On ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos repeated a mischaracterization of recent testimony from Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Stephanopoulos claimed that Chu was "asked whether or not the goal of U.S. policy was lower gas prices." After playing a clip of Chu's testimony, Stephanopoulos asked David Axelrod: "Is the secretary right? Are lower gas prices not the president's goal?"
In fact, in the testimony Stephanopoulos cited, Chu was not asked whether the goal of U.S. policy was lower gas and did not say that "lower prices [are] not the president's goal."
Stephanopoulos' mischaracterization of Chu's testimony echoes a February 28 Politico story, which falsely claimed Chu had testified that the objective of U.S. energy policy was to "wean [the] U.S. off oil, not lower prices." In reality, Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-MS) asked Chu: "But is the overall goal to get our price --" Chu interjected: "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." Nunnelee never finished his question, and the meaning of the question was ambiguous.
Indeed, based on the context of the testimony, 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."
Politico updated their story four days later, changing the language it had used and acknowledging that the original version had "mischaracterized" Secretary Chu's testimony. By that time, Politico's error had been repeated by Fox News and throughout the media.
From the March 4 edition of ABC's This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about gas prices? There's some forecasts that it could go as high as five dollars a gallon by this summer. You heard the speaker there, he wants Secretary Steven Chu to be fired. In the past Secretary Chu has said that America should have European level gas prices. And the speaker referenced this testimony of Chu this week where he was asked whether or not the goal of U.S. policy was lower gas prices. Here's what he said.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIP]
REP. ALAN 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.
[END VIDEO CLIP]
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the secretary right? Are lower gas prices not the president's goal?