Media Matters: If a tree falls on Fox News...
In a case of 'Do as I do, not as I say,' Rupert Murdoch is taking bold steps to help solve a problem while telling the world it doesn’t exist.
Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 05:21 AM
THE NEWSMAKER: Rupert Murdoch says one thing about global warming and his Fox News says something else. (AP Photo/FOX NEWS)
The parent company of one of America’s three cable news networks is committed to going carbon neutral.
MSNBC, right? With its newfound liberal focus, and with a parent company like GE that does a far-reaching “Green Week” each year? (Note that last year’s Green Week was marked by the delivery of soy-ink printed pink slips on recycled paper to the science and environment team at the Weather Channel, GE’s latest acquisition). Nope.
CNN, right? Ted Turner’s creation, now part of the Time-Warner empire that made Earth the “Planet of the Year” a while ago. (Venus is still steaming over that one). Nope.
That would leave -- no, it couldn’t be: Fox News? Yes.
Sir Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation -- parent of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and a legion of worldwide news and entertainment organs, has pledged to become carbon neutral by next year. Fox flagship shows like 24 have made their production sets into carbon neutral statements. The animated series Futurama has done the same with its DVD releases. Last Sunday, The Simpsons had their annual Earth Day show. Homer promised Mother Nature that he would set aside this day to express good intentions about her, and wear a T-shirt in her honor.
Throughout Sir Rupert’s empire, newspaper, magazine, and book publishers, showbiz producers, and line employees are heeding the call to green up. If you work for Sir Rupert, and don’t heed his call, chances are you won’t work for Sir Rupert for long.
All this after a Charles Dickens-like moment of personal revelation for Sir Rupert a few years back. “I have to admit that, until recently, I was somewhat wary of the [global] warming debate,” he told his employees. “I believe it is now our responsibility to take the lead on this issue."
Good on ya, mate. You go, Sir Rupert. But I have a couple of questions.
First, while it can’t possibly be a bad thing for a media giant like Rupert Murdoch to make a strong statement on climate change, and then back it up in his business practice, are you sure this carbon neutral thing is on the level, and that it’s not just a half-measure, a feel-good exercise? Rather than hash this out here, I would refer you to my protracted whine on this topic from a couple of months ago. Or this week’s edition of The Onion, which has a brilliant spoof of carbon neutral schemes.
So, Sir Rupert, let’s move on to question Number Two: If you’re so convinced that climate change is an imminent problem, how come so many of your news outlets are still telling millions of people that it isn’t? Check out this fawning, unskeptical interview between Fox News’ Steve Doocy and Jim Inhofe, the Senate’s leading climate denier. Or this clip, where Doocy argues with a very mild defense of climate change by a meteorologist. Or this transcript, where Doocy interviews John Coleman, a TV weather guy who wants to sue Al Gore for unspecified offenses, without actually even asking even a polite question.
How about this clip where Sean Hannity “exposes” Obama’s climate czar as a closet socialist? Or this one, where he launches after Arianna Huffington on global warming “hypocrisy” because she’s actually traveled on a jet aircraft. Or this segment that purported to be a balanced discussion. It was titled “Warming Hysteria”, and Hannity’s then co-host, the meek Alan Colmes, barely got a word in, as per his job description. Here’s one more from Hannity.
Brit Hume, till recently Fox’s managing editor, took regular potshots at climate change with no attempt at fairness. And he, like Doocy, was supposed to be working a news show, not an opinion show.
Fox may have lost Brit Hume, but they’ve swiped out-and-out crackpot Glenn Beck from CNN. Here’s Glenn from his CNN show. Here’s one more. In his short tenure at Fox, Glenn has already dusted off the Fuhrer card, and likened Al Gore to Hitler. I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.
Last week, MNN blogger Jim Motavalli appeared on Fox News’s business channel as host Neil Cavuto asked if global warming was happening, but wouldn’t take “yes” for an answer.
There are plenty more of these, and very few from the other side -- either in Fox’s “opinion” shows or in its “news” shows. In 2007, Fox did run an hour-long documentary from Laurie David, climate activist and wife of Seinfeld creator Larry David. Laurie is said to have been a key to Sir Rupert’s climate epiphany. But curb your enthusiasm. The views expressed in this show have been pretty much persona non grata on Fox ever since.
So, Sir Rupert ‘s message to his company is to help stop global warming. But his company’s message to the world, at least through Fox News, is that it doesn’t exist. You can’t get any more Fair and Balanced
To be fair, Sir Rupert’s world is not monolithic on this subject. The Times of London (also owned by Rupert Murdoch) has editorialized strongly on the topic, calling climate change “one of the unfolding calamities of our time.” On his home turf in Australia, Murdoch plays both sides of the fence: His national newspaper, The Australian, is fond of phrases like “deep-green Luddites” when discussing scientists, politicians, or activists concerned about climate. The more recently-acquired Sydney Morning Herald was a sponsor of the recent “Earth Hour” where we all globally dimmed our lights for an hour to make a statement. A one-hour statement.
Of course the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, still new to the Murdoch stable, was a wild-eyed coincidence theorist on climate change long before Sir Rupert plunked down $5 billion to buy Dow Jones and its flagship paper. Here’s one piece from last year, where the WSJ editorial page declared anyone who acknowledges climate change to be sick in the head.
But the most interesting Murdoch-empire convert to the notion that global warming is real is Bill O’Reilly. At least he’s a part-time convert.
As early as 2002, O’Reilly said, “I have never understood the resistance to the concept of global warming.” He took fellow conservatives like Rush Limbaugh to task for a knee-jerk rejection of the mountain of scientific evidence from “reputable scientists.” By 2007, O’Reilly had backpedaled, declaring that those reputable scientists were engaging in “guesswork.” But in a CBS News 60 Minutes profile that same year, O’Reilly said “Global warming is here. All these idiots running around saying that it isn’t here, that’s ridiculous.”
Then in December 2007, O’Reilly ran a segment ridiculing a Massachusetts town for dimming its Christmas lights as a global warming symbol, somehow blaming it all on Al Gore, the global Grinch-in-Chief. Then in September 2008, O’Reilly told Time magazine “I’ve always been a Green Guy, ever since I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.” Then in January 2009, he attacked a $400 million item in the Obama stimulus package that would study global warming. It might take that much to figure out where O’Reilly really stands. I hope Rachel Carson’s grave is in a No-Spin Zone.
(Editor’s note: Just last week, MNN’s Jim Motavalli had to defend the existence of global warming on the Fox Business channel. Watch that clip here.)
Peter Dykstra is the former executive producer of CNN's Science, Tech and Weather Unit. He writes three columns for MNN: Media Mayhem on Mondays, Political Habitat on Wednesdays, and Green States on Fridays. (Yes, he writes a lot.)
(MNN homepage photo: Original photo from FOX NEWS)