A recent survey by progressive watchdog Public Citizen (9/12/17) on the media’s coverage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma confirms what’s long been known: Corporate media are indifferent to the causal relationship between climate change and extreme weather, and by far the worst offenders are the Rupert Murdoch–owned Fox News, Wall Street Journal and New York Post.
The survey covered 18 outlets hurricane coverage for the week of August 25–September 1: ten major newspapers, three weekly news magazines, and ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News. Out of 2,000 media items, there were only 136 mentions of climate change, many denialist in content.
Outlets owned by Murdoch’s umbrella corporations, News Corp and 21st Century Fox, clearly led the denialist camp. These firms constitute the core propaganda machine of the right in the English-speaking world, with the highest-rated cable news network (Fox News) and the first and sixth biggest-circulation newspapers (Wall Street Journal, New York Post) in the United States. As Public Citizen’s media survey reveals, they go beyond indifference to advocate outright denialism.
The Journal had three op-eds and Fox News had two segments that denied—and laughingly mocked—any connection between hurricane intensity and climate change, the survey found:
- Holman W. Jenkins, Jr: “First Houston’s Resilience, Then Washington’s Boondoggle” (Wall Street Journal, 8/29/31)
- Roger Pielke Jr: “The Hurricane Lull Couldn’t Last” (Wall Street Journal, 8/31/17)
- Editorial Board: “Texas, Thou Hast Sinned” (Wall Street Journal, 8/31/17)
- Tucker Carlson Tonight (Fox News, 8/31/17)
- The Five (Fox News, 8/25/17)
Other media did better, but some not much more so. ABC News and NBC News didn’t mention climate change at all in the context of Hurricane Harvey or Irma. Other outlets, such as USA Today (8/30/17, 8/30/17), used a “both sides” framing to provide a platform for denialists, but the paper’s editorial ultimately concluded climate change “juiced Hurricane Harvey.”