In the wake of the catastrophic oil spill currently occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, Media Matters reviews Fox News' fervent advocacy for offshore drilling. Its activism has including promoting Sarah Palin's “drill, baby, drill” mantra and pushing myths suggesting that drilling is environmentally safe.
Palin's “drill, baby, drill” mantra part of Fox's pro-offshore drilling endorsement
Palin: "[L]et's drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall." On the April 14 edition of On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren aired footage of Fox News contributor Sarah Palin giving a speech at a tea party event, in which she repeated the “drill, baby, drill” mantra she first voiced during the 2008 presidential campaign, saying: “We can pave the way for proven conventional sources of energy, resource development with nuclear and clean coal technology and on and offshore drilling. Because remember that energy in America is security for America. So, yeah, let's drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall.”
Hannity: “We don't need to explore, we need to drill, baby, drill.” On the April 1 edition of his show, Sean Hannity said, “We've got the oil reserves in Alaska. We've got them off the coast of Florida. We've got them off the coast in California. We've got them in the Gulf. We know where the oil is. We don't need to explore, we need to drill, baby, drill.” Hannity later said, “Drilling would be conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner.”
Beck repeatedly touted offshore drilling
Beck: “If you really cared about the environment, you would let us drill for our own oil.” On the September 2, 2008, edition of his CNN Headline News show, Glenn Beck said, “I got news for the greenies. If you really cared about the environment, you would let us drill for our own oil,” adding: “It appears to me that the oil companies are doing a better job protecting the ocean and the fishes and the Gulf of Mexico than the local, state, and federal government are having at protecting people in our cities.”
Beck applauds Bush for removing the “antiquated” “executive ban on offshore drilling.” On the July 14, 2008, edition of his CNN Headline News show, Beck noted President Bush's removing of “the executive ban on offshore drilling,” adding: “Welcome to the party, George. This is a ban that was as antiquated as it is idiotic. Unfortunately, no more oil is going to flow, from the Atlantic, at least, until Congress does the same thing and lifts their ban as well.”
Beck: “Anybody with a car and a brain has been screaming about that for a long time.” On June 18, 2008, Beck said that “President Bush gave a speech this afternoon urging Congress to pass legislation, lifting the congressional ban on safe, environmentally friendly offshore oil drilling, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Anybody with a car and a brain has been screaming about that for a long time.” On the June 17, 2008, edition of his show, Beck called the lifting of the ban “so logical the politicians have trouble even understanding it.”
Beck: “We have to ramp up domestic offshore drilling.” From the May 12, 2008, edition of his show, Beck said, “We have to ramp up domestic offshore drilling, even off the coast of billionaire vacation spots like South Florida, California, and my favorite, Cape Cod.” Beck also said: “So tonight, America, here's what you need to know. Until we get a president and Congress with vision -- or really, I'll just settle for one with a clue -- we need temporary energy solutions, and aggressive drilling in the United States is one of them.”
Beck on environmental opposition to offshore drilling: “Go make it with a tree all you want. I'm looking for oil.” On the May 8, 2008, edition of his show, Beck said: “Norway, Canada, chock full of tree huggers, and they both have allowed offshore drilling for years. China, Cuba, virtually drilling in our own backyard, right off the coast of Florida. Yet, 85 percent of our own coastal waters, along with ANWR, are completely off limits, because we might hurt the bucktooth beaver or a caribou or whatever the hell they're complaining about now. What is it going to take before you are finally pissed of enough to tell these environmentalists, you know what? Go make it with a tree all you want. I'm looking for oil.”
Gingrich: “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less”
Gingrich literally wrote the book on oil drilling advocacy. Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich is the author of Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less: A handbook for slashing gas prices and solving our energy crisis (Regnery Press, 2008). In the book, Gingrich writes, “There is perhaps no better example of the disconnect between your government and you than the ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. According to Gingrich, ” every year that this ban remains in place is another year that Americans will needlessly pay high gas prices, with much of the profits going to foreign dictatorships." [Page 14]
Gingrich organization campaign promotes drilling. Americans Solutions for Winning the Future, of which Gingrich is General Chairman, has a “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign. The campaign features a petition calling on Congress to “act immediately to lower gasoline prices (and diesel and other fuel prices)* by authorizing the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries.”
Other Fox figures also call for increased offshore drilling
Kristol: “We would like more drilling in Virginia.” On the February 14 edition of Fox News Sunday, panelist William Kristol responded to Juan Williams statement that “when it comes to drilling offshore, you go talk to the people who live off the shore of Florida; do they want more drilling? Do the people in North Carolina want the Outer Banks covered in black oil? I don't think so,” by saying, “People in Virginia just elected a governor running for governor on the -- on the platform of more drilling offshore in Virginia, so we would like more drilling in Virginia.”
Cavuto: Offshore drilling “yields demonstrable results and fairly quickly.” On the May 27, 2009, edition of Your World, host Neil Cavuto discussed “eco-entrepeneur” Howard Gould's proposal to paint roofs white as a way to save energy. Cavuto said he wanted to throw offshore drilling “in the mix” of energy proposals, adding, “It is just as nutty as painting a roof white, right?” When Gould noted that “Putting an offshore drilling platform is not necessarily low-hanging fruit. I mean, that is a pretty expensive proposition,” Cavuto responded, “But it yields demonstrable results and fairly quickly.”
Hosts touted myth that drilling is safe because no oil spilled during Katrina, Rita
Contrary to Fox-pushed falsehood, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita spilled nearly 17,700 barrels of petroleum products. According to a 2007 report prepared for the U.S. Minerals Management Service by the international consulting firm Det Norske Veritas, due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, “124 [oil] spills were reported with a total volume of roughly 17,700 barrels of total petroleum products,” including more than 10,000 barrels from platforms and rigs alone. The report further noted that “about 13,200 barrels were crude oil and condensate from platforms, rigs and pipelines, and 4,500 barrels were refined products from platforms and rigs.”
Fox's O'Reilly: "[Y]ou've got technology that will prevent pollution," “when Katrina hit, none of the oil rigs spilled in Louisiana.” While discussing offshore oil drilling with a caller on the July 9, 2008, edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, host Bill O'Reilly stated, "[Y]ou have to have a sane environmental policy when it's 25 miles offshore that no one'll see and you've got technology that will prevent pollution." He added, “Remember when Katrina hit, none of the oil rigs spilled in Louisiana. So we have the technology.”
Fox's Huckabee: “not one drop of oil was spilled” during Hurricane Katrina, offshore drilling “extraordinarily safe.” During the June 27, 2008, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, contributor Mike Huckabee stated: “When Katrina, a Cat-5 hurricane, hit the Gulf Coast, not one drop of oil was spilled off of those rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico. So we know that the technology to drill offshore is extraordinarily safe and environmentally friendly. And it's not something that we have to be as worried about as we do a refinery on shore or some other type of issue.”
Fox's Jarrett advances claim that Katrina example indicates that drilling can be done in a way that protects the environment. On the July 30, 2008, edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Gregg Jarrett asked then-Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, "[Y]ou're an engineer by background. Has technology improved so dramatically that drilling can now be done in a way that protects the environment?" He then allowed Bodman to reply, “I believe that it can. When we had Katrina and Rita, the two worst hurricanes in at least in recent memory, in '05, some three years ago, there was not one case where we had a -- a situation with oil or gas being spilled in the environment.”
Fox's Cavuto allowed Bachmann to push back against dangers of oil spills with Katrina canard. During the September 1, 2008, edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto failed to counter Rep. Michele Bachmann's claim that “We didn't have any spillage whatsoever from the oil rigs during Katrina.” Bachmann went on to claim: “I don't think it's luck. I think it's the fact of American ingenuity and technology. We know how to do things, and our companies have done a wonderful job making sure that we are both environmentally sound, but also able to produce the energy that America needs.”
Beck: “No significant offshore spillage” during Katrina and Rita. On the September 2, 2008, edition of his CNN Headline News show, Beck said: “Even during Katrina and Rita in 2005, no significant offshore spillage from the 4,000 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Wow, that kind of puts a dent in the green movement's argument that offshore rigs are so dangerous for the environment.”
Fox News hosts spread seepage myth
Gallagher repeated debunked seepage myth. During the September 15, 2008, edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, co-host Trace Gallagher repeated a debunked oil drilling myth, claiming that “more oil seeps through the ground off the coast of California than is ever spilled out there. So you're going to have much more environmental damage.” In fact, a report by the County of Santa Barbara discussing the effects of natural seepage and oil spills, including a 1969 oil spill off California's Santa Barbara coast that released an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil, stated that “major spills can have far greater” environmental impact than seeps have.
On Twitter, Gingrich falsely claimed “no [oil] spill since 1969” in waters off Santa Barbara. In a March 2 Twitter post, Gingrich wrote that his wife, Callista, “pointed out flying into [S]anta [B]arbara you can see the oil rigs off shore,” and asserted, “Ironically they have had no spill since 1969.” In fact, there were at least two oil spills reported in or near the Santa Barbara Channel in just the last few months before Gingrich's post, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Fox report: "[D]rilling could help the environment." A report on the July 14, 2008, edition of Your World was teased by guest host Connell McShane with the claim, “Environmentalists drilling into your heads how dangerous and dirty offshore drilling is, and we're actually getting evidence that drilling could help the environment.” In the report, William LaJeunesse stated that “most opposition to offshore drilling, of course, is based on fear -- fear of a spill,” and claimed that according to the National Academy of Sciences, “Mother Nature spills more oil into the environment than Exxon, Shell, BP, and Chevron combined.” LaJeunesse added, “In fact, we are dumping more oil out of jet airplanes as they jettison the fuel in emergency landings than come off of offshore platforms.”
Beck: There's “more natural seepage on the ocean floor than there is from spills from offshore.” On the June 18, 2008, edition of his CNN Headline News show, Beck interview musician Trace Adkins, who said that “All the six years that I worked offshore on a drilling rig, I can't recall a time whenever, you know, there was some significant spill of anything.” Beck said that “I read someplace -- and you might even know this -- that there is more natural seepage on the ocean floor than there is from spills from offshore.”
Cavuto hid lobbying ties of offshore drilling proponent Lott
Cavuto let Lott tout offshore drilling without disclosing he's an energy lobbyist. On the March 11, 2009, edition of Fox News' Your World, Neil Cavuto hosted former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) to discuss energy policy, during which Lott touted offshore drilling. But Cavuto failed to disclose that Lott is now a lobbyist for major energy companies.