In an embarrassing attempt to undermine renewable energy, Fox host Jesse Watters platformed a fossil fuel industry-funded envoy flimsily disguised as an “ocean advocate” for Protect Our Coast NJ. Watters hosted self-described “Jersey Shore Lifer” Mike Dean, although he was misidentified on-screen as Mike Davis. Dean’s Twitter account demonstrates opposition to climate science, frequently retweeting Big Oil shill Steve Milloy and “#climatescam” posts.
Dean – without evidence – blamed recent whale deaths in New Jersey on wind development and claimed, “The harms with these projects and the costs are limitless, and it’s really hard to find any benefits at all.” (While the cause of the deaths are not known yet, factors including oceanic plastic pollution, the presence of an anomalously large whale population in the area for this time of year due to warmer waters, and underwater sonar use by the military could all lead to these “unusual mortality events.”)
While Protect Our Coast NJ’s website boasts the group as “residents, homeowners, business owners, fishermen and visitors of the New Jersey coastal communities,” reporting has indicated that other interests are playing a part in the group’s activities. Popular Information’s Michael Thomas reported that the donation page redirects to a PayPal page for the Caesar Rodney Institute. The website also links to content from right-wing media’s favorite climate contrarian Michael Shellenberger. The Caesar Rodney Institute is a part of the State Policy Network, a network of conservative and libertarian think tanks.
The Caesar Rodney Institute has a history of hostility toward government environmental regulation and climate change mitigation policies. In 2021, the Caesar Rodney Institute’s Energy and Environment director, David Stevenson, a former member of the Trump EPA transition team, established the American Coalition for Ocean Protection (ACOP), a legal defense fund for groups to file lawsuits to fight offshore wind developments on the Eastern Seaboard. In 2022, the ACOP announced a partnership with Marc Morano’s Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and the Heartland Institute to fend off a coastal Virginia offshore wind project.
As reported by The Intercept’s Lee Fang, the Caesar Rodney Institute has received funding from the American Energy Alliance, which in return was funded by fossil fuel insiders like the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and Stand Together Chamber Commerce, a Koch Industries business trade group.
Update 1/18/23: Dean sent a message to Media Matters saying that he is not “paid nor employed in any way by Protect Our Coast NJ” and that he has “no ties to any groups,” but a tweet from the same account from 11 days ago identified him as a member of the group.