Fox climate coverage lahaina

Media Matters / Molly Butler

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As Lahaina recovers from devastating wildfires, Fox News has minimized climate impacts and politicized the Biden administration’s response

In covering the devastation wrought by the Lahaina, Hawaii, wildfires, Fox News minimized the role global warming played and leveled politicized charges against the Biden administration.

  • Fox News has a history of downplaying climate's impact on extreme weather events

    • Fox host Jesse Watters downplayed this summer’s record-breaking extreme heat events as simply “summer.” “It's been a hot July,” Watters said. “Some call it ‘global warming,’ some call it ‘summer.’ But what's the best way to beat the heat? Ice cream.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 7/17/23]
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham also mocked the extreme heat and calls to action, suggesting that climate change is a made-up crisis. “It's hot, hot, hot all right. After all, we're in the middle of a season called ‘summer.’” Ingraham later played a clip from a previous show, arguing that “COVID lockdowns set the predicate for more to come.”  She said, “Their so-called public health experts were wrong on everything from lockdowns to masks to social distancing. And yet now we see the usual suspects lining up to exploit  another hyped crisis: of course, I’m talking about climate change.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 7/11/23]
    • Ingraham suggested that coverage of the June’s East Coast wildfire smoke event was overblown and mocked those reporting the air quality from a climate angle. “Is this really a novel occurrence for our country or is it getting the coverage of the type it’s getting because it's happening along the East Coast where all the elites live?” Ingraham continued: “The apocalyptic coverage in The New York Times today was just absolutely knee-slappingly hilarious. … CNN's Bill Weir, no stranger to hyperbole himself, used the event to call for action to electrify every car in the United States for humanity’s sake." [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 6/7/23]
    • During coverage of Hurricane Ian, Watters mocked climate action. Watters said, “Maybe the reason Joe isn't talking with the leader of the state that's about to be devastated by this natural disaster is because he's already got the whole thing covered with the Inflation Reduction Act. Sen. Amy Klobuchar laid it out for us clearly. There's no need to worry, people, because the Inflation Reduction Act and voting for Democrats is going to stop hurricanes.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 9/27/22]
  • Climate change played a role in the Lahaina wildfires

    • Climate change was one of the key factors that made the Lahaina wildfires worse. The Guardian reported: “Rising global temperatures and drought have helped turn parts of Hawaii into a tinderbox ahead of one of the deadliest fires in modern US history, with these conditions worsened by strong winds from a nearby cyclone.” [The Guardian, 8/11/23]
    • Climate change amplifies both wildfire and hurricane risks, creating a vicious cycle of environmental threats. The Associated Press reported: “Climate change not only increases the fire risk by driving up temperatures, but also makes stronger hurricanes more likely. In turn, those storms could fuel stronger wind events like the one behind the Maui fires. That’s on top of other threats made worse by climate changes.” [The Associated Press, 8/10/23]
    • The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that human activities are definitively causing more frequent and intense climate extremes. A 2021 report from the panel states: “It is an established fact that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions have led to an increased frequency and/or intensity of some weather and climate extremes since pre-industrial time, in particular for temperature extremes. Evidence of observed changes in extremes and their attribution to human influence (including greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions and land-use changes) has strengthened since AR5 [a previous IPCC report], in particular for extreme precipitation, droughts, tropical cyclones and compound extremes (including dry/hot events and fire weather).” [IPCC, “Weather and Climate Extreme Events in a Changing Climate,” 2021]
  • Fox News minimized the role climate change played in the Lahaina wildfires

    • Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway ignored global warming’s role in exacerbating wildfires and asserted there is a “climate change agenda” to “control the economy.” “Since they actually knew they had a problem with dry brush, it’s clear that the climate change agenda is not being just used to control the economy — it’s also being used to avoid responsibility,” she said. [Fox News, The Big Weekend Show, 8/27/23]
    • Fox News host Harold Ford Jr. suggested slow-walking conversations about climate change amid the ongoing catastrophe. He said: “I would caution everybody, whatever agendas one may have, show some restraint and let's figure it out, number 1, have we recovered everyone? They’re estimating there are another thousand people that may be stranded still, that may have not recovered. Two, let’s figure out if something were to happen tomorrow, what have we learned from this to ensure that we don't have the type of human error that occurred this go-round here. And finally, as it relates to other things — be it climate change or whatever the issues may be — let's deal with that last. We’ve still got a lot of destruction and catastrophe.” [Fox News, The Five, 8/21/23]
    • On America Reports, climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg minimized the role climate change played. “When everybody blames climate, which is a very, very small part of the whole puzzle, you take away responsibility from all these failures and that's, of course, what you really need to focus on if you are going to avoid the next fire.” [Fox News, America Reports, 8/18/23]
    • On The Five, Fox anchor Dana Perino lamented the “climate blame game.” Perino mentioned a headline ABC News changed from “Why climate change can't be blamed for the Maui wildfires”to “Why climate change can't be blamed entirely for the Maui wildfires,” saying activists forced the change and decrying the “climate blame game.” She also criticized  “President Biden's clean energy advisor John Podesta” for “using the White House podium to blame climate change for the catastrophe.” [Fox News, The Five, 8/17/23]
    • On Special Report, Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen downplayed the role of climate change in wildfires. “You hear all the left … around trying to blame this on climate change,” he said. “In fact, the area of land that has been burned in the last 20 years has gone down by a third in 20 years. And record lows last year. So this is not climate change.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 8/17/23]
  • The Biden administration has deployed personnel and money to Lahaina

    • The Biden administration has deployed over 1,000 federal personnel and approved $12 million in assistance to aid in the Maui wildfire recovery efforts. [White House fact sheet, 8/23/23
    • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told The Washington Post that starting in the first hours of the fire, he was personally contacted by multiple cabinet officials, and that the administration has mobilized “every federal resource that is possible to mobilize.” [The Washington Post, 8/21/23]
    • President Joe Biden pledged to provide Lahaina with “everything the federal government can offer to heal and to rebuild as fast as possible.” [Maui Now, 8/22/23]
  • Fox News leveled politicized attacks at the Biden administration for its response to the wildfires

    • Fox News host Will Cain criticized Biden's “gaffe-filled visit” to Maui, juxtaposing it with the severity of the wildfires and the ongoing recovery efforts. He said: “388 people still missing in Maui, and at least 115 are now confirmed dead after wildfires devastated the community. Now Hawaii continues its path to recovery after President Biden's gaffe-filled visit.” [Fox News, Fox and Friends Saturday, 8/26/23]
    • Fox News host Jesse Watters accused Biden of avoiding looking into the real reasons behind the Hawaii fires, alleging a cover-up. “Joe Biden is not going to be with the people of Hawaii because Joe Biden doesn't want to investigate why the fires started in Hawaii. Joe Biden wants to cover up the truth about the Hawaii fires. Biden just wants to throw money at the island and blame climate change.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 8/22/23]
    • Fox News anchor Trace Gallagher disparaged Biden for vacationing on the beach while the Maui wildfires raged and attacked him for having “no comment” on the disaster. “The Fox News Tonight ‘Common Sense Department’ took note that President Biden finally paid a visit to Maui in the wake of the devastating wildfires,” Gallagher said. “Even before the trip to Hawaii, the White House was assuring the public that Biden was fully engaged in the expanding disaster, although many wonder if napping on a beach in Delaware day after day is the best optic to convey full engagement. When the president was asked about the fire in Lahaina, he said, quote, ‘No comment.’ Really? No comment on more than a hundred people dead, more than a thousand missing, more than a thousand buildings burned? Common Sense thinks if you're the president, that’s worth a comment.” [Fox News, Fox News at Night, 8/21/23]
    • On The Five, Watters attacked Biden's response times to major events, linking his vacations to perceived delays in action. “Joe Biden is the only person that spends more time on vacation than I do,” Watters said. “And it took him five days to address the deadliest wildfires in modern American history. Took him six days to address the Afghanistan evacuation. Again, he was on vacation for both. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Maui. He didn’t want to go out and talk to the press about it because the press is going to ask him about Hunter Biden. So, he doesn’t even want an investigation into what caused these fires.” [Fox News, The Five, 8/21/23]
    • Fox News host Carley Shimkus juxtaposed Biden’s vacations with the catastrophe's timeline. She said: “President Biden is heading to Maui today nearly two weeks after historic wildfires devastated the island, leaving at least 114 people dead and more than 800 still unaccounted for. The president finally making the trip after enjoying not one, but two vacations just this month.” [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 8/21/23]
    • Fox News host Laura Ingraham contrasted the criticism former President George W. Bush faced after Hurricane Katrina with what she perceived as a lack of scrutiny on Biden following the Lahaina wildfires. “Of course, all of this is about obscuring all their other failures,” she said. “This is Biden's Katrina, and no one’s calling him on it. But you almost have to tip your hat to the left, right? Because Katrina was reputationally ruinous for George Bush. Hawaii should be the same for Biden. And, instead, they are using it to further their agenda on the climate.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 8/17/23]
    • Fox News host Kaleigh McEnany accused Biden of providing a delayed and insufficient response to the Hawaii wildfires. “We're now learning President Biden is finally going to address the tragic and deadly wildfire in Hawaii. It happened about a week ago. There are discussions underway at the White House about Biden making a visit to Maui. So why now? He was silent when we learned 99 people were confirmed dead. He was silent when we saw these devastating images of heartbreak and loss. And he wouldn't even say one word to the victims when a reporter confronted him. So why now, Mr. President?” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 8/15/23]
    • Appearing on The Ingraham Angle, conservative commentator Victor Davis Hanson lambasted Biden's response to the Hawaii wildfires and insisted he doesn’t care about wildfire victims. Hanson said: “Joe Biden is the president of the United States. He should get off the beach. He should fly out to Maui. He should have C-17s coming in every hour with a big airlift and treat these people much like they are American citizens. … And this is just shocking that he’s going to go from, as I said, from one vacation to another and from one beachside to a lakeside, while people in Maui have no beach. They’re destroyed. Their lives are destroyed. And he doesn't seem to care.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 8/14/23]
    • Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins scolded Biden for what he portrayed as a lack of leadership following the Hawaii wildfires. “This is the deadliest wildfire in a hundred years, and you’re nowhere to be seen? You’re not in charge? … This is unbelievable.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 8/14/23]