by Shauna Theel, reposted from Media Matters
Last week, GM announced that it is temporarily halting production of the Chevrolet Volt, its plug-in hybrid vehicle. Fox News is reveling in the news, repeatedly airing a parody commercial that mocks the Volt and distorts its safety record, including on The O’Reilly Factor.
But only a few years ago, Bill O’Reilly was singing a different tune about advanced vehicles that reduce our vulnerability to gas price spikes, and the government’s role in incentivizing them. In 2008, O’Reilly suggested the government “mandate by law” that auto companies increase production of electric and flex fuel cars (which can run on 85% ethanol), and provide tax exemptions for flex fuel vehicles. Take a look at the contrast between O’Reilly’s attitude towards alternative fuel cars before and after President Obama’s inauguration:
O’Reilly wasn’t the only Fox figure with a more favorable opinion of alternative fuel cars in 2008, when the Bush administration was the one giving tax credits for alternative fuel and electric cars. In November 2008, Sean Hannity lectured a guest: “I don’t see why you don’t praise G.M. for what they are doing with their electric cars and hybrids.” And in December 2008, Greta Van Susteren asked a GM executive “when are you going to change your cars? Because I mean, like, since the early ’70s, we know that fuel has been a problem” (via Nexis transcripts).
Contrary to the prevailing media narrative about low consumer interest in the Volt, electric car sales in 2011 were significantly higher than first year hybrid sales even in the midst of an economic downturn and without climate legislation. The Volt has received several awards including 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, and just this week was named European Car of the Year.
Despite its promise, Volt sales have been stifled in part by negative media backlash toward the car, especially from Fox. As GM’s CEO said in January, “We did not design the Volt to become a political punching bag and that’s what it’s become” (via Climate Progress).
Perhaps it’s time to remind Fox that the Chevy Volt is a “Win for The Home Team,” as Wall Street Journal auto columnist Dan Neil wrote in 2010:
A lot of people don’t like GM because: 1) the bailout, or 1a) Obama; or 2) the United Auto Workers; or 3) because some Monte Carlo or Cutlass Sierra or deuce-and-a-quarter left them walking a long time ago. That’s understandable. These are sour times. But for the moment, we should suspend our rancor and savor a little American pride. A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet. And they did it in 29 months while the company they worked for was falling apart around them.
– Shuana Theel is a researcher with Media Matters for America. This piece was originally published at Media Matters.