CNN gave coal company CEO a platform for Gore-bashing, did not report company's labor and safety violations

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

On CNN's The Situation Room, Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert Murray called Al Gore "the shaman of global goofiness and gloom and doom," and Carol Costello reported: "What [Murray is] really concerned about are people losing their jobs." But Costello did not report that several of Murray's own mines have reportedly been embroiled in controversy over labor rights and substandard safety conditions.

On the April 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN correspondent Carol Costello reported on "coal miner-turned-CEO of Murray Energy Corporation" Robert Murray's views on global warming, including his opinion that former Vice President Al Gore is "the shaman of global goofiness and gloom and doom." Costello concluded the report on Murray by claiming, without evidence or rebuttal, "What he's really concerned about are people losing their jobs." But Costello did not report that several of Murray's own mines have reportedly been embroiled in controversy over labor rights and substandard safety conditions.

During the segment, Murray told CNN that legislation requiring companies to cut back on emissions is "a human issue to me because I live among the people that wear the hard hats, and I saw what happened in 1990 with the Clean Air Act, and this will be much worse. ... [L]ives will be destroyed for little or no environmental benefit." But despite Murray's purported sympathy for miners, the Pittsburgh office of the National Labor Relations Board issued a formal complaint against Murray and an associate in 2001 because they "[t]hreatened Union officers and its employees with reprisals for publicizing the labor dispute between the parties" and "[t]hreatened its employees with the loss of jobs, and the loss of wages and benefits if they failed to select new Union officers and because of their support for the Union," according to a 2002 United Mine Workers Journal article.

According to a January 15, 2006, article in The Columbus Dispatch of Ohio, Murray owns Ohio's two largest mines, which "recorded injury rates about one-fourth higher than the national average last year while being cited for serious violations by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration [MSHA]." In 2005, federal inspectors cited one of the mines, Ohio Valley Coal Co. Powhatan No. 6, "for 494 safety violations and the company paid $147,431 in fines -- nearly triple the combined amount of fines levied against Ohio's nine other underground coal mines."

An October 20, 2006, article in Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader described Murray as "a huge donor to Republican senators" and reported on a meeting at an MSHA office in which "inspectors confronted him [Murray] about safety problems at his mines." During the meeting, Murray reportedly made reference to his connections to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and McConnell's wife, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao: "Shouting at a table full of MSHA officials ... Murray said: 'Mitch McConnell calls me one of the five finest men in America, and the last I checked, he was sleeping with your boss,' according to notes of the meeting." The article added: "Murray, in a recent interview, denied that he referred to McConnell 'sleeping with' Chao."

CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux concluded the report:

MALVEAUX: And while that energy CEO calls global warming "goofy," others say it involves a very grave situation. A new climate report from the United Nations warns that millions of people will go hungry, thirsty, and suffer disease as the world's temperature rises if the world doesn't act.

The report warns of rising sea levels swallowing up some coastal cities like New York. Scientists say that climate change could mean a new dust bowl bringing on drought in the Southwest and making it even hotter, and bring on a wave of animal extinction. Experts say polar bears could vanish this century because they will live on ice that will melt.

However, during the segment, on-screen text read: " 'Global Goofiness': Blasting Global Warming & Al Gore."

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the April 6 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

MALVEAUX: Now an issue involving a well-known Democrat -- Al Gore -- a planet in peril and global warming gloom? "It's all just ridiculous," says one man. He says all the forecasts for disaster will themselves be disastrous for one American industry.

CNN's Carol Costello in New York. Carol, who is making these claims?

COSTELLO: Who is making these claims? Well, his name is Bob Murray. He's one of the few CEOs in the coal industry to openly mock Al Gore and what Murray calls "militant environmentalism." His words so blunt, he's attracting a lot of attention.

[begin video clip]

COSTELLO: Bob Murray is a coal miner-turned-CEO of Murray Energy Corporation. He does not hide his disdain for what he calls the "global goofiness campaign." You could say he's the anti- Gore.

MURRAY: I would describe Al Gore as the shaman of global goofiness and gloom and doom.

COSTELLO: Murray calls Al Gore and his Hollywood friends "elitists" who see the working class as abstractions to push their agenda. Needless to say, he was not impressed by Gore's testimony before a congressional hearing on global warming.

GORE: If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action. The planet has a fever.

COSTELLO: Murray calls that "hysteria," saying Congress doesn't understand the consequences of bills to curb global warming.

MURRAY: Every bill that's been introduced to address it is going to destroy manufacturing jobs in America. It's going to raise the electric rates for people on fixed income.

COSTELLO: Murray says 52 percent of our electricity is generated by coal. It's the cheapest way to make it. Environmentalists say it's also the dirtiest way, accounting for a third of carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists say is the culprit behind global warming.

Murray says maybe, but if companies are forced to cut back emissions without needed technology not now available, manufacturers will simply outsource overseas.

MURRAY: It's a human issue to me because I live among the people that wear the hard hats, and I saw what happened in 1990 with the Clean Air Act, and this will be much worse. And we must prevent that, because lives will be destroyed for little or no environmental benefit.

[end video clip]

COSTELLO: We must stress that most in the scientific community says global warming does exist and must be dealt with. We also called on Al Gore for a response. His camp reiterates that by saying, "To say that this is a debate between former vice president Al Gore and the coal companies is a mistake. Today, the scientific community has once again spoken loudly and clearly and confirmed that global warming is real. It is caused by human activity, its consequences are serious, and that actions must be taken now to avoid the worst damage." Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, Carol, does Murray believe that there is any room for compromise here?

COSTELLO: You know, he really does. What he's really concerned about are people losing their jobs.

If all of these emissions controls are being put into place all at one time, he fears that'll be too expensive for companies to absorb. And what happens when that happens? They lay off workers.

MALVEAUX: Thanks Carol.

And while that energy CEO calls global warming "goofy," others say it involves a very grave situation. A new climate report from the United Nations warns that millions of people will go hungry, thirsty, and suffer disease as the world's temperature rises if the world doesn't act.

The report warns of rising sea levels swallowing up some coastal cities like New York. Scientists say that climate change could mean a new dust bowl bringing on drought in the Southwest and making it even hotter, and bring on a wave of animal extinction. Experts say polar bears could vanish this century because they will live on ice that will melt.

Posted In
Environment & Science
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Suzanne Malveaux
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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