- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2006

When gas prices shot up in spring, some in the media were quick to criticize “corporate greed,” but as prices plummet, even that decline has to be a “conspiracy.” If you think I’m kidding, you don’t know Jack — Jack Cafferty that is.

Mr. Cafferty shoots from the lip often enough as a CNN host, but on the Aug. 30 edition of that network’s “Situation Room,” he outdid himself.

After a story about how gas prices might get close to $2 by Thanksgiving, Mr. Cafferty grabbed his tinfoil hat and came up with his own conspiracy theory: “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,” he ranted. He ended the segment with another dig at Big Oil. “The interesting thing to watch on that story about gas prices is what happens to them right after the midterms,” he added.

An international conspiracy involving our government and evil oil companies? Sounds like the plot for “Syriana.” George Clooney won an Oscar for his role in that agitprop flick that depicted oil company villains in league with CIA operatives.


Only Mr. Cafferty wasn’t in “Syriana” and this wasn’t a show about a faked moon landing, aliens landing in Area 51 or Elvis and Tupac planning a concert tour together. This was a major “newscast” where one anchor just spouted off about a conspiracy with no facts at all to back it up.

On the Sept. 3 “In the Money,” he repeated his crazy charge when he should have sounded retreat. “I mean the oil companies have a vested interest in seeing that the Republicans remain in control of the federal government,” Mr. Cafferty again claimed. “They wouldn’t pull prices down before the midterms now. Would they?”

Not just would they, but could they? If you believe that, then you and Mr. Cafferty should discuss the Illuminati controlling world events — just to raise gas prices. But that defies the same “logic” Mr. Cafferty claims is behind oil company support for Republicans. Gas price rises have hurt Mr. Bush and Republican incumbents for two years. Why didn’t the same mysterious forces keep the price low?

Because in the real world, oil companies don’t control gas prices. They’re set on world markets. They’ve dropped significantly from their recent high on Aug. 8 — declining 42 cents from Aug. 12 to Sept. 12. If you’ll recall, gas prices soared from $2.26 a gallon in February as Iran increased tensions about its nuclear aims. Then on April 11, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared, “Iran has joined the nuclear countries of the world,” according to the New York Times. Gas shot up about 25 cents in two weeks, thanks to our nuclear reaction.

That was just the beginning. The inherently unstable Mideast became more so as Israel tried to root out terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah. The summer driving season came and prices went up as they do every year. The media’s favorite anti-American dictator, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, threatened to cut off oil and urged the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to set a minimum price of $50 per barrel. Then in August, British Petroleum had problems with its Prudhoe Bay pipeline, making some network news reporters predict gas would hit $3.50.

And… nothing. Instead of oil skyrocketing, gas prices crashed like a North Korean missile test. Peace came temporarily to Israel. The summer driving season drew to a close. Mr. Chavez proved to have as much hot air as oil and Iran made noises about working with the West on its nuclear aims. Then gas began to fall.

If you’re Jack Cafferty, that was too much to bear. The huge oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico made it worse. Mr. Cafferty likes high gas prices. “I hope gas prices go as high as they have to go to get the rest of these morons off the road in these big Hummers,” he wished on the March 25 “In the Money.”

So now he’s angry because gas prices aren’t high enough. In that case, he must love OPEC. According to the Sept. 12 New York Times, OPEC said it “would cut production if prices fell more.” That looks like they’re keeping prices high by controlling supply. By Cafferty logic, that would either make Mr. Ahmadinejad a big Democratic supporter or talk of such conspiracies downright silly.

If you want crazy conspiracies from your news broadcast, tune to CNN. If you want something better, send Jack Cafferty some aluminum foil so he knows how you feel about his cooking up a kooky theory for gas prices.

Dan Gainor is a career journalist and the Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow. He is also director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.

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