Fox is lying about wind energy. These brands are helping.
Fox blamed wind for Texas blackouts 128 times in 3 days. Its corporate advertisers reaped the benefits.
Last week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson made a controversial comment about Joe and Jill Biden’s marriage. "Their love,” he said, “is as real as climate change.”
The clip attracted a lot of attention. I wrote a column about it for MSNBC. There’s no way Carlson meant to say climate change was fake, I argued, tongue extremely in cheek. After all, how could a national news network allow someone to state such a blatant, deadly falsehood to millions of people?
Of course, we know how. Fox News has no problem airing lies—especially when they are told for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry. “Climate change isn’t real” is the Big Lie, the one Fox promotes most frequently and flippantly, and Carlson is the host with the least shame to tell it.
But “climate change isn’t real” wasn’t the most egregious climate lie Fox News told last week. That honor went to the fossil fuel industry’s latest Big Lie: that wind energy caused deadly blackouts in Texas, and that more people would die if wind energy continued to grow.
The reality is the opposite. The blackouts in Texas were caused not by wind energy, but by Texas’s failure to prepare for climate change-fueled extreme weather. Practically every major news outlet in the country has debunked this lie—and more people will die if it is continued to be denied.
But this has not mattered to Fox News or its corporate advertisers, as the lies helped boost the network to number one in daytime and prime time viewers for the majority of the time the lies aired.
Fox News aired the fossil fuel industry’s latest climate lie 128 times in 3 days
Over the course of three days last week, Feb. 15 to Feb. 17, Fox News falsely blamed Texas’s statewide blackouts on wind energy 128 times, according to an analysis by Media Matters.
While some of the lies broadcast on Fox News and Fox Business last week came from fossil fuel-industry backed politicians like Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, “the vast majority of those claim—75 percent—came from journalists and pundits affiliated with either network,” Media Matters reports:
Fox & Friends, including its early morning counterpart Fox & Friends First, pushed such claims the most—38 in total. Following with 16 claims each were Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight and America’s Newsroom—a supposed “straight-news” show co-hosted by Dana Perino, a former White House press secretary for George W. Bush.
Carlson’s lies were particularly brazen. He directly and falsely blamed wind energy for multiple cold-related deaths across the state. “The windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died,” he said.
Carlson then used the fossil fuel industry’s lie to claim others who invested in wind energy would probably die, too. “This is not to beat up on the state of Texas—it's a great state, actually—but to give you some sense of what's about to happen to you.”
Here is what is actually going to happen. Climate change, which is real, is going to get worse. This will bring more extreme and unpredictable weather events to Texas. The state’s electric grid will continue to fail because it refuses to prepare for these events. And more people will die alone in their homes as fossil fuel CEOs bathe in cash.
This doesn’t have to happen. But it will if Carlson and Texas’s fossil fuel industry-backed politicians are able to lie to millions of Americans without consequence.
The brands that prop up Fox’s deadly lies
In response to a request from HEATED, Media Matters ran an analysis of national ads that ran on Carlson’s show on Monday and Tuesday night, the two nights he told Big Climate Lies.
There were only a few mainstream brands that ran ads on Carlson’s climate denial shows: The Indianapolis Colts, Nutrisystem (owned by Tivity Health), America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses (owned by private equity firm KKR & Co.), and WeatherTech (owned by former Trump donor David MacNeil) among them. The rest were from explicitly conservative companies and institutions—places like My Pillow, Hillsdale College, and Balance of Nature (a supplement company that falsely claimed it could ward off coronavirus).
But those advertisers don’t matter nearly as much as Fox News’s biggest corporate advertisers overall. Those companies have sworn off Carlson’s show for principled reasons—but still spend millions every year propping up the rest of the network. This has largely shielded Carlson from any consequences, and shielded the network from any real financial pain, Variety reports.
It has also allowed Fox News to continue lying about the climate crisis over and over and over again—128 times in three days, to be exact.
The companies that spend the most to prop up Fox News’s lies are GlaxoSmithKline, Liberty Mutual, General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Intuit, NortonLifeLock, Nestle, Kraft Heinz, Progressive, Charles Schwab, Toyota, and Subaru, according to Rising Tide North America. Many of those companies go to great lengths to market themselves as climate-friendly: Proctor & Gamble, General Motors, Subaru, and Intuit in particular.
The climate non-profit has a petition for those companies to pull their advertisements because of the network’s huge role in spreading climate disinformation.
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Interestingly my understanding is that Fox gets the majority of its revenue from cable fee subscriptions. While advertising is a not-insignificant revenue stream, all cable subscribers, whether you watch or not, are funding Fox News. If you were on the fence about cutting the cord, it's a good excuse to cut them off.
I really appreciate the investigative work that you and Judd Legum do to hold bad actors accountable. There's a lot we're up against, but exposing them and putting public pressure on them is at least something.