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National TV news, with the exception of MSNBC, failed to cover Trump's scandalous Big Oil proposition

Nearly 40% of all TV news coverage appeared on Ali Velshi’s program

On May 9, The Washington Post published an exclusive story on a dinner at Mar-A-Lago in which former President Donald Trump promised to reverse President Joe Biden's actions on climate change as he asked oil executives to raise $1 billion for his presidential campaign, assuring them that they'd be getting a “deal” due to the “taxation and regulation they would avoid thanks to him.”

Subsequently, Reuters, The New York Times, Politico, and The Atlantic, among other digital news sites, covered the new revelation, which The Atlantic’s David A. Graham acknowledged “may not have been illegal,” but described as “undeniably scandalous.” The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), “You won't read a more important story today.”

Unfortunately, over a four-day period, TV news broadcast and cable networks — with the exception of MSNBC — did not cover Trump’s proposition to oil executives. From May 9 through May 12, MSNBC spent 48 minutes discussing Trump’s proposition to Big Oil, with nearly 40% of the coverage airing on Velshi.

Big Oil and industry allies have already poured millions of dollars into Trump's joint fundraising committee to help cover his legal fees, all the while also drafting their wish list for his day one agenda, including “ready-to-sign executive orders,” according to Politico. Now, with this new revelation from The Washington Post, it appears the price has been set for getting the oil industry’s wish list done, making it even clearer what’s at stake for the climate in the outcome of the 2024 election.

  • MSNBC’s coverage delved into what Trump's proposition to Big Oil means for our democracy and planet — and held the oil industry to account

  • Five MSNBC programs — Alex Wagner Tonight, All In with Chris Hayes, Velshi, Alex Witt Reports and Ayman — aired substantive coverage of the story.

    Nearly 40% of the 48 minutes aired on the network appeared on Velshi, which dedicated just over 18 minutes of coverage to Trump’s Big Oil proposition in two interviews that appeared on May 11. Host Ali Velshi and Bill McKibben, a climate activist and contributor to The New Yorker, discussed the implications of Trump's proposed deal with Big Oil and what is at stake for the planet in the 2024 election, with McKibben noting that “in a very real sense this is the most important climate election ever” while Veshi pointed out that Trump’s election bid might be “underwritten” by the oil industry.

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 11, 2024, edition of MSNBC's Velshi

  • Later in the program, Velshi was joined by Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and The Atlantic’s David A. Graham to discuss how the proposition illustrates how Trump is part of a system of corruption he purported to be above, with Graham pointing out that the difference with Trump is that he “is doing it so openly. He is making it clear what the quid pro quo is without any kind of pretense. It’s just right here, ‘You give me money; I’ll do what you want me to do.’”

    Bookbinder also turned attention to the hypocrisy of the oil industry, noting:

  • “These are the same executives who, in the wake of January 6, said, ‘We’re not going to support people who undermined our democracy.’ And there they are, these couple of years later, meeting with Donald Trump, courting his support, hearing his offer — his demands — that they give a billion dollars to his campaign.”

  • During the May 9 edition of Alex Wagner Tonight, host Alex Wagner discussed the story with her guests, former Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes and former Biden press secretary Jen Psaki. Rhodes confirmed both the scandalous nature of the proposition and what it means for the climate, arguing:

  • “It’s basic pay-to-play corruption. … If you are destroying the environment with fossil fuels, just give me a billion dollars and I’ll make those regulations go away.” He continued, lambasting the substance of Trump’s proposal, “He is basically saying he’s going to destroy the planet that our children … are growing up on just if these guys will write him a check.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 9, 2024, edition of MSNBC's Alex Wagner Tonight

  • During the May 10 edition of All In with Chris Hayes, host Chris Hayes interviewed New York Times climate reporter Lisa Friedman about Trump’s proposition to Big Oil, which he pointed out was “not prosecutable under current law,” but “in common parlance … is a political quid pro quo.”

    Hayes added further context to the story, asking Friedman, “If I’m not mistaken, we’re pumping more oil and gas than any country in history ever, and they’re making record profits, right?”

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 10, 2024, edition of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes 

  • On the May 11 edition of Alex Witt Reports, host Alex Witt asked New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker to comment on the revelation’s implications for the fossil fuel industry. Baker made it clear how Trump’s targeting of the oil industry to finance his campaign further taints the industry’s image:

  • “I think it’s going to confirm for a lot of people who are already suspicious of the fossil fuel industry that they have, over the years, bought off Washington writ large. That’s been a longtime conviction on the part of people who think that the energy industry has too much power. … It’s going to cause a lot of cynicism, obviously, especially if Donald Trump were to win and then to try to roll back some of these climate initiatives. People will make the assumption — and it will have some obvious evidence to back it up — that he is doing so in exchange for large contributions from an industry that’s affected by it.”

  • On the May 12 edition of Ayman, host Ayman Mohyeldin interviewed Kim Lane Scheppele, professor of sociology at Princeton University, and Michelle Goldberg, analyst and columnist at The New York Times. Scheppele pointed out that in many ways — this proposition notwithstanding — Trump has already hurt our chances of addressing climate change by packing the courts with judges that are already in the process of dismantling environmental regulations, adding:

  • “So I'm afraid that, while the election is crucial to keeping America not for sale, we’ve already got in place a court that’s been dismantling regulations. … And here we’re seeing the decrease in checks and balances, packing of courts, and a president who announces the price tag for policies that really should be in the public interest and not in the private interest.”

  • Video file

    Citation From the May 12, 2024, edition of MSNBC's Ayman

  • Besides these programs, the story was also mentioned on The ReidOut and MSNBC’s weekend political talk show, The Weekend.


    Media Matters searched transcripts in the Snapstream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC, as well as all original episodes of ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ Mornings, Evening News, and Face the Nation; and NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press for any of the terms “Trump,” “former president,” or “Mar-a-Lago” within close proximity of any of the terms “oil,” “donor,” “executive,” “billion,” “industry,” “fossil,” or “fuel,” or any variations of either of the terms “environment” or “CEO” from May 9, 2024, when The Washington Post broke the story on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s request to oil executives, through May 12, 2024.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when Trump's transactional promise to oil executives to loosen Biden administration environmental regulations in return for $1 billion in campaign donations was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of Trump's quid pro quo. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed Trump’s quid pro quo with one another.

    We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned Trump’s quid pro quo without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about Trump’s quid pro quo scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.