As Sri Lanka is gripped by an economic crisis that is causing upheaval in the country, Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired a segment during the July 11 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight that was a masterclass in using misinformation, bad-faith arguments, and ad hominem attacks to undermine climate action.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa recently announced that he will step down as the country’s leader following widespread protests that included angry crowds storming the presidential palace. As the BBC reports, the announcement came in response to “months of protests over soaring prices and a lack of food and fuel,” and “the country's foreign currency reserves have virtually run dry, meaning it doesn't have enough funds available to buy goods from other countries.”
Instead of thoroughly exploring the causes and conditions underpinning Sri Lanka’s current plight, Carlson reduced a series of complex geopolitical factors to one cause: climate policy. He used the suffering of the Sri Lankan people as a stalking horse to lazily connect Rajapaksa’s environmental policies to American climate proposals such as the Green New Deal. (Carlson has deployed these tactics before, most recently during a segment about the Dutch farmer protests.)
Last night, above a chyron that read “Entire Country Collapses Because of Green New Deal,” Carlson casually ticked off the problems plaguing Sri Lanka and blamed them solely on a policy enacted by the government last May that banned the importation of chemical fertilizers (the ban was rescinded in November 2021). That policy, which was widely criticized, played a role in the current crisis. However, as The New York Times detailed, it was one of a number of contributing factors:
The calamity unfolding in Sri Lanka is the culmination of a perfect storm of causes — debilitating debt, China’s geopolitical ambitions, the pandemic, the turmoil in global food and fuel markets caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and — underlying it all — the hubris and recklessness of the Rajapaksa dynasty.
The turmoil in Sri Lanka is a dire warning sign in this period of inflationary unrest to developing economies — Nigeria, Laos, Argentina, Pakistan and others — battered by debt and mounting food and fuel prices.
Carlson and guest Peter Earle, a member of the Koch-funded American Institute for Economic Research, ignored the other factors contributing to Sri Lanka’s economic turmoil and chose to focus on the mismanaged farming policy, which they blamed on amorphous “Western elites” and “woke ideologies.” Carlson proceeded to launch lazy broadsides against “woke Western liberals” who allegedly “completely destroyed the country” rather than presenting an honest attempt to understand the hows and whys of the current crisis.
Despite his alleged concern for the “non-white” country of Sri Lanka and “the developing world,” Carlson is really interested in carrying water for the fossil fuel industry in America. As Media Matters wrote about him in October:
While Carlson positions himself as a friend to vulnerable people being bullied by evil renewable energy companies, he fails to similarly highlight the plight of the vulnerable people on the frontlines of the climate crisis, who have far fewer resources to adapt and rebuild after devastating natural disasters. It would be shocking indeed if Carlson ever evinced any furrow-browed concern for low-income communities and communities of color which are disproportionately harmed by poor air, water, and soil caused by fossil fuel pollution, industrial accidents, and chemical contamination.
There are no easy solutions to the political and economic turmoil Sri Lanka is experiencing. But the country’s plight should not be used as fodder for cozy American commentators to push a dangerous, ideological agenda on behalf of fossil fuel interests. Despite the failure of one poorly implemented environmental policy, Sri Lanka also faces multiple threats from climate change such as extreme heat, food insecurity, and flooding. And like in most countries, the poor in Sri Lanka face the greatest threats.
But you won’t hear Carlson opine about any of this because he’s just another dirty energy shill. And that’s what makes his disingenuous segment exploiting the crisis in Sri Lanka to attack proposals for climate action so appalling.