In 2012, like most years, U.S. gasoline prices fluctuated according to global market conditions, seasonal changes in demand and several other factors. Fox News fluctuated too, finding bad -- often contradictory -- news in the ups and downs alike. No matter which way gas prices went, the network always found a way to forecast doom for the economy and pin it on Obama. But experts agree that no president can control gas prices.
As Gas Prices Rise, Fox News Launches Relentless Campaign To Falsely Blame Obama
Early in the year, Fox News launched a relentless campaign to pin unseasonably high gasoline prices on President Obama. The network had tried this before, but this time the coverage reached a fever pitch. During the first two months of 2012, Fox News blamed gas prices on Obama more than three times as often as all other major news outlets combined, even distorting charts to serve their agenda. To do this, Fox often claimed that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline or expanded domestic drilling could lower gas prices, while ignoring that Obama has significantly raised fuel economy standards -- a measure that would help consumers reduce their dependence on oil and vulnerability to price spikes.
The network gloated that prices at the pump could be an "opportunity to disrupt" good economic news for Obama, or maybe even "enough to derail his return to the office." To support that goal, Fox News regularly hosted Eric Bolling, a former minor league baseball player and major Wall Street oil and energy futures trader. While Fox News presented him as an expert, actual experts, even those who support increasing access to oil, have called his claims "absolute and utter rubbish," "idiotic," "nonsense," and "not correct."
As Gas Prices Fall, Fox Asks: Are Low Gas Prices A Bad Thing?
In May, as gas prices began to fall, one Fox News legal analyst took to "hoping gasoline's going to stay close to five dollars in November." Apparently worried that low prices could be a boon for Obama's reelection campaign, anchors on Fox News and Fox Business suddenly began warning that "CHEAP GAS ISN'T GOOD."
These anchors tried to explain that low gas prices could be "just a sign of a weakening economy," or as Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer put it "a sign of a looming global economic crisis." The networks' sudden concern came after months of ignoring broader economic factors in its gasoline price reporting.
Fox News Portrays Romney As The Solution To High Prices
With gasoline prices predictably rising in summer and election season kicking into high gear, Fox News once again portrayed high gas prices as a problem, and suggested that Mitt Romney's energy plan could be the solution. In August, Neil Cavuto twice hosted former Shell Oil executive John Hofmeister to announce that he would vote for Romney and claim that gasoline prices were high because of a lack of domestic production under Obama. Cavuto failed to note that Hofmeister is currently a director at several oil and gas companies (and that his entire premise was baloney).
Bill O'Reilly even advised the Romney campaign to attack Obama over high gas prices -- a marked change from the last year of the Bush administration, when he had explained to his audience that if "you hear a politicians say he or she will bring down oil prices, understand it's complete BS":
Throughout 2012, Fox News pushed the talking point that gasoline prices had nearly doubled since Obama took office -- failing to mention that when he was inaugurated in January 2009, the U.S. was in the middle of a recession and low demand had depressed the price of oil and gasoline. During the second presidential debate, President Obama explained this point, to no avail: Fox News figures claimed Obama's comments were "totally bogus" despite all evidence to the contrary.
When Romney Loses, Fox News Asks: "How Do You Explain That?"
On election night, after the race was called in Obama's favor, Fox News searched for answers as to why its candidate had lost. Contributor Pat Caddell said the Romney camp had run the "worst campaign in the history of the modern presidential race." Anchor Gregg Jarrett agreed. After all, he said, "Gasoline prices have doubled under President Obama [...] And he gets reelected. He presided over all of that. So how do you explain that?"
Fox News and its viewers were ill-equipped to answer. In the end, the network's heavy focus on attacking President Obama in bold opposition to the facts succeeded only in making it look ridiculous.