 2005 Tax Foundation analysis, "State and Federal Treasuries 'Profit' More from Gasoline Sales than U.S. Oil Industry," reported: "Federal and state taxes on gasoline production and imports have been climbing steadily since the late 1970s and now total roughly $58.4 billion. Due in part to substantial hikes in the federal gasoline excise tax in 1983, 1990, and 1993, annual tax revenues have continued to grow. Since 1977, governments collected more than $1.34 trillion, after adjusting for inflation, in gasoline tax revenues -- more than twice the amount of domestic profits earned by major U.S. oil companies during the same period." See: www.taxfoundation.org

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."
Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader: "Our plan that would give taxpayers a $100 gas tax holiday rebate check."
Senator Tim Johnson (R-SD): "Filling up your gas tank shouldn't empty your wallet."
Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader: "On the floor today, there's an opportunity to pass real reform."
Stark: "The proposals ranged from a federal gas tax holiday and $100 rebate checks for drivers to a bill that would reward commuters who switch to bikes. But Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, making his own appearance on Capitol Hill, said there are no quick fixes."
Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman: "Unfortunately, there's nothing really that can be done that's going to affect energy prices or gasoline prices in the very short run."
Stark: "While Washington debated how to get gas prices down, on Wall Street it was clear, once again, how profitable high gas prices are for the big oil companies. The $8.4 billion in profits ExxonMobil reported today was its best first quarter ever. The company declined to talk to us on camera today, but the world's biggest oil company seemed to expect there would be questions about how those profits will be spent. It placed ads in several major newspapers today highlighting the billions Exxon is spending around the world to develop new energy supplies. But according to the company's own financial statement, last year only 30 percent of the oil giant's $36 billion in profits went to exploration and increasing capacity. 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."
Prof. John Coffee, Columbia University School of Law: "Repurchases tend to raise, tend to spike stock price in a company, which benefits all shareholders and particularly management which hold stock options."
Stark concluded: "ExxonMobil told us today that whether the company is making record profits or even losing money, it invests consistently in finding new sources of oil. But with supplies so tight and profits so high, there are lots of people who would like to see them invest even more."


# NBC Nightly News, with anchor Brian Williams in New Orleans, led with the continuing Katrina clean-up and President Bush's visit to the Crescent City. After a note about Bush stopping by a Biloxi gas station, Williams set up Lisa Myers:
"Gas prices were the main topic on Capitol Hill again today as well, and Senate Republicans there on the Hill unveiled their plan to try to ease the pain over gas prices. Among the proposals, they have outlined a $100 per taxpayer rebate linked to opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, looser permitting rules for new refineries, and a rollback of recent tax breaks for the oil industry. All of this comes as oil companies are reporting more massive earnings. ExxonMobil just today reported $8.4 billion for the first quarter, the fifth highest quarterly earnings number on record. Those numbers are infuriating a lot of Americans. NBC News senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has more."

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."
John Kilduff, oil trader: "Big money for ExxonMobil is being made by taking crude oil out of the ground and refining it into gasoline, and selling it at the street corner."
Myers: "Though consumers clearly feel gouged, are oil industry profits out of line with other industries? An oil industry ad dubbed 'Straight Talk' claims they are not, and highlights a multi-year average that is lower than current profits. In fact, the oil industry's profit margin last year was 8.5 percent, higher than the average for all industries, but less than half the profit of banks. Consumer groups argue that oil companies are profiting unfairly from their own failure to invest in refineries, which is now driving up gas prices."
Mark Cooper, Ph.D., Consumer Federation of America: "People's budgets are being clobbered by companies who have failed to expand capacity, failed to compete, and then stockholders get rewarded, executives get rewarded, and the people suffer."
Myers: "What about CEO pay? Chevron's CEO received $37 million in total compensation last year. ConocoPhillips' CEO, $17 million. Big numbers, but experts say in line with Wall Street's inflated standards. Then there's Exxon's CEO and his $400 million pay and retirement package, which an industry spokesman still defends."
John Felmy, American Petroleum Institute: "One has to compare any executive's compensation with the performance of the companies that they manage."
Myers concluded: "Oil industry officials also argue that some profits are passed on to average Americans who invest in the companies, but critics say in most cases, those dividends won't begin to offset the high cost of gas, and the outrage. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington."

Morning Shows Ignore How Big Government
Takes More than Big Oil

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

Low Consumer Confidence Baffles Couric,
But What Has NBC Shown?

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."

Ari to O'Reilly: Stupid Questions Have
Led to Media's Decline

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

Left-Winger Rosie O'Donnell to Replace
Vieira on ABC's The View

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:
"Rosie O'Donnell is expected to make a surprise return to daytime television by taking over exiting Meredith Vieira's slot on the talk show The View.
"O'Donnell's appointment was reported Thursday by the newsmagazine Extra. It was confirmed by a person close to the show who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because "The View" wanted to make the announcement on Friday's show."

For Bauder's report in full: news.yahoo.com

[UPDATE: Friday's the The View, which may have been taped earlier in the week, made no mention of Rosie O'Donnell.]

The View is produced live most days at 11am ET, and most ABC affiliates carry at that time.

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:

# Last year on FNC's Geraldo Rivera showcase, in an April 30 outburst which earned her the "I'm Not a Political Genius But I Play One on TV Award" at the MRC's DisHonors Awards, Rosie proclaimed: "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." For an audio/video clip as played at our March 30 DisHonors awards: www.mrc.org


||

# In case you thought that was just an off night for Rosie, guess again. Subbing in on The View for Star Jones Reynolds, O'Donnell repeated herself to Sean Hannity, who proclaimed: "Rosie, you guys, all you guys on the left, you demonize this President. You once called George Bush a war criminal." O'Donnell shot back: "He is. He should be tried at the Hague!" Go to the June 9, 2005 MRC CyberAlert for an MP3 audio clip: www.mediaresearch.org


# 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."

# On her daytime show in 1999, she stunned actor Tom Selleck by getting in his face about his support for gun rights: "There's no reason, in my opinion, to have [guns]," O'Donnell said as Selleck sipped his tea. "You want to have a hunting rifle, great! A hand gun, great!" Selleck retorted: "Do you really think the Second Amendment is in the Constitution to guarantee hunting and target shooting? Do you


really think that?" O'Donnell, to applause from her studio audience, replied: "I think [the Second Amendment] is in the Constitution so we can have muskets when the British people come over in 1800 -- I don't think it's in the Constitution to have assault weapons in the year 2000."

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

# Early in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, O'Donnell expressed her sympathy for Bill Clinton: He was "captivating...strikingly handsome...warm-hearted...He's a very good President and I would hate to have this tarnish his reputation or his place in history." See: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker