On February 15, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham and guest Steve Milloy launched an unhinged attack on commonsense infrastructure and safety investments made by the Biden administration. Ingraham focused on a safety strategy announced by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in which he credited the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s new safety spending as a means to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, traffic fatalities.
In the announcement, Buttigieg — often a target of ludicrous attacks from right-wing media culture warriors — previewed the administration’s National Roadway Safety Strategy. The strategy outlines a “safe system approach” to roadways “by building multiple layers of protection: safer roads, safer people, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and better post-crash care.”
Though the speech lacked any references to environmental goals and focused on Buttigieg’s goal of achieving “zero deaths” on the roads, during the monologue titled “Pete’s Highway to Hell,” Ingraham used the opportunity to push multiple climate-focused falsehoods.
Ingraham Angle uses benign road-safety announcement to attack climate polices
Ingraham declared that “the climate change crazies that control the Biden agenda were never happier than in the spring of 2020” when greenhouse gas emissions were dropping temporarily as many countries enforced lockdowns to control the pandemic.
Villainizing climate scientists by claiming they celebrated a disease that has killed over 900,000 Americans is not only repugnant but also untrue, as numerous climate scientists have pointed out that the pandemic is not good for the climate. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions are rising again; 2021 ranked sixth on the list of warmest years on record, and it seems unlikely that global economies will be integrating environmentally friendly strategies into their recoveries.
Ingraham then made a wild claim that adding safety measures in electric vehicles is a way for the government to do “away with freedom on the open roads, our ability to go where we want, as far as we want, whenever we want.” As an on-screen chyron claimed that the “electric vehicle push is about eliminating cars, not making them more accessible,” Ingraham suggested that the move toward electric cars and other transport-related changes — such as to public transit and bike trails — that accompany reduced emission goals subject average Americans to the whims of hypocritical elites. In reality, these practices encouraged by the administration's strategy can improve people’s lives: Research shows that prioritizing urban and transportation planning can lead to “more carbon neutral, liveable and healthier cities,” reduce average transportation costs, and promote environmental justice.
Ingraham also criticized the “left” for high gas prices, saying, “The left loves high energy prices.” This attack echoes a recent Fox effort to pin higher gas prices on Biden’s climate agenda — a strategy Fox began implementing before Biden was even elected. Despite right-wing media’s adherence to this narrative, in reality presidential administrations have limited impact on domestic gas prices and even less on how gas is priced in the global market. Gas prices are a function of supply and demand, and the current prices reflect rising demand (and the refusal some of oil’s biggest producers to increase production).
Ingraham then hosted longtime Big Oil shill Steve Milloy and together they undermined investments in electric vehicles, suggested Democrats’ push for electric cars is about “control,” fueled nationalistic opposition to China, and fearmongered about a nonexistent war on beef.
Ingraham aligned her critique on climate action with Fox's favorite culture wars
At one point during her monologue, Ingraham suggested that an effort to reduce car use is demonstrative of Democratic efforts to destroy the suburbs — a longtime Fox narrative with racist and nativist undertones. Ingraham warned her viewers that the things they hold dear, like a “house in the suburbs, big families, …church on Sunday,'' are incompatible with a society where “climate trumps personal liberty.” Milloy later agreed with this sentiment, adding that Democrats supposedly dislike private car ownership because “cars enable … living in the suburbs.” By linking quantifiable goals like the reduction of traffic fatalities to the survival of the suburbs (a nonexistent struggle), Ingraham and Milloy recast climate mitigation as a sinister plot for political control.
Ingraham’s intentions were further revealed by an on-screen chyron suggesting that electric vehicles are “the Left’s new way to control you.” Milloy praised the observation and further claimed that the bill mandated government “kill switches” that could surveil and disable cars. He then concluded that climate policies have “never been about the environment. It’s about controlling people and what they do.”
In reality, the bill allocated funds to “make EVs accessible to all Americans,” and according to Snopes, it gave the “the federal government three years to establish a rule that would require new cars to be ‘equipped with advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology.’” The fact check also stated, “There is no mention of a 'kill switch' that law enforcement could use to 'shut your car off.'”
Ingraham then asked Milloy if the investments in infrastructure are “partly a control thing, as it was with COVID,” even surmising later that “they would love nothing more than to have a kill switch in the vehicles, the trucks of the Freedom Convoy.”
This framing is a continuation of the right-wing media narrative that claims Democrats have manufactured the climate crisis to seize control over every aspect of American life. Similar conspiracy theories have been floated by Inforwars’ Alex Jones and others on the far right. (Also see their fearmongering about the Green New Deal or assurances that the Biden administration is going to take away your hamburgers.)
Fox suggests individual sacrifice defines solutions to climate change, which is misleading and dangerous
The urgency to implement climate mitigation strategies comes not from power-hungry Democrats craving control, but from climate scientists who have warned for decades that unless immediate action is taken, irreversible environmental consequences will impact every aspect of Americans’ lives -- ranging from an exacerbated refugee crisis to devastating economic impacts to irreversible environmental degradation.
But placing the burden of climate change mitigation on individual rather than corporate action not only misplaces the blame, but also counteracts the possibility of substantial change. Only 100 energy companies are responsible for the vast majority – 71% – of all industrial emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that we need to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age, and we’re already at 1.1 degrees. As we quickly approach this “tipping point” temperature that would trigger catastrophic consequences, fossil fuel companies have been able to avoid accountability for decades of spreading misinformation that denied anthropogenic climate change and still actively thwarts climate policies.
When Ingraham and Milloy told Fox’s audience they won’t be able to leave their homes or eat beef if we prioritize climate action, they highlighted Fox’s sinister, and effective, pattern of tying any climate action to culture wars and created a false dichotomy between personal freedom and a thriving planet. But to suggest that the primary responsibility of mitigating climate change is on individual adjustments in consumer behavior is dangerous as it lets fossil fuel companies off the hook. Placing accountability on fossil fuel companies doesn’t discourage individual actions necessary to gain momentum for environmental change, but prioritizes systemic changes in ways economies can be incentivized to protect both humans and the planet.