Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG
(UPDATE 3/2 5:18PM An Editor's Note now appended to the Politico story says it "mischaracterized the testimony of Energy Secreatry Steven Chu." The headline, lede, and body of the story have been corrected.)
A Politico story fueling misguided attacks on Energy Secretary Steven Chu is not borne out by what actually occurred. The article titled, "Chu: DOE working to wean U.S. off oil, not lower prices," claimed:
The Energy Department isn't working to lower gasoline prices directly, Secretary Steven Chu said Tuesday after a Republican lawmaker scolded him for his now-infamous 2008 comment that gas prices in the U.S. should be as high as in Europe.
But this report is based on an assumption made by Politico reporter Alex Guillen about how Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) was going to finish a question. If that wasn't bad enough, Politico doubled down with another article today about Newt Gingrich -- who cited Guillen's story -- calling for Chu to be fired for the remarks. (UPDATE 3/2 6:00PM Politico has also corrected this article.)
Here's what actually happened in the hearing (fuller video and transcript below):
REP. NUNNELEE: But is the overall goal to get our price--
CHU: No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil to -- to build and strengthen our economy and to decrease our dependency on oil.
But here's Politico's version of what happened:
"But is the overall goal to get our price" of gasoline down, asked Nunnelee.
"No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy," Chu replied.
Guillen built his story on what he assumed Nunnelee was asking and gave no indication that the question was, in fact, ambiguous. There is good reason to believe that Chu thought Nunnelee was actually asking, "Is the overall goal to get our price up to European levels," since this was Nunnelee's previous question:
NUNNELEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Secretary for being here. Before you were nominated, you were quoted as saying, quote, "Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." I can't look at motivations. I have to look at results. And under this administration, the price of gasoline is doubled. While bumping $4 a gallon in North Mississippi, today the price of gasoline in Europe is about $8 a gallon, and the people of North Mississippi can't be here.
So, I have to be here and be their voice for them. And I have to tell you that $8 a gallon gasoline makes them afraid. It's a cruel tax on the people of North Mississippi as they try to go back and forth to work. It's a cloud hanging over economic development and job creation, and it appears to me this administration continues to drag its feet on oil exploration on fossil fuel development and recovery. How do you respond to that?