O’REILLY’S AND ROVE’S NEW CONSPIRACY THEORY…. For most of the summer and fall, the standard line from Fox News personalities was that the economy wasn’t that bad, and major news outlets were exaggerating the severity of the financial crisis to help Barack Obama win the election.

Now, of course, the election is over, presumably denying news outlets a motivation to inflate the severity of the economy. Or so I thought. Amanda Terkel notes that Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove believe traditional news outlets are still conspiring to make people believe the economy is in dire straits, and are still doing so for Obama’s benefit.

As O’Reilly sees it, “the media” is “spinning” the nation’s problems to be “as negative as possible now so that they can buy Barack Obama some time and set up a thing where if anything goes right after he becomes president, they can jump on it.” He added, “[T]here is a conscious effort on the part of The New York Times and other liberal media to basically paint as drastic a picture as possible, so that when Barack Obama takes office that anything is better than what we have now.”

Here’s a radical thought O’Reilly apparently hasn’t considered: maybe news outlets are reporting that the economic crisis is severe because it’s actually a severe economic crisis. There’s no need for a “conscious” conspiracy to help Obama — news outlets are just reporting what’s going on. Indeed, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on last month’s job losses, officials described it as “maybe one of the worst jobs reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics has ever produced” in its 124-year history.

Is the BLS coordinating with the NYT on the conspiracy?

For his part, Rove kept agreeing with O’Reilly’s paranoid delusions, and repeatedly said major media outlets declined to use “similar scare tactics and the similar phrases and words” after the dot com bubble burst and Wall Street saw a major “correction” eight years ago.

Rove’s clearly confused. When the dot com bubble imploded quite a few people lost quite a bit of money. But the reason we didn’t hear the same “phrases and words” eight years ago that we do now is that the situations are in no way similar. I don’t know if Rove is deliberately avoiding reading about current events, but there’s a global economic crisis underway, with frozen credit markets, countries going bankrupt, a bleak and deteriorating employment landscape, and huge banks collapsing with some regularity. We are, already, in one of the longest recessions in generations, and we don’t even know if we’ve hit the bottom yet.

Karl Rove thinks these conditions should be described with the same language reporters used to describe the dot com collapse. Karl Rove doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.