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The MRC's Gas Price Blame Failure

The Media Research Center keeps pushing the narrative that President Biden is to blame for high gas prices -- but it never names a specific Biden policy it can directly attribute to the price jumps.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/28/2022

Joseph Vazquez

Ever since Joe Biden took office as president, the Media Research Center has been on a quest to blame him for higher gas prices. In one early example, Joseph Vazquez thought he had a big ol' gotcha in a May 2021 post:
The Associated Press (AP) tried to run cover for President Joe Biden by gaslighting readers on his role in rising gas prices.

AP ran another one of its useless “fact-checks” headlined, “AP FACT CHECK: House GOP falsely blames Biden for gas prices.” The piece railed that “Biden's policies aren't behind the price increases.” It continued: “Gas prices are up because of a rapid and unexpected bounce-back in demand, and because of lingering problems from the forced shutdown early this month of the Colonial Pipeline, which provides 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast.” It’s too bad for AP then that Fox Business ran an April story, headlined “Biden's energy plan contributing to gas price increases: GasBuddy analyst.” [Emphasis added.]

The irony is that AP cited GasBuddy Head of Petroleum Analysis Patrick De Haan, to summarize how the Colonial Pipeline outage led to “more than 6,000 stations [running] out” of gas. That’s the same De Haan who Fox Business said labeled the Biden administration as a contributor “to the increase in gas prices.” Of course, AP ignored the Fox Business story.

But Fox Business quoted de Haan only as saying that "the Biden administration is not anywhere near as friendly with the oil and gas sector" as the Trump administration and that "motorists are going to be feeling the consequences of such a policy." He cited no specific Biden policy directly causing increases in gas prices at that specific point, and he also pointed out -- like AP did -- that demand was increasing, which also helps increase prices.

Vazquez also bizarrely argued that Biden deserved blame for gas price increases because of ... coronavirus stimulus checks:

But AP continued its misdirection. The outlet had the audacity to say that prices can also be attributed to how “[s]timulus payments to American households, including $1,400 checks that were distributed in March, have helped Americans ramp up spending.” First, who exactly does AP think was behind the $1,400 free lunch stimulus payments? Also, CNN previously published a story in April headlined, “All that stimulus is sending inflation higher.” CNN said that the “biggest driver” behind the spike in the U.S. Producer Price Index — “which measures sale prices for goods and services” — was “a sharp 8.8% jump in gasoline prices.” [Emphasis added.]

Perhaps Biden redistributing money that spikes demand while companies are struggling to keep pace is a viable culprit behind rising gas prices. Not according to AP’s gaslighting.

Apparently, creating demand to boost the economy is a bad thing for Vazquez -- whose employer received as much as $2 million in redistributed stimulus money.

Vazquez tried to push this dubious narrative again in a July 2021 post complaining that CNN also pointed out that gas prices are largely out of any president's control:

CNN’s knee-jerk reaction to spiking gas prices was to protect President Joe Biden, and Twitter users jumped all over the outlet for it.

CNN Business published a ridiculous story headlined, “Gas prices are above $3. Biden doesn’t have a magic wand to fix that.” CNN Business Lead Writer Matt Egan patronized readers by saying, “President Joe Biden is being attacked for $3 gasoline. But the truth is the White House isn’t to blame for high gas prices – and has few options to lower them.” The CNN Business tweet of Egan’s pro-Biden propaganda was heavily ratioed.

Did Egan forget that GasBuddy Head of Petroleum Analysis Patrick De Haan argued in April that Biden’s energy plan was contributing to rising gas prices? Also, Egan’s employer previously published a story in April headlined, “All that stimulus is sending inflation higher.” CNN said in the April story that the “biggest driver” behind the spike in the U.S. Producer Price Index — “which measures sale prices for goods and services” — was “a sharp 8.8% jump in gasoline prices.”

Vazquez didn't offer any facts to contradict any of the reporting in the CNN story, and he didn't acknowledge that the "Twitter users" who ratioed the CNN tweet are all right-wing activists and personalities who, like Vazquez, have an anti-Biden agenda.

As an actual fact-checker pointed out: That's not how it works, folks.

By contrast, when some tried to blame Trump for a crash in oil prices at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Vazquez complained that a reporter was "exploiting" the crisis to "get an amateurish zinger at the president." Kinda like what Vazquez is trying to do to Biden?

Vazquez was still at it a month later, huffing in an Aug. 11 post:

The Associated Press (AP) found a way to make President Joe Biden look like an American prophet warning about rising energy prices, without mentioning how his anti-oil agenda is contributing to the growing crisis.

AP ran a puff story headlined, “Biden administration sounds alarm on rising energy prices.” The lede paragraph was just as ridiculous: “President Joe Biden’s administration is raising alarms at home and abroad about rising energy prices slowing the nation’s recovery from the pandemic-induced recession.” GasBuddy Head of Petroleum Analysis Patrick De Haan argued in April that Biden’s energy plan was contributing to rising gas prices.

Again: De Haan cited no specific policy that was solely responsible for the rise in gas prices, which less biased observers have argued is more accurately blamed on a reduction in crude oil production during the pandemic and global demand generated by world economies come back to life.

On Aug. 13, Vazquez gushed once more over his favorite accused sexual assaulter, Fox Business' Charles Payne, touting how he "placed the blame for spiking energy prices right at the feet of President Joe Biden's fossil fuel 'war.'" Again, no specific policy was cited; instead, Payne was allowed to uncritically rant that "West Texas Intermediate oil, 'a week ago, was $75 a barre[l]' compared to '$35 a barrel' on Nov. 2, 2020" -- completely and dishonestly omitting the pandemic's effect on the economy that drove down oil prices last year.

In an Aug. 17 post, Vazquez played the correlation-equals-causation fallacy card:

The terrible effects of President Joe Biden’s war on fossil fuels are taking a serious toll on the nation as the left-wing media have consistently attempted to defend him from bad press.

U.S. Energy Information Administration data revealed that gas prices per gallon were at about $2.42 when former President Donald Trump left office. Under Biden, prices have increased every single month to a discomforting $3.23, a 33.47 percent increase. The gas data follow a hot Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI), both key inflation indicators released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The New York Post reported in a recent story on the CPI data that gasoline prices had risen “2.4 percent from May and is now up almost 42 percent from a year ago."


The media have consistently played the role of lapdogs for Biden’s agenda by gaslighting and hoodwinking viewers and readers on Biden’s culpability concerning rising prices.

Vazquez again invoked De Haan's dubious reasoning. And like De Haan, Vazquez identified no specific policy that is directly linked to rising prices.

Vazquez ranted in an Aug. 19 post otherwise attacking New York Times economist Paul Krugman :

Biden’s actions enabled an economic crisis by allowing the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to gain “more leverage over U.S. gas prices, especially Saudi Arabia.” Biden all but begged OPEC to produce more oil while U.S. production remains stagnant. A climate agenda that hamstrings the U.S. economy by subjecting it to foreign oil cartel manipulation was clearly lost on Krugman.

This time, though, Vazquez actually cites someone who could be a credible expert to back him up: "Transversal Consulting President Ellen Wald Ph.D. reportedly told Axios that President Joe Biden’s climate agenda has kept 'American [oil] production down.'" You know Vazquez is desperate to pump up someone's credibility by adding Wald's doctorate degree to her name.

But Wald has also cited another reason gas prices are high, one that has nothing to do with Biden. Marketplace reported in June 2021:

But Ellen R. Wald at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center said oil prices are up because of what’s going on in the U.S.

“The really big story, I think, about what’s helping keep prices rising is that American production hasn’t come back to the same levels that it was in 2020,” Wald said.

Shareholders are demanding a return on investment, Wald said, which has led U.S. producers to reduce spending and keep output flat.

That's an explanation Vazquez will never report to his readers.

Blame no matter what

Vazquez grumbled in a Nov. 4 post:

New York Times economist Paul Krugman claimed President Joe Biden has no control over the rise in gas prices. This, of course, comes after Krugman pilloried former President Donald Trump a year earlier for allegedly exercising the same control he said Biden didn’t have.

Krugman took to Twitter to try to explain away the abysmal election results for Democrats Tuesday in an attempt to protect Biden: “One issue that seems to have influenced voters Tuesday was the price of gasoline — over which Biden has no control.”

Vazquez went on to cite self-proclaimed environmentalist (though more of a dubious contrarian and, thus, a right-wing favorite) Michael Schellenberger as saying that Biden "may open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower prices." Never mind, of course, that it is true that Biden has very little direct control over oil prices

Well, Biden tapped the SPR later that month -- and the MRC rushed to dismiss the action as ineffective. Nicholas Fondacaro grumbled in a Nov. 23 post:

During ABC’s World News Tonight on Tuesday, anchor David Muir and congressional correspondent Rachel Scott were President Biden’s personal cheer team as they praised him for releasing 50 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserves; after he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do it. Meanwhile, on the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, they warned it was just a “drop in the bucket” and would be used up in less than three days.

Fondacaro censored the fact that the SPR release was coordinated with releases from other countries to have a greater impact on prices.

It's as if the MRC will criticize Biden no matter what he does, and that perhaps the Biden White House should stop trying to please such constant bad-faith critics whose support it will never win because they are more about partisan politics than helping the country.

The MRC set up that narrative after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. A Feb. 28 post by Jeffrey Clark uncritically quoted highly biased Fox Business host Stuart Varney playing the Biden blame game:

But Varney wasn’t finished. He went on to argue that Biden, not a distant war in Ukraine, was the original driver of high gas prices. “You’ve got to go back to the very first day of the Biden administration,” he said. “When they canceled the Keystone pipeline and then cut back on the drilling for oil and natural gas and restricted our energy independence, that gave Putin leverage.”

Varney predicted the devastating effects Biden’s policy blunders will have on regular Americans.

In fact, non-biased energy experts agree that canceling the Keystone XL pipeline had no effect on current gas prices because 1) the pipeline wouldn't be ready now and 2) much of the pipeline's products would be designated for export.

On March 2, Clark similarly cheered how "CNBC host Joe Kernen embarrassed President Joe Biden’s environmentalist cheerleaders who fought to keep oil in the ground because of so-called “climate change” while blaming former President Donald Trump for high gas prices. It’s as if leftists want to have their cake and eat it too." The next day, Kevin Tober touted an MSNBC host calling for resuming the Keystone pipeline while censoring the fact that it would not lower gas prices.

Vazquez spent a March 7 post being angry at CNN for reporting on a "meaningless" drop in gas prices late last year, declaring that "the disturbing news on energy prices skyrocketing makes CNN’s pro-Biden spin on the matter look ridiculous." Of course, Vazquez looked ridiculous by pretending there wasn't a Russian invasion of Ukraine that made gas prices skyrocket.

A post the same day from Scott Whitlock noted a news report on high gas prices then complained there was "no mention of the Biden administration’s war on energy independence," going on to hype that "The Media Research Center last year produced a documentary on energy independence and how the Biden administration ended the Keystone Pipeline." The MRC's so-called documentary is a shoddy, biased piece of work, and besides, since that oil would be coming from Canada and much of it would have been designated for export, it would have no effect on U.S. "energy independence."

Another March 7 post, by Tober, complained that Biden was claiming to do "everything except ramping up domestic oil production in the United States so we wouldn’t need to rely on other countries like Russia for energy." In fact, U.S. oil production is already ramping up.

A March 8 post by Kyle Drennen lashed out at CBS for accurately reporting that Biden has not impeded oil production -- or, in his highly biased an inaccurate words, "CBS went to work spewing White House propaganda that the administration’s left-wing environmental agenda was 'not hurting oil production in this country.'" Drennen offered no evidence that any Biden policy had any direct effect on oil production, instead ranting: "Real journalists would be questioning the administration’s radical environmental policies and pressing the White House on why increasing U.S. domestic energy production was being treated as a matter of national security. Instead, the stenographers at CBS and NBC just repeat what they’re told."

Alex Christy similarly ranted in another March 8 post: "Before President Biden gave a speech on Tuesday announcing the ban of Russian oil imports, the cast of At This Hour on CNN warned that gas prices will go up and that Biden has no good options to fix that problem -- as if his own policies have no impact on the situation." He too failed to offer any actual evidence, vaguely whining only that CNN "omitted any mention of Biden’s record."

A March 9 post by Nicholas Fondacaro whined that a CNN segment "compared oil production from Trump’s FIRST YEAR in office (2017) to the first couple of months of 2022" and "conveniently skipped over how Biden reduced our domestic oil production in 2021." Fondacaro did not explain how, exactly, "Biden reduced our domestic oil production in 2021," falsely suggesting it was some kind of shady machination and not, you know, that was a raging pandemic.

Christy used a March 10 post to complain that an MSNBC commentator told the truth about Republican anti-Biden narratives:

For Alcindor, this was “a smart point” because even though both parties agree, “there is really this political risk...Senator Chris Murphy, he has said, the moment that he be -- the moment that gas prices start to surge even more, he believes that Republicans are going to be using this against the president.”

Trying to prove Murphy right, Alcindor cited House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), “who has said that while President Biden is trying to blame Russia and world events for the historic gas prices this is really, he said, bad policies.”

Of course, McCarthy is correct.

Ruhle and Alcindor are too, but Christy will never admit that -- his job is to peddle McCarthy's narratives, not tell the truth, and he offered no proof that McCarthy "is correct."

The narrative continues

That narrative-building continued throughout March. Clay Waters whined in a March 12 post:

One Wednesday, the New York Times ran a biased story by official fact-checker Linda Qiu in defense of President Biden and high gas prices: “Invasion and Pandemic, Not Policies, Are Driving Up Gas Prices.” The online headline was more partisan: “Republicans Wrongly Blame Biden for Rising Gas Prices.”

As with his other MRC co-workers, Waters offered no evidence that the Times was wrong, instead playing whataboutism: "However much control a president actually has over the price at the pump, the Times’ defensive attempt to circle the wagons for Biden against Republican criticism was nothing like the gas attacks it ran against Republican President George W. Bush."

A March 17 post by Clark cited only biased right-wing activists to counter the Washington Post disproving the idea that Biden is responsible for high gas prices:

The Washington Post’s editor and chief writer of “The Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler pushed misinformation about President Joe Biden’s responsibility for sky-high energy prices in the U.S..

Kessler absurdly claimed in a March 15 article that there is “little evidence that Biden’s policies have had any direct impact on oil production.” Is that so, Washington Post?

American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Benjamin Zycher pointed out that the administration’s war against fossil fuels contributed to reduced output, lifting prices. “[A]n expectation that future investment will be constrained artificially has the effect of raising prices today. Why might the market expect such constraints on future investment? Look no further than the Biden administration’s policies for the answer. The ‘net-zero’ crusade against fossil fuels is an obvious attempt to force a sharp decline in current and future production,” Zycher noted. [Emphasis added.]

Zycher clearly illustrated the “direct impact” — as Kessler put it — of the Biden administration’s policies, completely upending Kessler’s argument.

Despite his claim, Vazquez did not quote Zycher actually providing evidence of a "direct" link between a specific Biden policy and higher gas prices.

The same day, the MRC touted its boss trying to advance the narrative:

Appearing on Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co. Thursday morning, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell previewed an upcoming MRC study showing that the leftist media are trying to blame everyone and anything else for high gas prices except the “incompetent” energy policies of President Biden. Bozell went on to call out the environmental “zealotry” within the administration.

“Look at this tweet, it’s from President Biden, he’s blaming high gas prices on Putin and also the oil companies,” host Stuart Varney noted at the top of the segment. He then turned to Bozell and wondered: “Brent, is the media buying the President’s story that it’s the oil companies and price gouging and Putin that’s screwing around with gas prices?”


Varney called out those who were actually responsible for surging fuel costs:
You have to say that John Kerry, the climate czar, a couple of senators, AOC, the Greens essentially, the global warmers, the global climate warriors, these are the people who are really responsible for the rising price of gas because they cut production of fossil fuels. It’s their fault to some degree – a large degree.
Bozell replied: “Stuart, top to bottom, this administration is being run by incompetent zealots. Their incompetency is everywhere to see, but there zealotry is one that doesn’t recognize their incompetency.”

Neither Bozell nor Varney offered any evidence to back up the claim.

In another March 17 post, Kevin Tober cheered Fox News for pushing the narrative: "On Thursday afternoon’s episode of Fox News Channel’s The Five, co-hosts Judge Jeanine Pirro and Greg Gutfeld ripped into the leftist media for parroting the Biden administration’s propaganda which falsely blames Russian President Vladimir Putin for the increase in gas prices. Despite the fact that gas prices have risen every month since Biden took office."

The next day, Bill D'Agostino served up a clip package:

Bad news for anyone still holding out hope that the media will eventually start blaming Biden for record-breaking gas prices and inflation: it’s not going to happen.

For months the media’s talking points on skyrocketing energy costs have been in lockstep with the Biden administration’s own blame-shifting, and that trend doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

He offered no evidence to show that it was accurate to solely blame Biden.

On March 24, Scott Whitlock cranked out the inevitable lame MRC "study":

Americans over the last month have been enduring painful, skyrocketing gas prices. The impacts are echoing out to all parts of the economy and squeezing already stressed wallets. But if you watched the morning and evening network newscasts, you would think almost all the blame for this falls on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Joe Biden? His role has almost entirely been ignored.

From February 24 to March 21, the networks put the culpability squarely on Russia by a 11-to-1 margin. ABC, CBS and NBC blamed Russia a whopping 33 times and the Democratic president just 3 times. (The breakdown by network: NBC blamed Russia 16 times, CBS 11 times and ABC 6 times.)
Whitlock rehashed earlier Biden rhetoric and actions but offered no proof that they constitute evidence that Biden is solely to blame for high gas prices:
As a presidential candidate, Biden promised to “get rid of fossil fuels” and pledged “no more coal plants.” On the first day of Biden’s presidency, he killed the Keystone Pipeline. In the last 14 months, the three network evening newscasts have allowed a scant 29 seconds to the move (16 seconds on NBC, 10 on CBS and just 3 on ABC)

Biden also paused oil and gas leasing on federal lands. In May of 2021, he removed sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring gas from Russia to Germany a major win for Vladimir Putin.

Whitlock didn't explain what, if anything, the Nord Stream pipeline -- which isn't even in the United States -- had to do with high gas prices here. Whitlock then concluded with a fit of Trump-fluffing:

In November of 2020, the Media Research Center conducted a poll about the 2020 election and what Americans actually learned from the media. As then-Research Director Rich Noyes noted, “More than half (50.5%) of Biden voters said they did not know about [Trump moving to make us energy independent]. If the information was known by all, 5.8% of Biden’s voters say they would have changed how they voted.”

America became a net exporter of oil for the first time in September of 2019. But you wouldn’t have known that from watching ABC, CBS and NBC in the Trump years. They buried this accomplishment. And during Biden’s presidency, the networks are doing everything they can to censor his crippling energy policies.

As we've noted, that poll was conducted by The Polling Company, founded by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway then later sold to a Republican PR firm, so the independence and reliability of the poll results are very much in question.

As actual news organization and fact-checkers continued to demonstrate that Biden was not to blame for high gas prices, the MRC continued to shout its narrative all the louder. A March 31 post by Clark screeched at a PolitiFact post disproving it by citing one energy analyst claiming that the Biden administration made a "pretty stark miscalculation of the amount of supply we would need to keep energy prices at affordable levels'" -- which, if true, is not a policy issue -- and, again, biased analyst Zycher. Clark also complained that PolitiFact "downplayed the effect of the Keystone XL pipeline on the U.S. oil supply" without offering any evidence to counter it.

An April 1 post by Christy complained that MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle appeared on TV "to absolve President Biden of any blame for high gas prices" without offering any countering evidence. And Tim Graham whined on April 11:

When the network news divisions take public opinion polls, and President Biden looks terrible in them, they have a tendency to downplay them. ABC reported on their latest poll with Ipsos under the headline " Most Americans blame Vladimir Putin, oil companies for high gas prices: POLL."

They sent the same message on Twitter:

Graham made no effort to prove it wrong. Instead, he nitpicked: "The headline is, technically true -- but it's not an either-or choice. "Most" do blame Putin and oil companies - but, majorities also blame Biden (51%) and Democrat policies (52%). In terms of "a great deal of blame," the results for Dems/Biden/Oil companies are pretty much the same: Biden 33%, Dem policies 31% and oil companies 35%, and Putin at 39%."

If the headline is "technically true," there was no reason for Graham to attack it. But the narrative must be fed, and outrage must be manufactured.

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