Thomas Catenacci, formerly of the Tucker Carlson-founded and Koch-funded right-wing outlet The Daily Caller, is now helping drive climate coverage on FoxNews.com. Hired in June as a political writer for Fox News Digital, Catenacci is pushing content attacking climate activists and advocates while serving as a pipeline for those attacks to appear on Fox News programs and the wider right-wing mediasphere.
During his stint as an energy and environment reporter for the Daily Caller, Catenacci produced a steady stream of attacks against the Biden administration and its climate agenda. He is also known for suing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for racial discrimination “for granting interviews only to Black and Brown journalists on the second anniversary of becoming mayor.”
- Catenacci has published 73 pieces at FoxNews.com between his first article on June 21 and September 21, and 37 of those articles — 51% — have been focused on climate and energy issues.
- The vast majority of Catenacci’s climate content — 23 of 37 articles — focused on or directly attacked climate activists and advocates of climate action within the administration or Democratic Party.
- Catenacci had the most bylines (17) of any individual writer on articles categorized as “climate change” by FoxNews.com.
- Of the 84 stories the site has categorized under “climate change” in his three months at FoxNews.com, Catenacci authored 20%.
- Several of his stories, particularly those attacking climate activists and advocates, have been picked up by Fox News personalities and other right-wing media outlets.
Catenacci is shaping climate coverage for FoxNews.com
Catenacci has contributed 37 articles related to climate and energy issues to the site over a three-month period, and he has increasingly been the dominant byline on articles FoxNews.com has categorized under the “climate change” label.
From June 21 to September 21, FoxNews.com filed 84 climate change stories — and Catenacci’s byline accounted for 20% of those articles. Only three individual writers contributed more than two articles to the site's climate change page during this period: Gabriel Hayes contributed 5, Joe Silverstein had 8, and Catenacci published the most at 17.
Catenacci is filling Fox News’ niche providing ad hominem attacks on climate activists and advocates
Attacking climate activists and advocates, particularly celebrities who have made comments about the need for climate action, is a staple of Fox News’ climate coverage. By focusing on the tactics of some activists or the supposed hypocrisy of celebrities who use private jets, the network keeps the conversation away from the dire realities of the climate crisis while attempting to undermine those who advocate for climate action.
Though Catenacci did not originate this tactic, he certainly is cultivating it and providing fodder for Fox News personalities to dismiss the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. In an August 22 segment driven by a Catenacci article on Steven Spielberg’s private jet use, Fox Across America host Jimmy Failla explained why these stories matter for Fox:
“Everytime a guy like [Leonardo] DiCaprio or Steven Spielberg or John Kerry open their mouth, people buy into this climate change thing a little bit less. Why? Because they are telling us it is an existential threat. The house is on fire but none of them are calling the fire department, which means we’re all getting hosed.”
Of the 37 climate-and-energy-related articles Catenacci has written since he began his tenure at Fox News Digital, 23 have focused on or directly attacked climate activists, including celebrities and advocates of climate action within the administration or Democratic Party.
Seven of those 23 articles were focused on White House special climate envoy John Kerry, who has long been a punching bag for Fox News. Catenacci’s most recent article on Kerry, published on September 14, alleged that his office has been coordinating with green groups on foreign policy. It is the fifth in a string of articles suggesting impropriety on the part of Kerry in “consulting” or having “ties” with green groups. Catenacci’s other two articles centered on Kerry drew on an oft-used right-wing media tactic of publicizing an individual's carbon footprint and then reporting on the outrage that follows.
On August 15, Catenacci published a hit piece suggesting that Leonardo DiCaprio was paying a “dark money group” to fund climate nuisance lawsuits against fossil fuel companies. The story was covered by Fox News and picked up by other notable right-wing media outlets and figures, including the Washington Examiner, Daily Caller, and New York Post. The following day, Catenacci published a piece on DiCaprio’s carbon footprint from using private jets and yachts while funding climate lawsuits.
On August 22, Catenacci published a piece on “climate activist” Steven Spielberg’s private jet emission. In the days that followed, Spielberg’s hypocrisy for using a private jet was discussed on at least three Fox News programs, including Fox & Friends, America’s Newsroom, and Gutfeld!
On August 29, Catenacci published a piece on Harrison Ford’s hypocrisy for using a private jet despite his climate change activism. The following day, Ford’s private jet usage garnered segments on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Outnumbered, and The Ingraham Angle.
Use of private jets should be critiqued, but probably not by a network that has little interest in solving the climate crisis. And whether using private transportation is hypocrisy by climate advocates is not the point. In reality, individual action to reduce a person’s contribution to global warming is wholly inadequate for addressing the scale of the climate crisis. The crisis requires, above all, systemic policy responses that can be implemented only by governments.
Five of Catenacci’s climate and energy articles specifically took aim at climate activists, who he characterized as embracing extreme tactics. Stories about activists deflating tires of SUVs (the focus of two of Catenacci’s articles) are at home at a network that routinely vilifies activists who support causes Fox personalities ostensibly oppose while defending or downplaying extreme and violent actions of activists whose causes they support.
On the July 2 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Will Cain said “there's no difference between” climate activists who deflated SUV tires and “the Jonestown cultists from the 1970s.” That same day on The Big Saturday Show, Fox contributor Tomi Lahren suggested that the administration has emboldened such activists to break the law since the “2020 summer of love riots season.”
At least two other Fox News programs covered the story of U.K. climate activists who deflated the tires of SUVs in New York City after it appeared on the FoxNews.com website, including Jesse Watters Primetime and Gutfeld!.
Notably, the direct actions that have received attention from Fox and other right-wing media outlets represent a fraction of the actions, demonstrations, and other activities on the ground that make up the vast network of climate activism.
Media Matters searched digital articles on Thomas Catenacci’s FoxNews.com writer page for any of the terms “energy,” “gas,” “fossil fuels,” “fracking,” “oil,” or “climate” or any variations of any of the terms “environment,” “green,” “carbon,” “emission,” “eco,” or “conservation” in the headline or lead paragraphs from June 21, 2022, when Catenacci published his first article on the site, through September 21, 2022.
We counted climate and energy articles, which we defined as instances when an article on his writer page mentioned any of the above terms in the headline or lead paragraphs. We also counted all articles with Catenacci’s byline filed on the “climate change” page of FoxNews.com.
We then reviewed all identified articles for whether they included attacks on activists who advocate for climate action, which we defined as statements that criticized or questioned the legitimacy or legality of climate actions advocated by those individuals or groups.