On Tuesday, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden unveiled his revamped climate plan, which now calls for a $2 trillion investment in clean energy over four years with a goal of getting the U.S. to run on 100% clean electricity by 2035.
Since the release of the climate plan yesterday, eight Fox programs, The Daily Briefing, Bill Hemmer Reports, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The Story with Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News @ Night, and Fox & Friends, have discussed it -- and they have covered it exactly how you think they would.
The plan triggered the usual hysterical claims by Fox anchors, hosts, and their guests about any policy or plan related to the reduction of carbon emissions: It’s part of a radical agenda, based on climate alarmism, pushed by extreme elements of the Democratic Party that will devastate the U.S. economy.
Or the shorthand of that narrative: the Green New Deal.
All but two of the eight programs invoked this narrative while providing little substance around the goals of the plan or the multiple crises it’s intended to address, including climate change, the country’s aging and toxic infrastructure, and mass unemployment.
Coverage by the “straight news” program Special Report with Bret Baier just reported the details of the plan. Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Joe Biden, appeared on The Story with Martha MacCallum to respond to Trump’s attack on Biden’s climate plan.
Three other programs -- Bill Hemmer Reports, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Fox News @ Night -- brought on guests to discuss the plan. But these discussions were lousy with falsehoods and agenda pushing.
Fox “news side” kicks off the dishonest attacks on Biden’s climate plan
In a well-worn routine, the Fox “news” team provided the network’s right-wing stars with an opportunity to opine about the news of the day, which in this instance was Biden’s climate plan. The network’s “straight news” anchors have not been honest brokers on climate change and energy; yesterday was no exception.
The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, which carried live Biden’s speech introducing the plan, invited anchor Bret Baier to weigh in on it.
Although Baier, in particular, has a reputation for not being as bad on climate issues as some of the more explicit climate deniers on the network, he has given climate skeptics a platform to attack climate science and climate action, often with very little pushback. Baier was the first person to disingenuously label Biden’s plan “a light green new deal that would still have a big government price tag to it.”
Bill Hemmer, who took over former-anchor Shepard Smith’s news hour timeslot in January, told the Associated Press, “I’m much more comfortable in this news lane than I would ever be as an opinion anchor.” But during yesterday’s episode of Bill Hemmer Reports, the anchor allowed network correspondent Peter Doocy to read the Republican National Committee’s response to Biden’s climate plan with no pushback or contextualization. Hemmer’s subsequent questions to Biden surrogate Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) adopted a right-wing framing about the costs of climate action rather than the costs of inaction.
With that, the “news” side had laid the groundwork for the “opinion” side to further distort Biden’s climate plan, which Fox figures did with abandon (more on this below). After the opinion hosts were done for the night, “straight news” anchor Shannon Bream allowed Larry Kudlow, director of the Trump administration’s National Economic Council, to lie about Biden’s climate plan with only the most cursory pushback.
Fox News’ opinion hosts use Biden’s climate plan to beat the Green New Deal drum
For over a year, while other TV news networks have dropped the ball on articulating what the Green New Deal is and what it would accomplish, Fox News has been hammering the same messaging -- tethering the proposal to radical socialism, climate alarmism, and economic devastation, while vilifying those who champion it.
As a result, for Fox viewers, the Green New Deal has become synonymous with extreme socialism manifested by a fake climate crisis. The network’s opinion show hosts readily invoke the Green New Deal every chance they get.
As The New Times noted, right-wing media, in addition to Republican lawmakers and the Trump campaign, “have also labeled virtually every climate change effort as part of the Green New Deal — an ambitious plan championed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, both democratic socialist — whether they are part of the proposal or not.”
Biden’s climate plan is no exception.
Fox’s The Five was the first opinion program to air after Biden's live speech, and co-hosts Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters both invoked the Green New Deal and its chief architects in an effort to align Biden and his plan with socialism and climate alarmism:
Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, whose July 14 edition was guest hosted by Brian Kilmeade invited discredited and self-proclaimed “environmentalist” Michael Shellenberger to respond to the plan. In their exchange, Kilmeade suggested that the plan must have been penned by more radical elements of the Democratic Party to which Shellenberger agreed:
BRIAN KILMEADE (GUEST HOST): Michael, who is writing this stuff? There is a presumption that we heard Jay Inslee talk about, we heard Elizabeth Warren talk about. This has never been part of Joe Biden's agenda. Since when?
MICHAEL SHELLENGERGER: That's probably fair. … I just think that the radical left has just taken a big part of the Democratic Party. One of the things that I was really surprised to discover in researching Apocalypse Never is that really it’s just about a dozen people that were major donors to President Obama who benefited the most from really about 90 billion in subsidies, in taxpayer subsidies.
Kilmeade ramped up his rhetoric even more the next morning while hosting Fox & Friends, claiming that Biden’s plan is based on the idea that the climate crisis, if left unchecked, will mean the end of the world in nine years:
Prime-time host Sean Hannity did not mention Biden’s climate plan explicitly on his eponymous show last night. But during a rant directed at the presidential candidate, Hannity summarized the Green New Deal narrative with precision and demonstrated how foundational it has become to the network’s campaign against the Democratic Party. Hannity claimed that Biden “has taken his cues from the most radical, the most extreme socialist extremist that this party has ever embraced,’ including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY):
Fox guests push bad faith arguments and falsehoods
Fox’s guests invoked bad-faith arguments and misinformation to criticize Biden’s climate plan. On Bill Hemmer Reports, longtime Republican operative Karl Rove sidestepped the actual details of Biden’s plan to focus on fracking, which he said that Biden has “endorsed the immediate end” of. Biden’s plan makes no mention of fracking, while Biden himself has not called for a ban on it. In Rove’s mind, only jobs in the fossil fuel industry matter -- despite the fact that clean energy jobs “outnumber fossil fuels jobs nearly three to one.”
Larry Kudlow, appearing on Fox News @ Night, generally echoed Rove. He lamented the loss of natural gas, coal, and oil, and failed to mention the climate catastrophe that mining and using these products are getting us to. And again, he ignored the millions of jobs that Biden’s climate plan intends to create.
More natural gas hype occurred on the July 15 edition of Fox & Friends. Texas Republican congressional candidate Wesley Hunt misleadingly categorized fracking as a technology that made the U.S. energy independent; falsely stated that “we’re doing just fine” through fracking; and repeated the age-old Republican mantra of “innovate for the future” to reduce carbon footprint. In reality, “innovation” to Republicans is just a way to continue burning fossil fuels and worsen climate change.
On Tucker Carlson Tonight, guest-host Kilmeade hosted Michael Shellenberger to criticize the Biden climate plan. Shellenberger, a pro-nuclear activist who has a history of pushing contrarian and bad-faith views about the environmental movement, mentioned a high price tag of renewable energy, even though renewable energy prices are at record lows, even lower than those of fossil fuel and nuclear. He also exaggerated fracking and nuclear power as a climate solution. While replacing coal with natural gas has led to lower U.S. carbon emissions, natural gas is still an incredibly dirty energy source, and its continued usage will be a disaster for climate change. Nuclear power generation, which is incredibly expensive, is also mentioned in Biden’s climate plan, making Shellenberger’s hand-wringing over the issue unnecessary.
Fox News is a key cog in the right-wing climate misinformation network
Fox has played a critical role in undermining the public consensus around climate change by eroding the trust of its viewers in climate scientists and scientific institutions. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 72% of Fox News segments about climate science in 2013 “contained misleading statements.” Since then, the network has continued to parade a coterie of network personalities, fringe cranks, and conspiracy theorists to push misinformation about climate change and thwart climate action.
In 2018, “climate denial claims dominated 86% of climate change segments on Fox News,” according to progressive nonprofit think tank Public Citizen. And, in 2019, Fox’s climate denial reached unhinged new levels even as global temperatures reached record heights, natural disasters wreaked havoc on the most marginalized populations, and youth environmental activism sparked large-scale protests around the world.
As the general election campaign ramps up, Fox will continue going to great lengths to avoid having good-faith discussions about tackling the climate crisis. By painting any climate proposal as absurd and ignoring President Donald Trump’s climate denial and ongoing assault on environmental protections, Fox aims to fulfill its role as a propaganda machine for the Trump administration and the fossil fuel industry that is “reaping a regulatory windfall” during his presidential term.
Correction (7/31/20): This piece originally stated that there were six programs that covered Biden’s climate plan; in fact, there were eight that aired on July 14 that discussed Biden’s climate plan. The two additional shows were The Story with Martha MacCallum and Special Report with Bret Baier.