In the past week, conservatives have jumped to the defense of Big Oil in order to justify their own push for more offshore drilling. On Sunday, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) backed up Exxon Mobil, saying that the company’s critics should be overjoyed that an “American company made money.” On Laura Ingraham’s radio show on Friday, former senator Rick Santorum said that Exxon’s record-setting quarterly profit of $11.7 billion was not “a huge profit.”
Last night on The O’Reilly Factor, Karl Rove joined in, declaring that oil companies “pay a lot in taxes.” But this new right-wing meme was too much even for Bill O’Reilly, who said that Big Oil should “donate 2 percent of their profits for the last four quarters to a fund that would help struggling Americans pay their heating bills.” O’Reilly also contacted the top five corporations, who were only “lukewarm” to his idea:
O’REILLY: Now we contacted the five big oil corporations. And to say the response to my idea was lukewarm is to be kind. Exxon and Chevron pointed out they pay a huge amount of taxes to the government, which is true. But what about directly helping those in need? Not much enthusiasm so far.
Throughout the segment, Rove acted as Big Oil’s top lobbyist. He said that O’Reilly’s proposal was unnecessary because of the federal LIHEAP grant, which provides home energy assistance to low-income families. Rove said that this funding was “probably adequate to help with most of the problem that we face this fall.”
However, President Bush and his conservative allies in Congress have repeatedly blocked funding to the program. Last November, Bush vetoed LIHEAP. Just last week, Senate Republicans successfully blocked renewed funding for the program.
O’REILLY: So here is my proposal. I am asking the five major American oil companies, Chevron, Occidental, Conoco Phillips, ExxonMobil and Hess to donate 2 percent of their profits for the last four quarters to a fund that would help struggling Americans pay their heating bills. In that way, the oil companies could pay back their country, a nation that has allowed them to prosper more than any other concern in the history of civilization. A 2 percent charitable disbursement would alleviate the suffering of tens of millions of Americans and not hurt the oil companies much at all.
Last year, they made a combined $80 billion in profit, a record amount for any industry at any time. Now we contacted the five big oil corporations. And to say the response to my idea was lukewarm is to be kind. Exxon and Chevron pointed out they pay a huge amount of taxes to the government, which is true. But what about directly helping those in need? Not much enthusiasm so far. If just one of the oil companies would establish such a charitable fund, the goodwill that corporation would receive would more than make up for the money spent, as millions of Americans would buy that company’s oil over the others. [...]
O’REILLY: All right, with us now, Fox News analyst Karl Rove. All right. I don’t know where — you begin where you want to begin here. I got – I want the oil companies to help out. Is that stupid? Am I naive?
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISOR: Well, look, they pay a lot in taxes. And we actually do have a program, the federal taxpayers pay for, call LIHEAP, for Low Income Housing Assistance, which pays for assistance to people who live in cold parts of the country during the winter, and lower income families who live in hot parts of the country during the summer. And those moneys are probably, you know, have been plussed up the last couple of years and probably adequate to help with most of the problem that we face this fall.
O’REILLY: OK, but there’s nothing wrong with the American oil companies kicking in, if they would, this money.
O’REILLY: — and saying, look, if you have a problem, we’re going to help you because we love America and we want Americans to be warm. I think that would be a good PR thing. I think it’s a noble thing to do. Am I wrong?
ROVE: Well, look, the companies have a responsibility to their shareholders.
O’REILLY: Oh, come on. How much money are you going to make? [...]
O’REILLY: In the banking industry, it’s competitive. In the oil industry, they operate on the largesse of the government. They and the government are partners, as you know.
ROVE: I disagree with that. I think it’s very competitive in the oil business. Who can find it and get it out of the ground at the cheapest price possible?
O’REILLY: All right, well, in my town, the four gas stations on each corner charge the same. [...]
O’REILLY: A couple of pennies for every shareholders. And you’re going to be stingy about that so some old lady in Minnesota.
ROVE: Yes, couple of pennies on – they make 8 cents on a dollar. So you’re asking them to give up probably about a quarter of that.
O’REILLY: I’m telling you, Teddy Roosevelt would be on my side. Teddy Roosevelt.
ROVE: He wouldn’t be in favor of (INAUDIBLE).