In what was apparently a real news story, but more closely resembled an early April Fools joke, CBS Evening News reporter Mark Phillips blamed the United States last week for Britain’s “wettest winter ever,” flooding in Mozambique and famine in the Sudan. Not for failing to send aid quickly enough to those latter two nations but for producing global warming gasses: “With only about four percent of the world’s population, the United States famously produces about twenty-five percent of the world’s harmful Greenhouse gas pollution.”
The peg for this pseudo-science: Bush’s decision to not seek ratification of the Kyoto protocols. And CBS again failed to point out how the Clinton administration never even sent the treaty to the Senate after a bi-partisan 1997 Senate resolution went 95 to zero against adopting the treaty’s provisions. But that’s not new for CBS since the network didn’t report the vote when it occurred.
The angle Thursday night: How leaders in Britain, Japan and Australia are angry the U.S. dropped pursuit of Kyoto. But Phillips failed to inform viewers that none of those nations had ratified the treaty. Instead, Phillips rued: “It’s a sentiment echoed around the world: Kyoto may have been an imperfect treaty, but in an imperfect world it was the only global warming treaty we had.”
Yes, unratified, unenforceable words are meaningful.
Anchor Dan Rather set up the March 29 Phillips piece by first reviewing what Bush said at his morning press conference. Rather reflected Democratic spin in referring to Bush’s “rollbacks” on the environment and “abandoning” of the Kyoto treaty:
“President Bush also defended his string of rollbacks on environmental protection policy. He argues the United States economy can’t afford them right now. He told reporters this includes pulling out of the international treaty aimed at reducing industrial emissions linked to global warming.”
Bush at press conference: “We will not do anything that harms our economy because first things first are the people who live in America, that’s my priority.”
Rather: “After a White House meeting today, German Chancellor Gerhart Schroeder would say only that he and Mr. Bush had a, and I quote, ‘frank exchange’ about the U.S. abandoning the global warming treaty. But overseas there’s plenty of evidence of a changing climate and plenty of criticism of what President Bush is doing.”
From London, Mark Phillips began: “Around the world, the anger runs as deep as the flood waters being blamed on the global warming the Kyoto treaty was supposed to fight. President Bush says he’s putting American economic interests first in rejecting Kyoto, and in Britain, where they’re having their wettest winter ever, they sadly agree.”
Michael Meacher, British Environment Minister: “This ‘short term-ism’ and this isolationism is profoundly flawed and misplaced.”
Phillips proceeded to hold the U.S. accountable for bad weather around the world: “And that was the polite response. Others point to severe weather conditions around the planet flooding for the second consecutive year in Mozambique, drought and famine in the Sudan and they say the U.S. is substantially to blame. With only about four percent of the world’s population, the United States famously produces about twenty-five percent of the world’s harmful Greenhouse gas pollution.”
Roger Higman, Friends of the Earth: “What we’re seeing here is oil man Bush putting the interests of his particular backers Exxon Oil Corporation and other fossil fuel producers over and above the interests of the U.S. economy, over and above the interests of the people of the world at large, and over and above the future of the planet.”
Phillips moved on to another nation which he did not note has yet to ratify the vaunted treaty: “In Japan, the injury is compounded by insult. The rejection of the Kyoto treaty is being taken personally by a country that had hosted the conference that created it. It’s a sentiment echoed around the world. Kyoto may have been an imperfect treaty, but in an imperfect world it was the only global warming treaty we had.”
Robert Hill, Australian Environment Minister: “If the United States walked away from the Kyoto protocol, that would be the end of the Kyoto protocol.”
Phillips concluded his diatribe: “Along with the shock and anger being expressed around the world, there is also a great sense of frustration. The European Union is sending a high level delegation to Washington next week to try to get President Bush to change his mind. But if he doesn’t, there’s nothing they can do about it.”
Just like there seems to be nothing anyone in the U.S. can do about the bias at CBS News.
It is noteworthy to recall how the Senate voted on the issue back in 1997. Here is a summary as it appeared in the July 26, 1997 New York Times: “The Senate unanimously urged the Clinton administration today not to pursue a treaty that would limit the industrial world’s emissions of greenhouse gases unless the agreement requires developing countries to control their rapidly growing emissions at the same time”
Chief sponsor of the Kyoto-killing bill? Democratic Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). Amongst those voting with him: Tom Daschle (D-SD), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and John Kerry (D-MA).
But the Friday, July 25, 1997, network evening news programs were silent on the Senate vote. Instead of covering the bi-partisan rejection of the treaty, the CBS Evening News that night featured a full story about Republican fundraising misdeeds addressed by the Senate committee looking into 1996 campaign abuses.
Dan Rather announced: “Today's session of the Senate's dirty campaign money hearings was not easy listening for Republicans. It featured the spectacle of one party Chairman openly refuting the testimony of another on questions of foreign money.” Bob Schieffer explained: “Barbour claimed yesterday the loan had nothing to do with politics, but that too was contradicted by Richards who said Barbour clearly had politics on his mind when he asked him to arrange the loan.”
Schieffer ended with the usual “everybody's equally guilty” spin: “It's not clear if Barbour will be called back to the committee to re-explain all this, but John Glenn, the committee's top Democrat says, it just shows the influence of foreign money on both parties and that it ought to stop.”
The CBS Evening News that night did have time for a story on the environment on how Bill Clinton was trying to save it. John Blackstone provided a full report on Clinton’s visit to Lake Tahoe to highlight efforts to clean up the lake to ensure it continues to maintain its “famous” blue color.
(This report courtesy of the Media Research Center.)