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Business & Media Institute: Oil CEO Gets Death Threat for High Gas Prices

CNN downplays danger, still criticizes Shell’s John Hofmeister about ‘profit reports.’

By Julia Seymour
11/15/2007 12:21:46 PM

High gas prices may have a lot of people down, but apparently they also have someone feeling homicidal.

According to CNN’s November 15 “American Morning” Shell president John Hofmeister has gotten hate mail and even a death threat because of the price of gasoline.

“Pretty brave that you decided to do this, you know you were heading out on tour, you didn’t just get hate mail, but you actually received a death threat at one point?” asked co-host Kiran Chetry.

“Well, you could call it that. It was a picture of me hanging from a high branch of a tall tree,” said Hofmeister.

 “American Morning” didn’t make a big deal out of the threat, choosing to focus multiple times on customer grief and even complaining about Shell’s profits:

·  “So you felt like people, you know, are very fed up and people are very upset about the price of oil …” said Chetry.

·  “Here’s what gets people fired up though, we hear these profit reports. You had worldwide profits rise 16 percent last quarter, net profits at nearly $7 billion, yet people are paying 90 cents more per gallon for gas than they were last year,” Chetry continued.

Hofmeister explained that those profits are necessary to invest in finding and producing more oil and suggested that upset gasoline users pressure the government to allow companies to access more oil deposits around the U.S. He said that currently only 15 percent of oil-rich areas are open to exploration and production.

 Attacking oil company profits isn’t a new policy for CNN. Back in 2005, Miles O’Brien presented a story about high third-quarter oil profits as “something to get your blood boiling” and “get you a little outraged.” The broadcast networks were just as irresponsible.

CNN’s Jack Cafferty amped up the rhetoric during the 2006 election, claiming that oil companies had conspired to lower the price of gas to help Republicans win. “You know, if you were a real cynic, you could also wonder if the oil companies might not be pulling the price of gas down to help the Republicans get re-elected in the midterm elections a couple of months away,” Cafferty suggested on the Aug. 30, 2006, “Situation Room.”
Earlier this year, CNN’s “In the Money” team welcomed anti-industry rants from Rep. and would-be president Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on April 21. “It seems the profits for these companies keep going up and the American consumer doesn’t have anyone intervening on his or her behalf,” Kucinich said as the reporters indulged his conspiracy theories.

CNN’s current interview with the Shell president also was a rare thing among business stories. American businessmen like Hofmeister are often unrepresented in stories about their own industries. According to a year-long Business & Media Institute study, “Bad Company III,” businessmen appeared in only 37 percent of business stories on ABC, CBS and NBC. 

Businessmen are also more likely to be presented negatively – 57 percent of the time. The worst network for businessmen, according to the study was CNN which had 76 percent negative portrayals of businessmen and put them on defense 48 percent of the time. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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