In less than a week, Fox News has devoted 34 segments totaling more than two hours of airtime expressing outrage about the word choice of an EPA official who spoke two years ago about punishing oil companies who violate the law. That's 10 times more coverage than Fox gave to 3 major stories related to the risks of oil and gas development, combined.
Regional EPA administrator Al Armendariz resigned on Monday following a media firestorm over an analogy he used two years ago comparing environmental enforcement to the Romans crucifying a few to gain compliance of the many. In remarks dug up and circulated by Sen. James Inhofe (R), Armendariz responded to a question about whether EPA had the manpower to oversee the explosion of natural gas drilling. Cracking down on companies breaking the law, Armendariz said, can have "a deterrent effect" on other noncompliant companies, who "decide at that point that it's time to clean up."
Fox News has been the driving force behind this supposed controversy, devoting more than two hours to the story in less than a week. Fox's coverage has not only been unceasing -- it has also been misleading. Of the segments that aired Armendariz's comments, 57% cropped the video to exclude the context that he was referring to companies that are "not compliant with the law" -- not all oil companies.
By contrast, Fox virtually ignored three important stories which pointed to the risks associated with oil and natural gas development: 1) an EPA study which found that hydraulic fracturing likely contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming; 2) an ExxonMobil pipeline leak that dumped more than 63,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana, polluting water supplies and disrupting farming in the region; and 3) the BP oil spill commission's final report, which blamed the disaster on "systemic failures" by BP, Transocean and Halliburton, and concluded that reform of industry practices and regulatory oversight is urgently needed to prevent future spills.
Based on a search of Media Matters' video archive, Fox spent a total of just 13 minutes on these stories. Since Thursday, the "crucify" remarks have received ten times more coverage than all three combined.