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  • CNN story examines how climate change and environmental racism harm communities of color

    Segment is encouraging sign from cable news, which has ignored environmental justice for way too long

    Blog ››› ››› EVLONDO COOPER

    CNN’s New Day ran a segment on May 29 about how climate change and fossil fuel pollution disproportionately harm communities of color -- a critically important topic, but one that is usually neglected by cable news. The network’s chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, went to Port Arthur, Texas, home to the nation’s largest oil refinery and site of some of the most cataclysmic flooding in American history, to listen to the cares and concerns of the people who live there. He found a community that felt ignored by the government in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Harvey and alarmed by the toxic pollutants spilling forth from the oil refinery that also provides much-needed jobs for local residents.

    It is undeniable that minority and low-income communities suffer more from climate disasters and the processing and burning of fossil fuels than other Americans. African American and Latino communities in Texas and Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. Researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a study in the American Journal of Public Health last year that found people of color in the U.S. are exposed to more air pollution than white people, with African Americans exposed to the most. Numerous other studies have shown the negative health effects of air pollution on minority and low-income communities.

    People of color who are on the frontlines of climate change unfortunately receive far too little coverage in the corporate media. This New Day segment is a rare exception, and hopefully a signal that cable news networks will begin giving climate justice the sustained and substantive attention it deserves.

    From the May 29 episode of CNN’s New Day:

    JOHN BERMAN (HOST): Scientists do say climate change will eventually affect all of us. But here in the United States, minority communities are being disproportionately affected. CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir tells us why.


    BILL WEIR: It is the great paradox of the man-made climate crisis: The fuels that built the modern world are the same ones now destroying it. And while a dirty energy addiction will eventually affect everyone, the folks with the smallest carbon footprints are the ones who will feel the most pain.

    HILTON KELLEY (FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY IN-POWER AND DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION): On one hand, I'm fighting to push these refineries to lower their emission levels, and they're fighting and pushing back, saying, “We can't lower it any more than what we've already done without shutting down and losing our business.” And then I have some of the residents coming to me saying, “Well, you know, what you're doing, you're going to push these industries away and we need these industries for our jobs, Hilton. Our livelihood depends on them. You know, we'll die quicker from starvation than we will pollution, so back off.”

    WEIR: Hilton Kelley was born amid these sprawling refineries of Port Arthur, Texas, where the working poor live with a carbon-burning double whammy. The toxic air that comes with processing millions of barrels of oil a week, and the supercharged storms that increase in frequency and power with every barrel burned.

    KELLEY: So we're getting a storm like every other year, every -- every three years or so. Not just a little storm, but storms that cause you to have to rebuild your house over and over and over again.

    WEIR: For almost 20 years, he's been the kind of concerned citizen who grabs a camera when the toxic clouds get bad and has air quality officials on speed dial.

    KELLEY: And they were like, “Well, what do you need to see it for and who are you again?”

    WEIR: He has a stack of complaints and a few wins.

    KELLEY: And we're constantly fighting those kind of battles. So, I'm forever the guard at this gate. And as you can see from my place right here, there goes the dragon right there.

    WEIR: That's the dragon.

    KELLEY: You're constantly watching it.

    WEIR: What Hilton calls “the dragon” is actually the biggest oil refinery in America. And it is owned by a Saudi Arabian company that made $111 billion profit last year, almost twice as much as Apple. Meanwhile, their neighbor, who lives here, was driven out by the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey and, almost two years later, can't afford the repairs to move back in. This is why communities of color are worried that the gap between polluting haves and storm-surviving have-nots is only going to get wider. After Harvey flooded Motiva and other refineries, the Trump administration fast-tracked almost $4 billion to build storm barriers specifically to protect oil and gas facilities. But the predominantly Black Houston neighborhoods flooded by Harvey can't even get the government funding to upgrade their storm drains.

    BRIDGETTE MURRAY (PRESIDENT, PLEASANTVILLE AREA SUPER NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL 57): Because she was on the back of the dredge site, as well as the water not being able to drain off, her house got about 4 feet of water.

    WEIR: Is that right? Right here?

    MURRAY: Right.

    WEIR: Residents say they are invisible to disaster planners while insurance premiums skyrocket.

    DR. ROBERT BULLARD (DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF URBAN PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY): Those communities that get hit first, worst, and hardest should receive the aid, the assistance first. It shouldn't be in the back of the line. But right now it's the back of the line, back of the bus.

    WEIR: And so a generation after the fight for civil rights, they now call for climate justice and they fight their dragons, one fire at a time. Bill Weir, CNN, Port Arthur, Texas.


  • CNN and MSNBC downplay a call at Trump's rally to shoot migrants, likening it to HBO's Veep

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After President Donald Trump laughed at a suggestion made at his campaign rally that migrants crossing the border should be shot, CNN and MSNBC both aired a clip from HBO’s political satire Veep that appeared to trivialize the dangers of the president’s words that could potentially incite violence.

    At a May 8 campaign rally in Panama City Beach, FL, Trump noted that Border Patrol agents are not allowed to use weapons to stop migrants and asked the rowdy crowd, “How do you stop these people?”

    “Shoot them!” an attendee yelled, and the crowd laughed and cheered.

    Trump also laughed before saying, "That's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”

    While the president stopped short of explicitly supporting the suggestion to open fire on migrants at the border, The Washington Post noted, “His joking response raised concerns that he was tacitly encouraging extrajudicial killings and brutality against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants.” The May 8 rally comes less than a month after a border militia group calling itself the United Constitutional Patriots drew national attention for reportedly detaining “hundreds” of migrants, including several children, at gunpoint on the U.S.-Mexico border. The group’s leader was later arrested by the FBI on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. He had previously claimed that the group was training to assassinate prominent Democratic leaders. According to a police report obtained by The Young Turks, one militia member asked why the group was “just apprehending” migrants against their will “and not lining them up and shooting them,” adding, “We have to go back to Hitler days and put them all in a gas chamber.” The police report was filed by a fellow militia member who felt he had witnessed “terroristic threats” among the group.

    But some media coverage of the president's rally ignored this serious potential for violence against migrants. On CNN’s New Day, co-anchors John Berman and Alisyn Camerota aired the footage from Trump’s rally, immediately followed by a scene from HBO’s Veep, an American political satire that has drawn attention for its chaotic plotline that appears to be strikingly similar to the politics of today. In the clip, a presidential candidate is giving a speech when an attendee suggests that people should shoot immigrants, to which he seemingly agrees. When the clip finished, Berman laughed at the comparison, saying, “Veep was shot months ago and there’s almost no discernible difference between the events.” 

    From the May 9 edition of CNN’s New Day:

    On MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber, host Ari Melber began his segment by quoting poet Oscar Wilde that, “life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” adding that this is “clearly the case on HBO’s hit political series Veep.” Melber then aired the same Veep clip and hosted the shows creators to discuss their method behind writing Veep. The 10-minute segment focused far more on Veep’s similarities to contemporary politics than on the harmful impact of Trump’s words.

    From the May 9 edition of MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber: