While Bob Woodward’s belated acknowledgement of a secret source in the CIA leak case has attracted a lot of attention and criticism, another journalism scandal has come and seemingly gone involving the Fox News Channel (FNC). The “fair and balanced” network that usually gives conservatives a fair shake was taken over by radical environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. and his liberal-left allies. Kennedy, a liberal lawyer and Democratic Party activist, became a “special correspondent” for an FNC special program on global warming that was so extreme as to be laughable. Kennedy was a star in the show.
This was new territory for FNC, which is frequently accused of being a propaganda organ of the Republican Party. Kennedy has written a book accusing President Bush of “crimes against nature” and “hijacking our democracy.” He calls Bush “the most corrupt and immoral President that we have had in American history” and says that Bush policies spawned Hurricane Katrina. He implies that the Bush Administration is fascist or Nazi-like.
Kennedy, who had previously criticized Fox News and other “right-wing media” for misinforming the American people on critical public policy issues, has apparently changed his opinion. But what is behind FNC giving a platform to Kennedy and his ilk?
It was almost the reverse of the situation decades ago when conservative Senator Jesse Helms was reported to be interested in taking over CBS News through a shareholder revolt and becoming Dan Rather’s boss. That never happened, of course. In this case, the liberal-left managed to take over FNC, at least on a temporary basis, with the connivance of FNC chairman Roger Ailes, a long-time Republican. This astonishing media coup was greeted with cheers on the liberal-left while most conservatives remained silent, apparently afraid to say anything for fear of offending Ailes and getting blacklisted from future appearances on FNC.
At Accuracy in Media, where our founder Reed Irvine taught us to pursue truth no matter where it leads, the truth in this bizarre case has to be told. FNC’s November 13 program on global warming, “The Heat is On,” was a piece of junk―or more specifically, junk science. Indeed, Steven Milloy, publisher of junkscience.com, told AIM, “I am disappointed that almost no effort was made to qualify, balance and challenge the wild assertions of manmade catastrophic global warming. Even more disappointing was the program’s effort to dismiss, diminish and denigrate those who question global warming alarmism.”
Milloy is being kind. The program was one-sided to the point of being comical. Viewers expecting a serious treatment of the issue found FNC offering up actors such as Alan Alda, dressed up in a tuxedo at a Hollywood premier, offering their thoughts on global warming as if they were “experts” on science, technology and energy issues.
Milloy urged the program’s viewers to check out climatologist Pat Michaels’ review of the program on JunkScience.com. Michaels said the show was “more one-sided than anything I’ve seen in the entire sad history of climate change journalism.”
Milloy has contributed articles to the Fox News website that make mincemeat of some of the arguments that were made in favor of man-made global warming that peppered the FNC program. For example, an October 13 Milloy piece, “What Arctic Warming?,” completely undermined the theory, which was stated as fact in the program, that human activity is melting the polar regions.
Marc Morano, a guest on FNC when he exposes the left, didn’t get any invitations to go back on the network when he reported on CNSNews.com that FNC Chairman Ailes had approved the one-sided program after Kennedy “dragged” him to a lecture by former Vice President Al Gore on the topic. When asked about this, Ailes was unavailable for comment, Morano reported.
In advance of the show, the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) sent a letter to Ailes pleading for fair and balanced treatment of the issue. While the host for the special, Rick Folbaum, had written that “the vast majority of the scientific community says we’re witnessing a unique and troubling kind of climate change” and that “no one can argue with this,” CEI said that “Many scientists have gone on record disputing this, many of whom are readily available to tell you that science does not support global warming alarmism, and that no one can credibly predict climate change over the next century.”
A “disclaimer” was read before the show by a Fox News anchor justifying its slanted nature. She said, “Tonight we are presenting “The Heat is On.” You’ll hear primarily from those experts and citizens who believe that global warming is a crisis. Many people disagree with that statement. We will continue to investigate the science and hear from others in future Fox programming.”
“The earth is sending out a desperate alarm,” is how Folbaum began the program. The statement was made as viewers heard the “tick, tick, tick” of a loud clock, as if we were running out of time to save Mother Earth. Viewers saw thick smoke billowing from industrial smokestacks, a dead fish and traffic jams.
It went from bad to worse. As noted by Dr. Michael R. Fox, who has 40 years of experience in the energy field, one of the silliest parts of the program was when FNC put forward an Indy race car driver as an energy expert. The driver favors the use of ethanol for race cars. “It’s well known among energy experts that in most cases ethanol is NOT a net source of energy,” Dr. Fox commented. “The reason for this is that it requires a great deal of energy to make a gallon of ethanol. In fact, it requires more energy to make a gallon of ethanol than can be obtained from burning the gallon of ethanol. Taken in its entirety, an ethanol fuel system is a net energy consumer.”
Near the end, Folbaum provided a free commercial for a radical environmental group led by Laurie David, a “global warming activist,” and plugged her website.
But not only was the show biased, Kennedy was on FNC the day before the airing of the program to attack scientists who don’t buy into his beliefs as “biostitutes.” This smear was a clever play on the word “prostitute,” suggesting that those opposing the Kennedy view have been paid off. The “fair and balanced” network had no one on to rebut Kennedy.
Dr. Fox asked, “?what is it about the green lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, which Fox News finds so appealing? Is he an energy expert? Or is he just a noisy Kennedy lawyer, unskilled in physics, chemistry, and engineering? And what is it about Laurie David, the self-appointed energy expert that Fox News found so appealing? What do these people know about climate, energy, and how energy is made, converted, and transported? What are their qualifications, and did Fox News look for anyone more qualified?”
Even more ridiculous, FNC offered Jeffrey Nachmanoff as an expert. He is the screenwriter behind “The Day After Tomorrow,” the Hollywood production that depicts global warming producing tidal waves that envelop New York City. Folbaum said Nachmanoff was “alarmed by the message of his own movie” and now saves energy by installing high-efficiency light bulbs in his home.
Folbaum offered the most ridiculous comments of all, saying at the end of the slanted show that FNC was still fair and balanced. “It is our position here at Fox News to examine issues fairly and openly,” he claimed. “We do not and will not advocate any position to our viewers. We report .You decide.”
There has to be some rational explanation of what happened here. Did FNC chairman Ailes really find Al Gore persuasive? That’s hard to believe. Or was putting on the program a clever strategy by Ailes? Did he realize that the environmentalists would make fools of themselves by going to extremes if he let them have the run of the network? The trouble with this theory, of course, is that the credibility of FNC was also damaged in the process.
Some observers think FNC turned its airtime over to Kennedy because he may be in a position to help or hurt them. It has been reported that Kennedy wants to run for high office in New York, where FNC parent News Corporation is based. FNC is said to be cozying up to New York Senator Hillary Clinton for the same reason.
Whatever the motivation, FNC’s critics deserve an hour of airtime to respond. That is the “fair and balanced” thing to do.