Rosen echoes conservative blog's misleading criticism of Today report on oil prices

Newsradio 850 KOA's Mike Rosen repeated a misleading item from the conservative NewsBusters weblog about NBC anchor Ann Curry “predicting the worst” scenario from the shutdown of an oil pipeline in Alaska. Rosen took out of context Curry's mention of a possible increase in the price of crude oil, which was actually a question she asked during a report by CNBC anchor Ron Insana.

Discussing alleged bias by the “liberal media,” Newsradio 850 KOA's Mike Rosen on his August 30 broadcast repeated a misleading post (registration required) on the conservative Media Research Center's NewsBusters weblog. The item stated that, on the August 7 broadcast of NBC's Today show, news anchor Ann Curry was “predicting the worst” scenario from the announced shutdown of a British Petroleum (BP) pipeline in Alaska -- namely, that the shutdown “could cause crude prices to leap $10 a barrel.” Rosen failed to note that Curry's mention of the possible crude oil price increase actually was a question she asked in the context of a report by CNBC anchor Ron Insana on the planned shutdown of BP's Prudhoe Bay pipeline from Alaska's North Slope oil fields. When Insana stated “this is a real supply disruption at a time when prices are already high and could go higher,” Curry asked, “How much higher?” And when Insana replied, “Hard to predict,” Curry asked, “Ten dollars a barrel higher?”

INSANA: Absolutely. If you think about the size of this shutdown and what that means to the world oil market, we're seeing 400,000 barrels a day come off-line. That is 2.6 percent of the U.S.' oil consumption daily. It's over 8 percent of U.S. production. So while we worry about, you know, disruptions coming from the Middle East because of what's going on between Israel and Lebanon, where there is no oil, this is a real supply disruption at a time when prices are already high and could go higher.

CURRY: In fact, they already were pushed in overseas markets to $77 a barrel?


CURRY: Higher when the markets hit the United States?

INSANA: Oh, absolutely. Yeah ... (unintelligible).

CURRY: How much higher?

INSANA: Hard to predict.

CURRY: Ten dollars a barrel higher?

INSANA: In a single day that would be a lot. But it's significant that we could probably go through the old record high of over $78 a barrel. We're going into the hurricane season, so, you know, we've got a lot of events that are lining up, conspiring, if you will, to drive prices higher, and that means more pain for the American consumer.

The August 30 NewsBusters post by talk-show host Mark Finkelstein was a follow-up vindicating Finkelstein's previous NewsBusters post on August 7, the same day Curry asked the "$10 a barrel higher" question. Finkelstein's August 7 post accused Curry of “trying to induce CNBC financial reporter Ron Insana to paint the gloomiest possible picture.” But, in the August 7 post, Finkelstein significantly edited the transcription of the exchange between Curry and Insana:

Curry: “Overseas markets $77. Higher?”

Insana: “Absolutely.”

So far, so fair. Clearly the loss of 400,000 barrels a day is not good news. But it was then that Curry started pushing the envelope.

Curry: “How much? $10 [per barrel]?”

Finkelstein's follow-up August 30 post, which Rosen read on the air, called Curry's question an “absurd apotheosis” of “the possibility that the shutdown of a BP pipeline in Alaska could cause crude oil prices to leap $10 a barrel.” However, Finkelstein omitted several widely reported events that have affected oil prices since his initial August 7 criticism.

Finkelstein's follow-up post read “Crude was about $75/barrel on the day of Ann's [Curry's] report. Since then, rather than spiking to her imagined $85/barrel, it has slumped to $69 and change. Whoops!” But Finkelstein and Rosen failed to mention that BP's initial plan to totally shut down the Prudhoe Bay oil field was modified so that only half of its production was disrupted, a reduction of about 200,000 barrels a day instead of the originally projected 400,000. As a result of the revised anticipated impact of BP's shutdown, oil prices subsequently dropped .

Finkelstein and Rosen also failed to mention that between August 7 and August 30, several events contributed to the fall of oil prices, including the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, the British thwarting of a terrorist plot, Hurricane Ernesto's downgrade to a tropical storm, and the approaching close of the summer driving season.

From the August 30 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:

ROSEN: Here's a little item. Gasoline prices are starting to drop just a little bit. Gasoline inventories are higher than they've been in recent weeks and recent months. NewsBusters, which is an activity of the Media Research Center -- that's the conservative media watchdog group in Alexandria, Virginia -- they have a little story on that today. And they're taking a look at the Today show's coverage. They note that the liberal media, where bad news is concerned, likes to zero in on things, especially if they can point to a connection between bad news and Republican administrations. Gas prices. Over the last year the dominant liberal mass media has had a field day with a profusion of stories on 'soaring gas prices'. The Today show reached an absurd apotheosis on August 7th. Ann Curry, during a segment on August 7th, envisioned the absolute worst: a decrease of less than one half of one percent in world oil supplies leading to more than a 14 percent jump in crude oil prices. This was associated with the shutdown of that BP pipeline, which had a small leak in it. Well, the shutdown of that pipeline resulted in a decrease of about one half of one percent in world oil supplies. But Curry, in this story, talked about the possibility that this shutdown of the BP pipeline in Alaska could cause crude prices to leap $10 a barrel. That would be a 14 percent increase associated with a one half of one percent decrease in supply.

Well, the folks at NewsBusters have been tracking prices since then and providing regular updates on that original story. Guess what? Crude was about $75 a barrel on the day of Ann Curry's report. Since then, rather than spiking to her imagined $85 per barrel, it's actually dropped to $69 a barrel and change. The slump in crude prices has been showing up at the pump. Matt Lauer acknowledged on this morning's Today show, quote, you are probably feeling better when you fill up your car. [The] AAA reports that regular unleaded gasoline is about $2.80 a gallon, and analysts say prices could fall. But they can't allow that good news to sit there unchallenged. So, as is so often the case, they need to neutralize it with some bad news. So, this is what they offered: With his very next breath, Matt Lauer informed us that, quote, The head of Chrysler is not painting such a rosy picture. As the screen then showed the Chrysler chief executive officer with the words we're planning internally as if it's $3 to $4 a gallon, this was over the legend, high prices here to stay. Funny, there was no balancing voice of optimism which as it turns out, would have been realism, to be heard back on August 7th when Ann Curry was predicting the worst and predicting an increase to $85 a barrel.

Now, who knows what will happen to the price of oil down the road. It has to do with any number of variables like supply and demand, and war and international tension, and a number of things, but the BP pipeline, while troublesome, that oil leak and the shutdown, in the grand scheme of world oil supplies and world inventories, was one half of one percent and that's already well on its way to being repaired.