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Download Fox News' brand new iPad app and you'll notice something curious: there's an ExxonMobil advertisement on nearly every page, sometimes filling the whole screen. Click on it and you can watch a video of a smiling ExxonMobil geologist touting the natural gas boom. As the tech news website Mashable reported, this is because "Exxon is the exclusive launch partner for Fox News' iPad app":
"We decided we wanted to work with one sponsor," [Fox News' Jeremy] Steinberg said, explaining that there are always question marks surrounding a launch, so Fox News wanted a partner comfortable with that. He said Exxon, which is in the midst of a new branding campaign, thought the app was a perfect platform for broadcasting its message.
It makes sense that one of the biggest funders of interest groups that obfuscate the threat posed by global warming would team up with the news outlet that has done more than any other to promote misinformation about climate science.
The partnership further undermines ExxonMobil's 2008 pledge to stop funding groups "whose positions on climate change could divert attention" from the need to develop secure, clean energy. As an internal email revealed last year, it has been the policy of Fox News to question even the basic fact that the planet has warmed in recent decades.
Climate change is not the only issue on which ExxonMobil might find Fox News' coverage agreeable. Last month in the midst of both soaring profits for big oil and attempts by Congressional Democrats to roll back oil companies' tax breaks, ExxonMobil's spin could be heard on Fox News.
With the notable exception of Bill O'Reilly, many on Fox eagerly passed along talking points first outlined by ExxonMobil vice president of public affairs Ken Cohen in a series of blog posts designed to preempt any backlash against Exxon's massive first quarter earnings report.
During an appearance on Fox News, radio host Ben Ferguson argued against Democratic proposals to roll back tax breaks for the largest oil companies by boldly declaring that ExxonMobil -- by far the most profitable corporation in the country -- doesn't actually make that much money. See, according to Ferguson, over 90 percent of the company's profits go to the U.S. government in the form of taxes:
FERGUSON: [Obama] should also stop making these oil companies into evil companies. I mean, look at the profits the other day of Exxon. They posted $11 billion in profits. They paid $10 billion of those dollars in profits went to taxes.
FERGUSON: There's a lot of companies out there that deserve tax breaks so that they operate and employ people in the United States of America. And if we're getting $10 billion out of $11 billion in profit from Exxon, which is the facts, and they're making about 3 cents on every gallon of gas right now, I think they deserve to do business here just like every other business so we keep Americans employed. [Fox News, America Live, 5/10/11]
This is highly misleading in a couple of ways. For one, Ferguson suggests ExxonMobil's tax payments come "out of" their $11 billion in reported earnings. But they don't. The reported earnings are after-tax figures.
And Ferguson is comparing apples to oranges when he claims that "we're getting $10 billion out of $11 billion in profit from Exxon." The "$11 billion in profit" is ExxonMobil's worldwide earnings for just the first three months of 2011. As for the $10 billion that Ferguson says ExxonMobil paid to the U.S. Treasury, it appears that he's been reading an ExxonMobil press release that states:
Last year, our total taxes and duties to the U.S. government topped $9.8 billion, which includes an income tax expense of $1.6 billion. [emphasis added]
So the $10 billion is what ExxonMobil says it paid in U.S. taxes in all of 2010, not the first quarter of 2011. And there's reason to be skeptical of this figure. As the Washington Post reported, this number includes $6.2 billion in gas taxes collected from its customers:
Conservative media claim that recent proposals to repeal tax breaks for the five largest oil companies will "make gasoline more expensive." However, energy experts say that cutting the tax incentives will have little to no effect on prices at the pump.
From the July 21 edition of CNN Newsroom:
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