Accuracy in Media

One of the major promises of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign was to rollback many of the Obama-era environmental regulations, which energy executives blamed for crippling the coal industry and other industries. Trump has so far kept that promise in rolling back many regulations made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), such as the controversial Clean Power Plan proposed by the Obama administration in 2015.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes took on the Trump rollbacks in a recent television segment, where he blamed the Trump administration and EPA for rolling back too many environmental regulations. Citing an academic study, Hayes laid the blame of approximately 10,000 air pollution-related deaths at the feet of Trump and Trump’s EPA. He said, “The tangible effect is 10,000 people dying” and “that is the silent cost of these policies.” Hayes pointed out that Obama’s EPA lowered air pollution and reminded viewers that the 10,000 deaths are now a part of Trump’s legacy.

However, Hayes did not cite the EPA’s stance on the academic study, which was conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The EPA downplayed the risks of air pollution causing significant deaths in a public panel, but the only mention of the EPA’s counterargument was in an article published by U.S. News and World Report. Hayes did not mention of the EPA’s stance, and neither did other media outlets.

Additionally, Hayes overlooked the important findings from the study he cited. The study’s authors acknowledged that wildfires have led to an uptick in air pollution figures, in conjunction with man-made air pollution. Vox also buried this acknowledgement in their write-up on the study, noting that wildfires are a main contributor to the increase in air pollution. Additionally, Hayes did not mention how the study blamed the Obama administration for lax enforcement, not only the Trump administration. Vox’s article said, based on the study’s data analysis, “That suggests that insofar as a decline in enforcement led, after a few years, to an increase in actual pollution, this is not solely the result of the Trump administration’s actions but of overly lax enforcement by the Obama administration as well.”

Hayes’s air pollution segment made for good propaganda, but was rife with inaccuracy and absent of facts and context. Hayes should have included the study’s findings that the Obama administration could be at fault for lax enforcement of environmental regulations, as well as how wildfires have contributed to the rise in air pollution figures. Instead, Hayes settled for partisan posturing and multiple inaccuracies in his reporting.

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