In recent days, numerous right-wing media outlets have attacked Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman for his stance on fracking.
Many of these attacks claim that Fetterman supports a fracking ban in Pennsylvania, which is demonstrably false. As part of these attacks, outlets are conflating his previous support for a fracking moratorium — a temporary prohibition — with an outright, permanent ban.
Other attacks deal superficially with Fetterman’s broad support for or opposition to fracking as a whole, leaving out key pieces of information regarding the intricacies of his position. Meanwhile, Fetterman’s Senate opponent, Mehmet Oz, also once supported a fracking moratorium in Pennsylvania. Oz’s previous support for the moratorium is not brought up in right-wing attacks on Fetterman’s stance.
There are key nuances in Fetterman’s position on fracking over time, and one constant: he has not supported a fracking ban
Right-wing media figures are generally drawing from several interviews given by Fetterman in the past half-decade that lay out his beliefs on fracking. One is from a 2018 interview with Youtuber Joy Savage, where he spelled out his broad opposition to fracking. After this, he noted that he supported two fracking wells near his hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, because of the jobs and economic benefits that the wells brought to the community. He stated, “I’m pro-union, I’m pro-family, I'm pro-steel.” He addressed fracking again later in the interview, stating, “I don't think it has any place in people's backyards the way it is currently right now.”
Other right-wing attacks cite a 2016 Reddit interview where he called fracking a “stain,” before mentioning that he worries about “the viability of getting a ban on fracking done when the industry is already so entrenched in Pennsylvania. Like Sestak I've called for the same thing -- a moratorium.”
Regarding the moratorium, in 2016 Fetterman signed a petition from Food & Water Watch Fund that signaled his support for “a full statewide moratorium on fracking in Pennsylvania.” When asked about this fracking moratorium in an interview with NBC News’ Dasha Burns earlier this month, Fetterman stated, “I’ve always supported [fracking], as long as it’s done environmentally sound and making sure that we’re not contaminating our waterways.”
Unfortunately, some in right-wing media are conflating Fetterman’s support for a moratorium with an outright ban. For example, a Foxnews.com article from July ran with the headline “John Fetterman once signed pledge to ban fracking, which supports tens of thousands of PA jobs.” The article referenced the Food & Water Watch Fund petition signed by Fetterman, where it clearly says “moratorium,” not “ban.”
Since the 2018 Youtube interview, Fetterman has been quoted in an array of national and local Pennsylvania articles noting both his support for fracking in Pennsylvania and his opposition to a fracking ban. In a 2019 piece, he is quoted calling fracking a “vital, thriving industry” in Pennsylvania, and denounced a fracking ban in the state, saying “the reality on the ground in Pennsylvania is that it exists and it’s going to continue.”
In a 2020 profile in The New York Times, Fetterman again denounced the idea of a fracking ban and he expressed his support for the “union way of life.” In a 2021 E&E News article, Fetterman stated that we cannot immediately ban fracking. In another 2021 piece, Fetterman again expressed his support for fracking and good union jobs, and a desire to see fracking done in an environmentally sound way.
Whatever Fetterman’s personal beliefs on fracking, he has consistently been against the idea of an outright fracking ban, as it would harm union workers.
Right-wing media lie that Fetterman “wants to ban fracking”
Right-wing attacks on Fetterman’s fracking stance have been occurring on and off since at least this summer. The aforementioned Foxnews.com piece came out in July, along with a tweet from the RNC Research Twitter account that featured a clip of Fetterman's 2018 interview with Joy Savage. In August, RNC Research published a Twitter thread full of falsehoods about Fetterman’s fracking stance — it conflated his support for a fracking moratorium with a fracking ban. Also in August, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel falsely claimed on Twitter that Fetterman wants to ban fracking.
In recent days, these attacks have increased on social media and right-wing cable news. The increase in social media attacks is in part due to an October 18 article from CNN that misled readers on Fetterman’s fracking stance and conflated Fetterman’s moratorium support with support for an outright ban.
One example comes from The Washington Free Beacon, which falsely claimed that Fetterman reversed “his position on fracking just weeks ahead of his competitive Senate race.” Others come from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) on Twitter, who failed to note Fetterman’s consistent support for fracking if done in an environmentally safe manner, and several tweets from RNC Research, which also lied about the candidate’s position on a fracking ban and failed to tell the whole story of his fracking views. Additionally, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway directly cited the CNN article while attacking Fetterman, stating that “Things are so bad for Fetterman right now that even CNN (!!) is dunking on him for flip-flopping on fracking.”
There were three misleading segments on Fetterman’s fracking views on the October 19 edition of Fox News’ Hannity. This edition aired as a town hall live from York, Pennsylvania, and was done in order to boost Mehmet Oz’s candidacy. A chyron in the show read “Fetterman flip-flops on fracking,” and host Sean Hannity called him “a lifelong opponent of the fossil fuel industry.” Later, Oz stated that Fetterman’s views on fracking are “insulting to people making their living in that area,” while saying people should “root for natural gas.” Finally, Tom Cotton falsely stated that “John Fetterman, as you saw, he would ban hydraulic fracturing.”
Earlier that day, Fox & Friends First hosted a Pennsylvania resident who falsely claimed that Fetterman would ban fracking if elected.
Earlier, on the October 17 edition of Fox & Friends, Cotton falsely claimed that Fetterman “wants to ban fracking.” The next day on The Faulkner Focus, Cotton repeated the same line of attack, stating that, “John Fetterman and Joe Biden and the Democrats would ban the techniques that we have to get that gas out of the ground.”
On the October 15 edition of Fox News’ One Nation With Brian Kilmeade, guest Kellyanne Conway suggested that Fetterman would ban fracking, stating that Fetterman is “anti-fracking,” and that “over 50,000 jobs in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania are related to fracking. It is an energy-rich state. You cannot have a United States senator who is against that., and by extension against the employees.”
On the October 12 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney stated, “Here is the guy anti-fracking in a state which lives on fracking for heaven sake.” Finally, on the October 12 edition of Newsmax’s Wake Up America, RNC Communications Director Danielle Alvarez stated that Fetterman wants to “ban fracking.”
Dr. Oz once supported a moratorium on fracking, much like his opponent. This has curiously not been addressed in any of the right-wing attacks on Fetterman
On October 19, The Washington Post published an article detailing Mehmet Oz’s transition from supporting climate science to dabbling in climate denial. The article includes a key nugget of information about Oz’s past views on fracking:
In a 2014 column, Oz wrote that fracking should be banned until its potential harmful health effects have been fully studied.
“We wonder how eager the leaders of the natural gas industry would be,” he wrote, “to drink well water from a farm next to one of their drilling sites.”
But in recent months, Oz has vocally advocated for fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, a technique that involves blasting water mixed with sand and chemicals into wells to extract more oil and gas.
Oz’s view that fracking should be temporarily banned in order to study its effects is remarkably similar to Fetterman’s view when it came to the Food & Water Watch moratorium. In fact, both views (Oz’s in this 2014 column, and Fetterman in his recent NBC News interview) explicitly address water quality issues around fracking.
Curiously, none of the bombastic right-wing attacks on Fetterman's fracking position in the above examples addressed Oz’s previous position on the issue. This is by design, of course – as we’ve previously written, Fox News is the Republican Party, and they are actively promoting Oz’s campaign.