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ABC This Week’s Stephanopoulus Helps Gingrich Spin Tale on Gas Prices

Why is it that ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN thought that the politician America needed to hear from this week was Newt Gingrich, a candidate who’s been thoroughly rejected by all but the most delusional and extreme Republican voters and has no chance of becoming President? Even if it hadn’t been a ghastly week, with Republican icons insulting women and degrading the national discourse while the GOP leadership and Presidential candidates hid, the idea of giving the man who has spent 20 years contributing to our declining politics yet another national platform would be inexcusable for any supposedly news entity.

Every viewer knows that any interview of Newt Gingrich usually results in an uninterrupted commercial for himself, his lies, and his fantasies. With a weak interviewer like ABC’s George Stephanopoulus, that means we get 10 minutes of misrepresentations, misdirection and evasions with little or no pushback, leaving the audience either frustrated or more misinformed than they were before.

Today’s This Week with Newt and George was a perfect example.  Not only did Stephanopoulus give virtually free time for Newt’s dissembling, he facilitated and contributed to the misinformation on the topic of energy prices.

The backstory is one the GOP has uniformly misrepresented, though Politico eventually corrected its part in repeating the scam.  It’s the claim that Energy Secretary Chu told a Congressional hearing that it was not the Administration’s policy to lower gas prices, when in fact he said no such thing. Apparently, the corrections to this lie, easily available on teh Google, are unknown to George and could not be found by the crack ABC research team, even though the topic was in one of George’s prepared questions. Here’s just one link.

First, a summary of part of what Gingrich claimed, while telling us he could get gas prices below $2: (emphasis mine)

“This president and his secretary of anti-energy, Dr. Chu, have as a goal getting us to pay European-level prices of $8 or $9. Dr. Chu was clear about that before he became secretary. He wants us to get to be a European-level price structure of $8 or $9 a gallon,” said Gingrich. “He said this week, in testifying in the House, he has ‘no intention of trying to lower the price of oil or the price of gasoline.’ The American people on the other hand would much rather pay $2.50 and be independent of Saudi Arabia than be where we are today. ”

Note that Stephanopoulus did not bother to challenge Newt’s total fantasy that with billions of Chinese and Indians demanding more oil/gas for the ten million new cars they bought last year, never mind Newt et ilk beating the drums for war with the world’s fourth largest oil producer, we are only a Gingrich presidency away from again buying gas at $2.50/gallon (he bragged it would be below that today).

Gingrich was misrepresenting what Chu said, but Stephanopoulus didn’t seem to know that. Instead, when he later asked David Axelrod (why would any President allow this apologist to be their spokesman?) about Newt’s preposterous claims, George began by showing an out of context clipped video of Chu’s Congressional appearance.  He then repeated the GOP’s misrepresentation.

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So what really happened when Chu testified?

In the context of a discussion of gas prices in Europe, which because of higher gas taxes and European threats to boycott Iranian oil have reportedly reached something like $8/gallon, Secretary Chu was asked “is it the overall goal to get our prices . . .”  And the questioner didn’t finish.

Get our prices to what? Up to $8/gallon or European levels? Or down to something lower? But as the clip shows, instead of waiting for the rest of the question, Secretary Chu interrupted and said “No . . .”  It seems likely he understood the point of the question in the context of the discussion of Europe to be asking about getting US gas prices up to their levels, to which Chu answered “No . . .” But ever since, the Republican wurlitzer has falsely claimed that he was asked whether the policy was to get prices down, and Chu said “no.”  No, he didn’t.  Stephanopoulus simply repeats this GOP fabricated talking point.

To be clear, I think the Administration is being disingenuous and foolish with it’s “all of the above” energy policy.  That’s a recipe that leaves us even more dependent on today’s dominant, harmful options and at the mercy of the unaccountable monster corporations (some of whom sponsored the show) and countries that control the supplies.  The policy should be, “we need a lot more of the options, starting with no-regrets conservation and efficiency, that don’t harm our health and threaten the planet, and a lot less of the conventional options that do hurt us.” Right now, we have it backwards.

Why the Administration thinks it can’t sell that common sense policy escapes me, but perhaps everyone (except Secretary Chu?) believes the nonsense they are selling.  I’d like to see that discussion, but if the Talking Head shows waste our time on charlatans like Newt Gingrich, there is no chance we can have that conversation.

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ABC This Week’s Stephanopoulus Helps Gingrich Spin Tale on Gas Prices



John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley