Fox News Runs With Misleading LA Times Story On Wildfires And Climate Change

Fox News devoted several segments to hyping a deeply flawed Los Angeles Times article that baselessly disputed California Gov. Jerry's Brown comments linking the state's spate of wildfires to climate change. Despite the fact that numerous scientists and major scientific reports have detailed the connection that global warming has to both recent and future wildfires in the Southwest -- and none of the experts cited in the Times article actually contradicted Brown's statements -- Fox News echoed the Times by asserting that climate scientists say there is “no data” to support a link between wildfires and climate change.

On the October 19 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck referenced the Times story in a news rundown, stating, “Scientists are shutting down California Governor Jerry Brown's comments on climate change. Brown blamed wildfires on global warming, and now scientists say there's no data linking the two. How about that?”

Later, on the October 19 edition of America's Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer introduced a segment about the Times article by stating: “You may recall some California lawmakers blaming climate change for the devastating wildfires in that state, but a number of climate scientists apparently saying that link does not have support.” During the segment, Fox News chief correspondent Jonathan Hunt stated that the Times “spoke to a range of scientists” who are “saying it is not about climate change when you look at these fires.” A nearly-identical report aired on that day's edition of Fox News' Happening Now.

From the October 19 edition of America's Newsroom:

BILL HEMMER: You may recall some California lawmakers blaming climate change for the devastating wildfires in that state, but a number of climate scientists apparently saying that link does not have support. Chief correspondent Jonathan Hunt's working that story, he's live in our bureau in Los Angeles, and what is Governor Jerry Brown's argument, Jonathan?

JONATHAN HUNT: Well, Governor Brown is leading the charge to link climate change to these fires. He's obviously seen large swaths of his state burn this year, the Rocky fire being one of the worst that we have seen in the state over last few months, and Governor Brown is very certain that he knows what is causing these fires. Listen here.

JERRY BROWN: My message is real clear: California is burning. What the hell are you going to do about it? Climate change does not wait for politicians, it just rolls forward, and that's why I'm stepping up my efforts to wake people up to get the proper action taken.

HUNT: And Governor Brown has a powerful ally in this, in President Obama, who's hosting an event at White House today at which climate change will be discussed. A fact sheet published by the White House for this event says, quote, countries and communities around the world are already being affected by deeper, more persistent droughts, pounded by more severe weather, inundated by bigger storm surges, and imperiled by more frequent and dangerous wildfires. And then you have Brown's, Governor Brown's senior environmental advisor, who says, Bill, that we should be fighting climate change on, quote, a World War III footing.

Bill: Wow. Scientists are arguing this in what way, Jonathan?

Reporter: Well, this is interesting, because you've got the L.A. Times now looking at this in some depth. The L.A. Times not a newspaper known for questioning the science of climate change, but they spoke to a range of scientists who said no, with these fires you need to look at the way we've developed the land, we need to look at the design of the homes being put on this land. One of them, Richard Halsey of the Chaparral Institute, said if we don't make changes there, then quote, the houses will keep burning down and people will keep dying. I don't believe that climate change discussion is helpful. So again, scientists saying it's not about climate change when you look at these fires, but you can always find one scientist to say one thing, one to say another. It's like that one-handed economic advisor former presidents have asked for, Bill.

Bill: Thank you, Jonathan. From Los Angeles, thank you, sir.