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Fox News on the Misinformation Bandwagon About the Gulf Oil Spill

RP Siegel | Monday June 28th, 2010 | 23 Comments

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.

———————-

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.


▼▼▼      23 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Jersey

    Some of these facts are skewed, too.

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

    While this is true, the Norwegian “oil defense army” has offered about a third of their equipment, and very little has been accepted.

    Also, it is difficult to blame Bush for the spill when just days before the spill occurred, Obama made a speech promoting more offshore drilling and touting its safety. Also, Obama was the one that approved this well, not Bush. While deregulation did occur, the agency that is to blame is the MMS, not any presidential administration per se. The MMS has been in the pocket of the oil companies for decades, and it should have faced stricter regulation a long time ago.

    • Tylermathewson

      I agree with what you said but I have to say lately fox news hasn't even been covering the oil spill. The spill could kill millions of people and totally screw america up yet I have to be called a communist by my dad for watching cnn and msnbc because they are covering this spill.

  • RP Siegel

    Not so difficult, really. One of the hallmarks of the Bush/Cheney administration was government deregulation and one of their prime tactics was putting industry people at the top of agencies, like the MMS, who are responsible for policing their respective industries. There are still a number of these foxes scattered in various hen houses that need to be rooted out. And the secret meetings that Cheney had with oil leaders, where he asked them what the laws should say, was a clear case of government for sale. It's true that in a little over a year, Obama might have had the chance to clean up the MMS, which he inherited from Bush, but considering the number of agencies there are and the number of other challenges he has faced in this short time, I find it even harder to blame him, unless, of course, you are already inclined to. I wasn't happy when he promoted drilling offshore, one of his compromises, no doubt, but he was clearly operating under misinformation regarding the risk.

    • dwinkle

      Democrats have been 100% in control of the country for 4 years now. If they didn't feel it was necessary to regulate these industries, then they have no one to blame but themselves. By the time Big O was elected, the US had been in Democrat hands for over 2 years.

      • ivybrat

        In 6th grade I learned about checks and balances in the Federal Government. This term, which you may not have heard of, explains the concept that even if the legislative branch (house and senate) are in favor of legislation, their decisions must be approved by the other two branches of government (which in the years you speak of included a 5-4 majority of Supreme Court Justices and a highly conservative president with ties to the oil industry). So yes, the legislative branch really would've gotten a lot accomplished through trying to regulate the oil industry.

    • Jersey

      I don't want you to think I am blaming Obama, either. I am just saying that I think this is not the fault of just one administration. I realize that Cheney was put in the position of a questionable conflict of interest, but I also think the MMS has been in bad shape for more than a decade. Also, I agree with you about the misinformation, but the same could be assumed about the cause of the Iraq war. Bush was operation under misinformation regarding the WMD's in all likelihood, but he still takes almost all of the blame for that debacle.

      In summation, I am only trying to prove that both sides had a hand in this crisis, and the sooner the congressmen and women stop trying to play politics with situation, the sooner it will be resolved.

  • Brent Theophilus

    If we were to picture an oil spill it might be Obama with an oil can tipped to spill oil on the Gulf. It is oil under pressure at the bottom of the Gulf gushing up ignorantly called a spill.

  • Jason

    The government and BP are referring to this VOLCANO as a SPILL because spill sounds a little more pleasant and easier for layman's to get there heads around.

  • RP Siegel

    Agreed. The term spill is itself a euphemism. It would be more accurate to call it a gusher or a severed artery in the Earth's digestive tract.

  • pastvne

    Hmmm, that's interest. Shepard Smith is actually quite vocal and quite outspoken about the irresponsibility of BP and the Government. He is hardly apologetic or defensive. Cavuto has only gone as far as asking whether it would be better not to bankrupt BP in order to allow BP to better use its own assets, rather than the taxpayers, to fix the problem. I realize it's fashionable to cast all conservatives as a pollution mongering plaque on the planet and if that makes you feel better about yourself, that is fine.

  • Jim in Dallas

    Mr. RP Siegel, I find your article very misleading, uninformed and naïve. You certainly have no clue. Your analyses is pure Fox News attack, and with miscued information. There are two sides to everything and one side is wrong, and it is yours. Fox News has weakly attempted to be fair and balanced in reporting on BP, because BP is more than an engineers and technicians working on Deep Water Horizon. BP is a very important company; their oil does not come from the Middle East, they employ 10’s of thousand Americans and have returned dividends to millions of US investors. It is very easy to pile on BP as most news agencies and this administration has.

    This is a disaster and in a disaster everyone should be on the same team with the common goal. This is simple. This has not how this administration has played it; the administration has led the effort to make it all about BP (demonizing), in an effort to move any blame far from them. The admin has not partnered with BP (it is BP money and expertise that is being used) for the good of the whole, but has created/contributed to the frenzy that jeopardizes the short/long term success.

    Fact – BP and the industry are the experts (as far as there are expects in this type of accident) at getting the flow stopped. All methods (even with low chances for success) for stopping the flow have been tried while the relief wells are being drilled. If they have not been tried, I would ask the administration why not. That would be over site of the response. The administration could only agree that all is being done at the point of flow – but they haven’t. It must be better in the poles to attack BP.

    The combination of an accident, of negligence and lack of regulation/over site created the VOLCANO in the Gulf. The responsibility can be spread many ways over the last 30 years and investigations will continue for years. Finger pointing it the middle of the emergency is immature while there is so much to be done as it is pointless and wasteful. The VOLCANO was not intentional and common sense tells me that nobody is working harder to end this catastrophe than BP – it is life and death to the company and millions of investors to get the flow stopped and the oil cleaned up. This BP effort should be recognized, there are many brave persons that are working around the clock and under enormous pressure and expense to stop this terrible accident. Getting the flow stopped is BP job number one – and all efforts are being made. This should be checked and confirmed daily by the Coast Guard, regulators, experts and the administration. That is what I want to hear and know from the administration. Is everything being done? Instead from the Admin we get attacks on BP, the industry, the Bush administration, deep water drilling, and oil. The result to date has only been to extenuate the circumstance, while doing little to help. The sum of their response to date has been “IT WAS NOT ME”

    The second objective is the protection of the coast and the clean up. There are unlimited experts at this, (the US is an expert) and this is the flag the Obama admin should have been carrying from the first week. It was as simple as “BP you get it stopped and we are going to employ every known method and more to collect all oil’. The bottom line is that this was considered severe and catastrophic from the first week and the lack of response on the part of the administration is at issue. I do not hold the Administration responsible for the site but I do for their responsea and the sucess of the clean up. Every skimmer in the world should be here or on the way at the request of the President of the US, every method of oil recovery should be employed (there is plenty of area and oil to go around), every method of protecting the marshes should be used. This is an all hands on deck emergency but the administration is content with leading the beating up BP. What is the purpose, they have immediately agreed to do anything and everything.

    The administration is content on the sidelines pointing out everything that isn’t happening, shedding responsibility and sensationalizing rather than getting in the game and participating. The problem is participation means responsibility.The administration’s lack of response continues (will continue) because now to do something creates the question why was that not done sooner. They are paralyzed. Today, about day 70, there are oil slicks nearly the size of states or small countries floating unrestricted towards the coastline.

    It is true there are many industry persons on the regulation side. This is simple the experts in the field come from the industry. This happens in all areas, in particular areas that require specific knowledge and expertise. This is an empty argument.

    The escrow fund was handled as a shakedown; BP could have been finessed, they were already compliant, the fund could have been set up and administered by third party without calling in the cameras, the President and CEO, all the other half bit players and making it a circus. It would have been a closed door meeting and joint announcement of cooperation, status and plan presentation.

    There will be investigations for years; it is the early timing of public investigations that is of issue. [The building is still on fire and congress wants to know what started it]. Congressmen grilling executives on TV is not an investigation – that is a witch-hunt all for show. The real investigation goes on and will for years. Now all that matters is that the flow is stopped and the oil in Gulf is cleaned up. BP is doing their part what is the administration doing?

    Any reference to government conspiracy or any type of conspiracy has been always dismissed by Fox News; nobody caused this VOCANO intentionally or unintentionally. There are always conspiracy crackpots and reporting on them does not make you one of them.

    The Gulf VOCANO has been the test of the OBAMA administration, as 911 and Katrina were for the GWB Administration. For disasters and catastrophes of these unimagined scopes there are no patented responses – they reveal the commitment, intentions and expertise of all involved. This one is not over, not by a long way, as in all disasters after the political posturing – history will judge.

    • RP Siegel

      If you look at my posting history, Jim, you will see that I have posted 11 stories about the Gulf Oil spill, covering many aspects of the situation, including several stories featuring suggestions both for cleanup and for stopping the leak. http://www.triplepundit.com/author/bob-siegel/ I agree that the delay in figuring out who will do what is regrettable, but as you said, this is new ground.
      What I deplore is the negligence BP showed leading up to the spill and the weak regulatory environment that this administration inherited from its predecessors. By using this disaster and every other event, as an excuse to attack Obama, Fox News is taking the public attention away from these things that matter, which in my opinion is a disservice to the American people.

      • dwinkle

        The laws under George Bush declared quite simply that BP needed federal inspections and oversight, as well as an advanced plan to cover emergencies. BP obeyed all of these inspections, yet were useless when it came down to it because government officials were too busy getting high and watching porn to do their simple, and extremely high paying jobs. To say that Obama is not at fault for billions of dollars in damages caused by Federal oversight is reaching at best.

      • JRFLLINK

        At this moment negligence by anyone and a weak regulatory environment does nothing to stop the oil or clean up the oil. This is just finger pointing as the enemy is storming the walls. There are 1000's of lawyers ready to prosecute negligence, and equally as many others ready to create 100’s of new regulations. All together they have little to do with the (un)restricted flow and clean-up – the only things of importance.

        Again I believe all is being done by BP that can be done at the outflow and the relief wells. If not I would hope the Obama administration would speak up and present some better idea. If all is being done, confirm it and provide support. BP is fighting the issue and fighting off the Obama administration.

        I do not believe everything is being done clean up the oil and protect the coastlines – this is true emergency and little is being done. The Obama Administration lack of response is becoming the true emergency. I do not believe 10% of what could be done to clean up the oil and protect the coast is being done. It is the responsibility of our government to protect the coastline. It is not sufficient to continue to deflect all blame to BP (they have already accepted blame and are paying the bills). This does not get the job done. It is time this administration to stand up, however late, and do what it takes. It will take the worlds resources to clean this up, and it requires the President to marshal these resources.

      • jeffdub

        I'm new to this site, but I wonder if you were on the attack against CNN, MSNBC, etc. for using every disaster and other event as an excuse to attack Bush. Clearly, the tables are turned now and Fox has assumed the role of administration attacker and the aforementioned networks have assumed the role of blind apologists (and attackers of the previous administration).

        Clearly, Bush was not a good president. Clearly, Obama is not a good president either. We've been stuck with a couple duds in a row, yet all people want to do is play partisan politics and ignore the actual issues. Who really cares what Fox or CNN report. Everyone knows there is an inherent bias in their reporting and attacking the medium is like debating the proverbial fool. You should know better.

        • RP Siegel

          The point is not to attack Fox. The point is to try to get the truth out so that the American people know what is going on. Media outlets will have their biases which will reflect their reporting. But with Fox and the Republicans, you have, in my opinion, an added coziness factor between business, government and media that exceeds anything on the liberal side. That is inappropriate and is, in part, a cause of the disaster in the Gulf.

      • OkSlim

        You are progressive and hate Fox.

        Everything you write proves that.

        I see your name and know what side the article is going to favor.

  • Anderson, Audrey

    Good article, though I have to say it's better to ignore FOX news than to try and battle them. One question – how do you account for this article on Politico saying that more than $2MM went to Obama from BP PACs?

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/36783

    • RP Siegel

      Audrey. I checked the article you cited. It says the same thing I said. $77,050 went to Obama directly.
      $2 million total campaign contributions were raised for all candidates.

      • Anderson, Audrey

        ah, sorry about that! Must not have had my glasses on :-)

  • 75dd

    Bhopal, anyone?

  • RP Siegel

    I wrote a couple of pieces back in May describing the best ways to clean up the spill. In particular, I endorsed a method develop by a Michigan company, Recovery I, which uses dried corn cobs, as a safe, clean and highly effective (tested) method of cleaning up the spill. To date, officials in charge, both at BP and in the government, have not responded to offers a demonstration, nor have they signed a contract, despite the fact that the company has gathered 34,000 tons of the material, enough to make a substantial dent in the mess down there. See: http://www.triplepundit.com/2010/05/the-best-su

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  • Brent Theophilus

    In reply to Siegal. Perhaps the news people feel so high and mighty that they must talk down to the rest of us. Spill is still a poor word to picture the disaster. Volcano misses it in that it only gushed forth because it was tapped into. A slit artery in the Earth is getting closer. I believe that spill was chosen because of the accident of the Exion vessel where oil spilled out of a fracture. and like Watergate all legal problems end in gate even though there is no gate. It still sounds stuped to me.

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