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Media Prism: Repubs 'Block' Lower Gas Prices by Spurning Tax Hike --6/11/2008


1. Media Prism: Repubs 'Block' Lower Gas Prices by Spurning Tax Hike
The three broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage, of a Democratic Senate plan to somehow lower gas prices by imposing a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies which they would just pass on to consumers, around how Republicans "blocked" the effort. No one cast any doubt on the presumption the oil companies are earning "windfall" and/or "excessive" profits. Fill-in NBC anchor Ann Curry's very short update: "Now to the high price of oil and gas. Senate Republicans today blocked a Democratic plan to impose a windfall profit tax on oil companies." CBS's Katie Couric, who unlike Curry at least noted how "Republicans said it would have done nothing to lower the price of gas," asserted: "Senate Republicans today blocked Democrats from slapping a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies." ABC twice displayed on screen text favorable to the liberal position: "Senate Republicans block Democratic plan to tax oil companies' windfall profits." And: "Special tax for excessive oil profits."

2. CNN's Blitzer Mouths Liberal Talking Points on Taxes, Oil Profits
CNN's Wolf Blitzer pressed McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina, about oil companies "awash in record profits," on Tuesday's The Situation Room. The CNN host used ExxonMobil as an example five different times in his questioning: "ExxonMobil has got these billions and billions of dollars in record profits. They can afford to not necessarily get additional tax cuts." After Fiorina outlined McCain's proposal to lower the federal business tax rate at the beginning of the segment, which began 14 minutes into the 5 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, Blitzer took a persistent stance in asking if the reduction in taxes included "big oil." First, the CNN host asked: "Would that reduction of the tax rate also include, as Obama says, ExxonMobil and the other big oil companies, who are awash in record profits?" Once Fiorina answered by making the point that Obama's proposal "to levy a windfall profits tax against oil companies will only do two things for the American consumer -- limit supply and raise prices, neither of which is very good," Blitzer rephrased his original question: "So, in other words, is Obama right when he says, under a McCain administration, ExxonMobil would get additional tax breaks?"

3. Matthews: McCain = Staying On the Titanic, Obama = Deliverance
Chris Matthews put the choice before voters in 2008 in the starkest terms possible on Tuesday's Hardball as he claimed a vote for McCain was akin to staying on a sinking Titanic while a vote for Obama was a chance at "deliverance." Matthews started the day citing the line on "Morning Joe" and continued that line of attack later on the June 10 edition of Hardball: "You're on this big comfortable ocean liner and it's starting to sink. Do you board the little life boat or stay on the big ship with the light still shining, the band still playing? You're the American voter, the year is 2008 and you've got till November to decide. Let's play Hardball!"

4. Matthews Gets Touchy About Attacks on His Old Boss Jimmy Carter
Chris Matthews was not happy and seemed overly sensitive when John McCain compared Barack Obama to his old boss Jimmy Carter. On Tuesday night's Hardball, after Matthews played a clip of McCain saying Obama was running for "Carter's second" term, he declared "I don't like it," and tried to write the attack off by saying not enough voters "even remembered voting for the guy."

5. Poor Economy Leading to Suicides? Cuomo Invokes Great Depression
On Tuesday's Good Morning America, highlighting the Great Depression, increased suicides and a so-far non-existent recession, GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo declared that in the current economy, people are "struggling to pay for the basic necessities" and that such a "heavy burden" could lead to "pressure [that] can cause your body to start breaking down." Cuomo hyperbolically connected modern, stress-induced medical problems with suicides during the calamitous Great Depression: "The link between financial troubles and psychological problems is well documented. In the U.S., the seminal example is the Great Depression when the suicide rate jumped from 14 to 17 for every 100,000 Americans." Interestingly, Cuomo's comments, which included mentioning the "threat of recession," didn't even go as far as the ABC graphic produced for the piece. It deceptively read, "Recession Depression: Beating the Economic Blues." Now, considering that a recession is two quarters of negative economic growth, and the United States hasn't even had one, that's more than just sloppy journalism.


Media Prism: Repubs 'Block' Lower Gas
Prices by Spurning Tax Hike

The three broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday framed coverage, of a Democratic Senate plan to somehow lower gas prices by imposing a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies which they would just pass on to consumers, around how Republicans "blocked" the effort. No one cast any doubt on the presumption the oil companies are earning "windfall" and/or "excessive" profits.

Fill-in NBC anchor Ann Curry's very short update: "Now to the high price of oil and gas. Senate Republicans today blocked a Democratic plan to impose a windfall profit tax on oil companies." CBS's Katie Couric, who unlike Curry at least noted how "Republicans said it would have done nothing to lower the price of gas," asserted: "Senate Republicans today blocked Democrats from slapping a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies."

ABC twice displayed on screen text favorable to the liberal position: "Senate Republicans block Democratic plan to tax oil companies' windfall profits." And: "Special tax for excessive oil profits."

"In Washington today," ABC anchor Charles Gibson fretted, "instead of addressing the nation's concerns about high gas prices, the Senate killed a new energy bill." Senate Democrats, he explained, "have proposed a windfall profits tax on big oil companies. Republicans blocked it, arguing it would do nothing really to bring down gas prices."

Jake Tapper reported: "Killed on the Senate floor today, a Democratic energy bill that would have imposed a windfall profits tax on oil companies -- a special tax on excessive profits that oil companies don't reinvest in new energy sources." In his story centered on partisan gridlock, Tapper at least recalled: "Today's vote came just a few weeks after a Republican energy plan was killed, a bill to open more areas of the U.S. to drilling -- for instance, in Alaska."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

With "OIL PROFITS" as the on-screen header, Ann Curry announced on the NBC Nightly News: "Now to the high price of oil and gas. Senate Republicans today blocked a Democratic plan to impose a windfall profit tax on oil companies. That news came on a wild day on the oil markets as prices first surged, then fell back, and then finished down just over $3 at $131.31 a barrel."

With "WINDFALL PROFITS TAX" on screen, Katie Couric relayed on the CBS Evening News: "Senate Republicans today blocked Democrats from slapping a tax on the windfall profits of oil companies. The Republicans said it would have done nothing to lower the price of gas which tonight is a nationwide average $4.04 a gallon. The Energy Department predicted today gas prices will top out in August when they'll average $4.15 a gallon."

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Tuesday, June 10 edition of ABC's World News:

CHARLES GIBSON: In Washington today, instead of addressing the nation's concerns about high gas prices, the Senate killed a new energy bill, and the partisan divisions were evident, and were deep. Senate Democrats have proposed a windfall profits tax on big oil companies. Republicans blocked it, arguing it would do nothing really to bring down gas prices. Our chief political correspondent, Jake Tapper, is on Capitol Hill tonight. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, Charlie. Well, consumers looking to Congress to do something today about this energy crisis should probably look elsewhere. Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: The American people are worried.
MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The price of oil is just scaring the American people to death.
SENATOR BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): The American people are furious about what's going on.
TAPPER: But they cannot agree on much else. Killed on the Senate floor today, a Democratic energy bill that would have imposed a windfall profits tax on oil companies -- a special tax on excessive profits that oil companies don't reinvest in new energy sources. The bill also would have given the Attorney General the ability to sue OPEC countries for price-fixing. The bill died on a largely party-line vote.
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): I hope the people of this country rise up and scream like they've never screamed before. How dare us do nothing?
TAPPER: Today's vote came just a few weeks after a Republican energy plan was killed, a bill to open more areas of the U.S. to drilling -- for instance, in Alaska.
SENATOR KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Anyone in America who is filling their gas tank must think that Congress is fiddling while Rome burns.
MCCONNELL: It is a supply and demand problem.
TAPPER: Energy analysts say the prices of oil and gas are not coming down anytime soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We have a perfect storm of problems here that have come together -- security problems related to oil, environmental problems related to oil, and now price problems related to oil.
TAPPER: And yet, on Capitol Hill, gridlock.
SENATOR BERNARD SANDERS (I-VT): If this weren't so pathetic, it would really be funny.
TAPPER: Neither bill would have had any immediate impact on gas prices, which is, of course, what consumers are clamoring for, but experts were hoping that this crisis could prompt lawmakers to work together to come up with a bipartisan long-term solution. But, Charlie, that is not happening.

CNN's Blitzer Mouths Liberal Talking
Points on Taxes, Oil Profits

CNN's Wolf Blitzer pressed McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina, about oil companies "awash in record profits," on Tuesday's The Situation Room. The CNN host used ExxonMobil as an example five different times in his questioning: "ExxonMobil has got these billions and billions of dollars in record profits. They can afford to not necessarily get additional tax cuts."

After Fiorina outlined McCain's proposal to lower the federal business tax rate at the beginning of the segment, which began 14 minutes into the 5 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, Blitzer took a persistent stance in asking if the reduction in taxes included "big oil." First, the CNN host asked: "Would that reduction of the tax rate also include, as Obama says, ExxonMobil and the other big oil companies, who are awash in record profits?"

Once Fiorina answered by making the point that Obama's proposal "to levy a windfall profits tax against oil companies will only do two things for the American consumer -- limit supply and raise prices, neither of which is very good," Blitzer rephrased his original question: "So, in other words, is Obama right when he says, under a McCain administration, ExxonMobil would get additional tax breaks?"

[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

When Fiorina stuck to her point that McCain wanted to "lower the tax rate on all businesses, so that it is more in their interests to put jobs here in the U.S.," Blitzer continued to focus on "big oil:" "But no exemption for big oil and the -- no exemption for big oil then?" After the McCain adviser said there would be no exemption and tried to defend her answer, Blitzer continued to stress his point:

BLITZER: I understand the need to cut your taxes if you want to compete globally, which is the point you're trying to make but-
FIORINA: Well, but Barack Obama doesn't understand that.
BLITZER: I'm sure he understands that. But he also says ExxonMobil has got these billions and billions of dollars in record profits. They can afford to not necessarily get additional tax cuts.
FIORINA: But that isn't what Barack Obama's proposing. What Barack Obama is proposing is to tax the profits of oil companies. That's a different proposal. And taxing the profits of oil companies would do two things -- it would raise the price of oil and it would lower the supply. So it's not a good proposal for the American consumer....

This isn't the first time the CNN host has used this line of argument and questioning towards Fiorina on the subject of taxes and oil companies. About six weeks earlier, on May 1, Blitzer asked: "But what's wrong with a windfall profit tax? Exxon Mobil today announcing their first quarter profits almost $11 billion. They're raking it in right now....What do you say? Why not do what Hillary Clinton says, tax them a little bit more? They can certainly afford it better than working-class people...."

Later, Blitzer asked Fiorina about another point of Obama's, that the billions of dollars being spent on the Iraq war could be "invested in our roads and schools and bridges and started to rebuild America." Blitzer's point: "You could do a lot of money with $12 billion -- you can do a lot of things with $12 billion a month."

After Fiorina responded that "there's no question that the Iraq war is costing a lot of money" and that "Barack Obama has proposed no plan for how he is going to get out of Iraq successfully without creating genocide," Blitzer followed up: "The question is how much longer will the American taxpayers have to shell out $12 billion a month or $150 billion dollars a year or whatever it costs?"

Matthews: McCain = Staying On the Titanic,
Obama = Deliverance

Chris Matthews put the choice before voters in 2008 in the starkest terms possible on Tuesday's Hardball as he claimed a vote for McCain was akin to staying on a sinking Titanic while a vote for Obama was a chance at "deliverance." Matthews started the day citing the line on "Morning Joe" and continued that line of attack later on the June 10 edition of Hardball: "You're on this big comfortable ocean liner and it's starting to sink. Do you board the little life boat or stay on the big ship with the light still shining, the band still playing? You're the American voter, the year is 2008 and you've got till November to decide. Let's play Hardball!"

[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Tuesday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Matthews soon elaborated: "Let's say we're on the Titanic, as I said, and you knew it was sinking, some people are jumping off the huge ocean liner and getting to lifeboats that are bobbing out there in the cold, dark ocean. You look around the Titanic, the lights are still on, the music's still playing, the ship's still above the water, it seems secure. You've been comfortable there before. Do you stay on the Titanic, knowing it might sink, or do you get into that crowded lifeboat and take a chance with the unknown dangers of the ocean at night? That's what a lot of people feel about this election right now. It's future change versus past security. Barack Obama, young, little known candidate, is all about change. John McCain, a familiar member of the Washington establishment, as defined by his hawkish views on national security. Tonight we're gonna take a look at the decision in '08. And joining us right now is Pat Buchanan and Joan Walsh and John Harwood. So Pat, you're first. That's a big decision. You gotta decide to get out of the big boat that's sinking-
PAT BUCHANAN: Right.
MATTHEWS: -and get in the little boat or stay there.
BUCHANAN: I think you stay on the big boat and go on down with it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Ha! That's what you did with Nixon! You never talked.
BUCHANAN: What, look, what, what Barack offers is, you're right, he offers freshness, youth, change but also risk.
MATTHEWS: And deliverance.

To see how Matthews started the day by comparing a vote to McCain to staying on the Titanic: Newsbusters.org

Matthews Gets Touchy About Attacks on
His Old Boss Jimmy Carter

Chris Matthews was not happy and seemed overly sensitive when John McCain compared Barack Obama to his old boss Jimmy Carter. On Tuesday night's Hardball, after Matthews played a clip of McCain saying Obama was running for "Carter's second" term, he declared "I don't like it," and tried to write the attack off by saying not enough voters "even remembered voting for the guy."

[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Tuesday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The following exchanges occurred throughout the June 10 edition of Hardball:

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Look John McCain has a more complicated task because he's got to try to discredit Obama but also say he's not gonna be like George Bush either. And I think the difficulty of this task is highlighted by, you look at the examples, Barack Obama is saying John McCain would be George Bush's third term and McCain comes back with Jimmy Carter. Well you know there are a lot of voters out there saying, "And who was Jimmy Carter exactly?" They don't remember that.
MATTHEWS: I know.
HARWOOD: It's a long, a lot of water under the dam since Jimmy Carter was president.
MATTHEWS: I was trying to think Pat [Buchanan], Pat, you know, Pat. 28 years ago Jimmy Carter left office and I'm trying to think about people, somebody said you have to be, have to be 50, you gotta be 50, at least, to have even remembered voting for the guy.

...

MATTHEWS: Are you old enough, are, are you old enough to remember the 1980 race? I remember it quite well.

HEIDI HARRIS, TALK SHOW HOST: Oh thank you for that!
MATTHEWS ON HOW DEMS SHOULD TIE MCCAIN TO BUSH: I was working in the White House. Well I just remember how brilliant Reagan was and his people like Jimmy Baker. They just blamed Jimmy Carter for everything that was wrong in the world. If inflation was going up because of the commodity price spike in the world -- it was Carter's fault. Everything was Carter's fault. The inflation was his fault, the interest rates his fault, the Iranian hostages were his fault. Don't you think the Democrats are stupid not to play that game?

...

HARRIS: Well I think it's true that Jimmy Carter was at fault for all of those things but secondly-

...

[BEGIN CLIP]
JOHN MCCAIN: We've got to get spending under control and we've got to become independent of foreign oil. Senator Obama says that I'm running for Bush's third term. It seems to me he's running for Jimmy Carter's second.
[END CLIP]
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball and the "Politics Fix." Tonight's roundtable: Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune, Michael Crowley of The New Republic magazine and MSNBC senior campaign correspondent, Tucker Carlson. We've got everything here tonight. What a nice, diverse group. Let's talk about this amazing decision. I don't like it. But it's amazing decision. Tucker, you first, because you always surprise me, colleague, and that is, was it smart to say, this isn't about continuing the policies of George W. Bush? It's about whether to return to the policies of Jimmy Carter. Is a smart switcheroo?
TUCKER CARLSON: Well it's resonant for people over a certain age. For a lot of people, though, Jimmy Carter evokes images of Habitat for Humanity and hammer swinging, right? Or controversies about his latest book. I think Jimmy Carter may be a figure of history for a lot of people. Seems to me McCain would be better served tying Democrats and Obama, in particular, to their longtime suggestion about raising gasoline prices.

...

JILL ZUCKMAN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The reason I like the Carter second term theme, just as an attack mechanism, is because it, it does appeal to voters of a certain age. I mean, it means something to them. And those-
MATTHEWS: You mean beat Carter again? Let's go back and kill him one more time.
ZUCKMAN: Those are the people who go to vote. The twenty-somethings, they don't care about him. The older people, just remember what, all those horrible things that happened during Carter's term.
MATTHEWS: You know, Michael, you're younger, but I gotta tell you something. All through the '60s, the Democrats will still run against Hoover! 28 years before that, they were dragging that carcass out again and beating the Hell out of it again. Will it work this time for the 'Rs'?

Poor Economy Leading to Suicides? Cuomo
Invokes Great Depression

On Tuesday's Good Morning America, highlighting the Great Depression, increased suicides and a so-far non-existent recession, GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo declared that in the current economy, people are "struggling to pay for the basic necessities" and that such a "heavy burden" could lead to "pressure [that] can cause your body to start breaking down." Cuomo hyperbolically connected modern, stress-induced medical problems with suicides during the calamitous Great Depression: "The link between financial troubles and psychological problems is well documented. In the U.S., the seminal example is the Great Depression when the suicide rate jumped from 14 to 17 for every 100,000 Americans."
Interestingly, Cuomo's comments, which included mentioning the "threat of recession," didn't even go as far as the ABC graphic produced for the piece. It deceptively read, "Recession Depression: Beating the Economic Blues." Now, considering that a recession is two quarters of negative economic growth, and the United States hasn't even had one, that's more than just sloppy journalism.

Referencing a new AP poll that claims rising debt is leading to more physical ailments, Cuomo darkly intoned, "People struggling to pay for the basic necessities. Food, gas, housing, seeing savings depleted, plans for kids and future threatened. Now, that's a heavy burden and over time that pressure can cause your body to start breaking down."

Now, of course some Americans are suffering tough economic times, but to draw a parallel between 2008 and the stresses of the Great Depression, which saw up to 25 percent of the country unemployed, is rather silly.

[This item was prepared for CyberAlert by the MRC's Scott Whitlock.]

Interestingly, in a 8am news brief, Cuomo himself admitted that, perhaps, things aren't quite so bad. Referencing the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, he explained, "Turn now to the economy where the news is not all bad. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says the danger of a substantial economic downturn has faded, thanks to reforms in the financial markets and strong exports."

Perhaps Cuomo's bleak outlook shouldn't be surprising. In a June 2008 study, the Business and Media Institute found that today's journalists are four times more negative than their counterparts were during the stock market crash of 1929: businessandmedia.org

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:43am on June 10, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: And now hitting home. You know the kind of damage paying more than $4 for a gallon of gas can do to your wallet, but could it also be hurting your health? It's a side effect you never thought of, but doctors say the slumping economy could be taking a serious toll on your body. And Chris has been following that for us.
ABC Graphic: Recession Depression: Beating the Economic Blues
CHRIS CUOMO: And Robin, you ask anybody who runs been running a household and they all know that money and stress go together. But something is happening right now that demands attention. People struggling to pay for the basic necessities. Food, gas, housing, seeing savings depleted, plans for kids and future threatened. Now, that's a heavy burden and over time that pressure can cause your body to start breaking down. Cynthia Roberts is a single mom who, in this economy, works several jobs to support her four children. She also has a fifth responsibility. Debt, at least $70,000 worth. The stress of it all has taken a toll on more than her finances.
CYNTHIA ROBERTS (Says debt wrecked her health): Emotionally, financially, mentally, I just had, like, a nervous breakdown.
CUOMO: After she lost her job in 2003 and then her house to foreclosure, Roberts watched her health deteriorate.
CYNTHIA ROBERTS: I had to go and have a heart monitor put on me and go through a stress test, counseling. It just, it took a toll on my whole life.
CUOMO: She is not alone. Experts say that millions may suffer from the financial stress that's mounting. $4 gallons of gas, mortgage payments on the rise, job losses. It's a heavy burden.
DR. REDFORD WILLIAMS (Dir. Behavioral Medical Research Ct., Duke University): Our bodies respond as though we're in an emergency, the adrenaline levels pour out. The blood pressure goes up. The Immune system turns off. And we're more likely to get sick from all manner of things and we get stressed out, depressed, anxious and fearful.
CUOMO: A new health poll conducted by the Associated Press claims that due to rising debt at least ten million Americans are suffering from physical ailments, 14 percent more than in 2004. And specifically, among the people reporting high debt stress in the poll, 27 percent had ulcers. 44 percent had migraines. 29 percent suffered severe anxiety. 23 percent had severe depression. The link between financial troubles and psychological problems is well documented. In the U.S., the seminal example is the Great Depression when the suicide rate jumped from 14 to 17 for every 100,000 Americans. And today with the threat of recession looming large, the price we pay physically may skyrocket as well.
WILLIAMS: A rising tide of distress that's going to be manifest in mental health problems, suicide rates, heart disease.
CUOMO: Now living in her parents' home, Roberts is slowly getting back on her feet but it's been extremely difficult.
CYNTHIA ROBERTS: Take those credit cards and throw them away. Your family is more important than plastic.
CUOMO: And bottom line, if you want to be there for your family, you have to be there for yourself as well. So, check yourself. Check and see if you are dealing with sleeplessness. Have you had nagging injuries, prolonged headaches? Your blood pressure? When's the last time you checked it? You know, Robin, blood pressure, hypertension.
ROBIN ROBERTS: Sure.
CUOMO: They go hand in hand. The doctors say the simple things can make a difference here. Try some meditation. Try to focus on the now, not your future. Get your diet and your exercise right. Practice your faith, if it's important you to. All of that can help.
ROBIN ROBERTS: A lot of people relying on their faith during these tough times. All right. Chris. Diane?

-- Brent Baker