Fox News on the Misinformation Bandwagon About the Gulf Oil Spill

Media Matters for America, a self-proclaimed “progressive media research and information center,” recently published a list of falsehoods about the Gulf Oil spill that Fox News has presented. Their list of myths and falsehood begins with Fox news pundits staunchly defending BP in the Gulf by:

  • Calling the escrow fund a “shakedown” or a “stickup” (10 instances)
  • Calling investigations into the incident, McCarthyist “witch trials” (9x)
  • Saying that the Obama administration has “demonized BP” (9x)
  • Suggesting that the spill was a government conspiracy (4x)

Apparently, the good folks at Fox News believe that in their role as a responsible news organization, looking out for regular, middle of the road American people, it is important to not let the truth out when it comes to corporate malfeasance, because that could lead to a loss of jobs.

Myth: Obama waited weeks  (50 to 55 days) before responding to the spill.

In fact, the Coast Guard responded within hours and Obama was briefed the next day.

Mississippi Governor, Haley Barbour-R, said that the government has done more right than wrong.

Myth: No moratorium on drilling is needed. Oil companies can handle spills. (2x)

In truth, all oil companies have the same response plan that BP has, which was written by a small Texas sub-contractor, the Response Group, that clearly doesn’t work. In fact, the CEO of Exxon-Mobil told Congressman Bart Stupak that the oil industry is not well-equipped to handle a major spill which is why they primarily rely on prevention.

Myth: BP was only drilling way out there because environmentalists wouldn’t let them drill anywhere else.

In fact, that is where the remaining oil is. According to a 2008 report by the formerly-dubbed Minerals Management Service (MMS), Deepwater Gulf of Mexico is America’s Energy Future.

Myth: Obama, unlike Bush, was on vacation during the crisis.

Obama did visit Asheville, NC shortly after the spill, though he used the occasion to meet with the families of the West Virginia mine tragedy. He visited Chicago on Memorial Day and was scheduled to give a speech at a cemetery there, honoring those killed at war, but it was canceled due to the weather. Bush, on the other hand spent three weekends at Camp David in the two months following Katrina.

Myth: It is ridiculous and offensive to blame Bush for the spill.

Here are the facts: In 2005, the Bush administration passed regulations that basically allowed oil companies to regulate themselves, saying that a driller is “in the best position to determine the environmental effects of its proposed activity.” In April 2008, Bush loosened rules requiring a blowout plan. The MMS, under Bush, downplayed the risk of a major spill in the Gulf on three different occasions. Bush officials ignored warnings about the effectiveness of Blowout Preventer mechanisms in deep water. The list goes on.

Of course, we are also still waiting to learn the content of what was discussed in secret meetings between VP Dick Cheney and oil company executives in determining America’s energy policy. If the Obama administration is truly ready to start holding responsible parties accountable, we should expect to see Cheney subpoenaed shortly.

Myth: Obama is the largest recipient of BP cash.

Obama accepted no money from BP’s PAC. He did receive $71,050 from BP employees.

This amount represented less than 0.01% of his total 2008 campaign contributions.

Myth Obama turned downs offers of assistance from foreign countries in the Gulf.

Fact: There are presently 15 foreign-flagged vessels assisting in the cleanup.

Myth: Obama administration defied the Constitution in setting up the escrow account for victims of the spill.

The facts are as follows:

BP voluntarily offered to set up the escrow account.

According to Legal Planet, the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, passed after the Exxon-Valdez incident, requires the responsible company to “to establish a process for ‘the payment or settlement of claims for interim, short-term damages’ that might encompass an escrow and independent decision-makers.”

And if this level of misinformation from Fox wasn’t bad enough, BP has now sent out a cadre of PR professionals, posing as journalists, to spin the news in their favor, and post articles telling everyone that things are not so bad.

Getting away with murder has always been difficult, as it should be, but it gets a lot easier with a large enough press corps behind you.

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RP Siegel is the co-author of Vapor Trails, the eco-thriller that tells the story of the spill a year before it happened.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.

RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His publications include business and technical articles as well as books. His third, co-authored with Roger Saillant, is Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. He is also active in his community of Rochester, NY. A regular contributor to Mechanical Engineering magazine, RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner to the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.. Follow @RPSiegel on Twitter. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com