PBS' Ifill failed to identify Competitive Enterprise Institute as conservative, energy industry-fundedMay 25, 2006 1:37 PM EDT ››› JOSH KALVEN
In a May 24 segment on former Vice President Al Gore's current campaign to raise awareness about climate change, PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer anchor Gwen Ifill noted that "critics have called Gore 'alarmist' " and aired a clip from a recent television advertisement produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which she identified only as a "Washington think tank." But Ifill did not inform viewers that CEI is a conservative institution largely funded by the energy industry, which has a financial stake in opposing policies that seek to combat climate change. Moreover, Ifill ignored that, in the ads, which downplay the threat of global warming, CEI misrepresents several scientific studies.
As Media Matters for America has noted, CEI has received substantial funding from the fossil fuel industry, including more than $2 million from the Exxon Mobil Corporation since 1998. As a March 19 Washington Post article reported, "The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which widely publicizes its belief that the earth is not warming cataclysmically because of the burning of coal and oil, says Exxon Mobil Corp. is a 'major donor' largely as a result of its effort to push that position."
On May 18, CEI released two 60-second television ads "focusing on the alleged global warming crisis and the calls by some environmental groups and politicians for reduced energy use." NewsHour uncritically aired a clip of the first ad, titled "Energy," which suggests that environmentalists have falsely labeled carbon dioxide as a pollutant when, in fact, it is "essential to life." But the ad ignores that it is not C02 itself that is inherently harmful, but it is excessive discharges of the gas that scientists argue is harmful to the atmosphere. The second ad, "Glaciers," claims that recent scientific studies have proven that "Greenland's glaciers are growing" and that the "Antarctic ice sheet is getting thicker, not thinner." But as the weblog Think Progress noted, the Greenland study found increased snow accumulation only on the island's interior, while separate studies conducted during the same period found significant melting among the coastal glaciers. Further, the author of the study on Antarctica, Curt Davis, a University of Missouri-Columbia electrical and computer engineering professor, has issued a public statement accusing CEI of a "deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate." He stated that, actually, "[t]he fact that the interior ice sheet is growing is a predicted consequence of global climate warming."
From the May 24 edition of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer:
GORE: We have to tear the mask away. Labeling this a political issue is just another way of saying it's insignificant. This is the most crucial challenge that any of us have ever faced, and it's happening in our lifetimes.
IFILL: Some critics have called Gore "alarmist," as in this ad released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.
NARRATOR: Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.