The Washington Post editorial board claimed that ExxonMobil "deserves criticism for playing down the danger of climate change," but that the company's actions are "not a criminal offense." That conclusion is premature, given an ongoing investigation and evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived shareholders and the public about climate change. And this is not the first time the Post has argued against the government pursuing a legal response to corporate malfeasance; in the early 2000s, the Post also criticized the Department of Justice lawsuit against tobacco companies that it is now citing to try to distinguish the tobacco companies' wrongdoing from that of Exxon.
In the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks, Republicans rushed with their conservative media allies to call for a halt to the admission of Syrian refugees into America, claiming that they would pose a significant threat to the United States. Major editorial boards slammed Republicans for "def[ying] what the nation stands for" and pushing divisive rhetoric that could "provide propaganda benefits to the Islamic State."
In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.
A regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times is criticizing the paper for funding the salaries for its education journalists through donations from foundations that fund efforts in the field, stating that the decision "inflicts the appearance of a conflict of interest on every local education story or opinion piece the Times runs."
On October 29, The Washington Post reported that the Los Angeles Times' "Education Matters" local education reporting project, which launched in August, is funded by three philanthropic foundations with extensive ties to education reform efforts in the Los Angeles area. Then-publisher Austin Beutner, the Post reported, spearheaded the project, accepting enough funding from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, K&F Baxter Foundation, and the Wasserman Foundation "to cover the salaries of two education journalists for at least two years."
Eli Broad, chairman of the Broad Foundation, has also recently offered to buy the Times from its current owner, Tribune Publishing, in a move that would return the paper to local ownership but could also further conflict-of-interest concerns.
The Post noted that recent education coverage in the Times has not been consistent in disclosing its connections to the Broad Foundation. An article breaking the news of the Broad Foundation's plan to expand charter schools in Los Angeles in September included a disclosure that the foundation funds "Education Matters." However, an editorial supporting the plan did not. According to the Post, the LA Times' managing editor has stated that funders have no editorial control, and has already made efforts to add disclosure statements to stories that directly report on Broad and others.
On November 4, American Prospect executive editor and frequent Los Angeles Times opinion writer Harold Meyerson responded to the Washington Post article, outlining the disclosure issues he believes the Times will now face in their local education reporting:
Whatever possessed [then-publisher Austin] Beutner to accept funding from partisans in an ongoing battle that the Times was already covering in its news pages and editorializing about in its opinion pages--and not just funding, but funding specifically targeted at covering that very battle? Would he have accepted funding from either Catholic Charities or Planned Parenthood to bolster the Times's coverage of the battles over abortion and reproductive rights? Would he have accepted funding from the local teachers union, or a pro-union foundation, to cover the same beat that the Broad and Baxter money are now funding? I suspect he would not--and that what made the Broad/Baxter money different in Beutner's eyes was that he felt comfortable with their positions, and probably believed that their commitment to charter schools was widely shared throughout the city's power elites--of which Beutner was a member in very good standing.
[A]ccepting funds to cover the very beat in which his funders were inevitably going to be the subject of the paper's coverage was not his right, and is profoundly damaging to the Times. It inflicts the appearance of a conflict of interest on every local education story or opinion piece the Times runs.
As a longtime Los Angeles journalist before I moved to D.C., I know a number of the Times's reporters and editors who cover this topic on the news and opinion pages. They are among the most principled journalists I've ever known. Howard Blume, my onetime colleague at the L.A. Weekly, included an acknowledgment of the Broad Foundation's funding of Times education coverage in the story in which he broke the news about the Foundation's plan to increase the number of charter schools. Howard's work aside, it's not clear that the paper's management felt such disclaimers were even necessary until the Post story ran last Friday. Presumably, such disclaimers will now have to accompany the scores of stories about the future of L.A. schools that Howard and his peers will be turning out over the next several years, to the point where the disclaimers will become something of a standing joke. Howard and his paper need this like a hole in the head. [The American Prospect, 11/4/15]
NPR executive editor Edith Chapin and ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen agree it is "unfortunate" that NPR has thus far failed to cover groundbreaking reports documenting that ExxonMobil funded efforts to sow doubt about climate science for decades after confirming that burning fossil fuels causes climate change.
In a November 2 post on NPR's website, Jensen noted that NPR received criticism from some listeners for failing to report on the recent reports by The Guardian, InsideClimate News, and the Los Angeles Times documenting that Exxon amplified doubt about climate science after Exxon's own scientists confirmed the consensus on global warming. Jensen quoted Chapin as saying of the Exxon story, "NPR should have reported on it in some fashion on at least one of our outlets/platforms," and Chapin also said "[i]t is unfortunate that this topic didn't come up [in NPR's daily editorial discussions] or in any conversation or email that I was a part of." For her part, Jensen agreed that the story "seems to have fallen through the cracks," and that given the growing calls for an investigation of Exxon, "the lapse was unfortunate." Jensen noted that the story was addressed in September by WNYC's On the Media, which was at the time distributed by NPR but is no longer affiliated with the outlet.
Since the media investigations were published, climate scientists, members of Congress, and Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O'Malley have called for the Department of Justice to investigate either Exxon specifically or oil companies more broadly to determine if they knowingly deceived the public about climate change.
As one listener wrote to NPR: "Considering the importance of the issue and the prominence of Exxon's role, this story deserved, and still deserves, to be headline news on the national broadcast." Jensen agreed, concluding that "the issue is still a live one, and it's not too late for NPR to find some way of following up."
Andrew Ratzkin, a listener to the New York City member station WNYC, wrote that the only reporting he heard on the issue was in September, by On the Media, which is produced by WNYC (at the time, the show was distributed by NPR, but that business deal ended Oct. 1 and it is no longer NPR-affiliated). That reporting, examining the InsideClimate News reports, included a contentious interview by On the Media co-host Bob Garfield with Richard Keil, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, who disputed the InsideClimate News claims.
"This is not enough," Ratzkin wrote. "Considering the importance of the issue and the prominence of Exxon's role, this story deserved, and still deserves, to be headline news on the national broadcast."
Edith Chapin, NPR's executive editor, told me by email that she believes NPR dropped the ball.While it was not a major headline story, I think it meets the interesting test and thus NPR should have reported on it in some fashion on at least one of our outlets/platforms. Exxon Mobil is the world's largest publicly traded multinational oil and gas company and the debate and research decades ago is interesting in light of contemporary knowledge and action on climate change. Daily conversations at our editorial hub typically cross a range of subjects and stories from across the globe. It is unfortunate that this topic didn't come up there or in any conversation or email that I was a part of. It should have been flagged by someone so we could have discussed it and made an intentional decision to cover or not and if so, how.
My take: The story was on the radar of at least some in the newsroom, but it seems to have fallen through the cracks. Given the latest repercussions--Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is among those calling for a federal investigation--the lapse was unfortunate. But the issue is still a live one, and it's not too late for NPR to find some way of following up.
As newspapers' ad revenues have fallen over the years, prestigious publications have been going to increasingly extraordinary lengths to make up for the financial shortfall. Consider the Los Angeles Times, which has recently provided prime front page real estate to advertisements for companies like American Airlines and products like the Universal Studios film, Minions.
But while these kinds of advertising arrangements aren't particularly new for the Times, the same cannot be said for a newly-launched oil industry propaganda website the newspaper created for California Resources Corporation, an oil and gas spin-off company of Occidental Petroleum. The website, called poweringcalifornia.com, has raised concerns despite assurances from the Times that it is produced by a department of the Times company that is wholly independent of the reporting and editorial staff.
The Powering California website features a fearmongering video that asks viewers to "imagine a day without oil" as a young man helplessly watches many of the products he relies on every day suddenly disappear. The site's text asserts that because "a majority of products that you use every day are made from petroleum," a day without oil and natural gas "would be a huge disruption for you and the people you depend on." It goes on to allege that a day without oil could even be "life-threatening."
After Western States Petroleum Association President Cathy Reheis-Boyd promoted the website in an October 27 tweet, it caught the attention of Clean Energy California, a non-profit organization that worked with businesses, consumer, health, faith, labor and environmental groups to pass Senate Bill 350, California's landmark climate change legislation. Specifically, Clean Energy California asked why the Los Angeles Times and its parent company, Tribune Publishing, were sponsoring this "oil propaganda project."
As Politico reported on October 29, the original disclaimer on the Powering California website identified it as "a joint copyrighted effort of the Los Angeles Times and the California Resources Corporation":
Following criticism from Clean Energy California and others, the Times changed the copyright disclaimer to remove mention of itself and added an additional statement on the Powering California website that read:
Powering California is sponsored content produced by The Los Angeles Times Content Solutions team for California Resources Corporation. The Los Angeles Times reporting and editing staffs are not involved in the production of sponsored content, including Powering California.
But the updated disclaimer has not settled all of the concerns that have been raised about a major U.S. newspaper company sponsoring an oil industry propaganda website.
In an October 30 article, LA Weekly wrote that "[e]ven as the Times was publishing [a] hard-hitting story" detailing evidence that ExxonMobil may have purposely deceived its shareholders about climate change science, "the business side of the paper was presenting a much rosier view of the oil industry through a sponsored content campaign." Noting that the Times' editorial board recently suggested that California legislators had fallen for "oil industry propaganda," LA Weekly observed that it is "thus a little awkward, or at least ironic, that the Times is simultaneously getting paid to create promotional material for the oil industry." (It's worth pointing out that the Times' recent environmental coverage hasn't all been good; the newspaper also received heavy criticism from scientists for publishing a deeply flawed article that disputed the link between California's recent wildfires and climate change.)
LA Weekly concluded by noting that even though it could be argued the oil industry is helping fund journalism that is sometimes aimed at "exposing" the oil industry, "some in the environmental community see this as a troubling sign":
"I understand the concept behind sponsored content, but when it's being used to defeat climate action by Big Oil, it goes way beyond Zappos," said Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Climate Resolve. "To see the most prestigious paper in the Western U.S. cozying up to these well-heeled interests is deeply disturbing."
Following the October 28 CNBC Republican presidential debate, Fox News repeatedly championed the performance of Sen. Marco Rubio and his claim that Hillary Clinton "got exposed as a liar" during her Benghazi testimony for supposedly misleading the public about the cause of the Benghazi attacks. That allegation has been repeatedly debunked by journalists at numerous media outlets for disregarding the fact that intelligence was rapidly evolving in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and ignoring the possibility that "the attacks could be both an example of terrorism and influenced by outrage over the video."
The Los Angeles Times has published several letters to the editor by scientists and other experts criticizing its October 18 article that wrongly challenged the link between climate change and the wildfires that have been ravaging California. The Times article baselessly claimed that "experts" say California Gov. Jerry Brown's comments describing such a link are "unsupported," when in fact numerous scientists and major scientific reports have detailed the connection global warming has to both recent and future wildfires in the Southwest United States.
The assertions in the deeply flawed Times article were subsequently echoed by several on-air figures at the Fox News Channel, including Fox & Friends co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who declared: "Brown blamed wildfires on global warming, and now scientists say there's no data linking the two. How about that?" The Times story was also praised by right-wing outlet Breitbart News, in an article that directly contradicted the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of climate change.
On October 24, the Times published letters to the editor from three experts who, as the Times explained, "have written to say the article was wrong to assert that climate change isn't fueling the state's historically large fires." The experts included UC Berkeley environmental scientist Max Moritz, who said the "troubling" Times story "implies more uncertainty about climate change than there really is among experts;" Climate Resolve Executive Director Jonathan Parfrey, who said, "The Times really blew it in this piece;" and UCLA climate researcher Alex Hall, who said the article "misleads readers by implying that science" linking wildfires to climate change "has been disproved."
From the letters section of the October 24 edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Max Moritz, a UC Berkeley environmental scientist, says raising awareness is what's important:
It's splitting hairs, as scientists often will, to note that we may not know conclusively whether climate change has caused this particular drought and these specific wildfires. As a wildfire scientist, I find it troubling that this nuance became front-page news because it implies more uncertainty about climate change than there really is among experts.
In fact, there is relatively strong agreement among fire scientists about links between climate change and wildfire, even if quantitative attribution poses challenges. To raise awareness about climate change and to reduce its long-term impacts, we need our leaders to speak out.
Climate Resolve executive director Jonathan Parfrey bluntly assesses the article:
The Times really blew it in this piece.
For example, the recent UC Irvine wildfire study was wildly misinterpreted. The Times failed to note the study's most likely outcome for the period of 2040-60: The area to be burned by Santa Ana-wind-induced fires will increase by 64%, and acres consumed by summer fires will increase by 77%.
It's important to get the science right because good science leads to good policy. And with higher temperatures predicted, Southern California will need to adapt to worsening fire conditions in our hills and mountains.
Alex Hall, director of the UCLA Center for Climate Change Solutions, clarifies what we do and don't know:
The article misleads readers by implying that science is in on this and any link between fires and climate change has been disproved. In fact, a detection-and-attribution study -- an analysis of the probability that the current fire season in California would play out as it has, if climate change were not in the picture -- has not been done.
Even if the link has not been definitively proved, the scientific works referenced in the article provide plenty of reason to suspect climate change is playing some role in the severity of this fire season. Climatologist Park Williams' study shows that human-caused warming is contributing to drier conditions, which would make fuels more susceptible to burning. The study I co-wrote with UC Irvine and UC Davis colleagues shows that heat is an important determinant of how much area is burned by fire -- particularly in those fires, like the ones we have been experiencing all summer, not driven by Santa Ana winds. So the warming climate we're already experiencing should increase the area burned.
The Times should take care to more accurately characterize scientific evidence in the future.
Image at top via the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Photostream on Flickr using a Creative Commons license.
Media outlets refuted Rep. Jim Jordan's (R-OH) baseless claim that Hillary Clinton deliberately misled the public about the cause of the Benghazi, explaining that his allegations disregarded how intelligence evolved in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and ignored the possibility that "the attacks could be both an example of terrorism and influenced by outrage over the video."
The Los Angeles Times reported that "scientists who study climate change and fire behavior" dispute California Gov. Jerry Brown's comments describing a link between the state's recent wildfires and climate change. However, numerous scientists and major scientific reports have detailed the connection that global warming has to both recent and future wildfires in the Southwest, including the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which stated that climate change has already "increased wildfires" in the Southwest region and could lead to "up to 74% more fires in California." Moreover, the experts cited by the Times do not contradict Brown's statements, and the only one who directly criticized Brown was Roger Pielke; it is unclear from the article whether it quoted Roger Pielke Sr. or Roger Pielke Jr., but both father and son have made dubious climate-related claims in the past that were debunked by climate scientists.
A Media Matters review found that cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country remained largely silent on arson attacks that targeted Planned Parenthood clinics following the release of a series of deceptively-edited, anti-choice videos smearing the health care provider. Prime-time cable news shows and the nation's three highest-circulation newspapers dedicated minimal coverage to the arson attacks. The LA Times and Spokane's Spokesman Review provided the most coverage of the attacks.
LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik asserted that "the news media haven't done enough to call out" the false claims Carly Fiorina made about Planned Parenthood during last week's Republican presidential debate, explaining that her statements about the women's healthcare provider are "a pure fabrication."
Following CNN's Republican presidential debate, media praised Fiorina for calling to defund Planned Parenthood and falsely claiming that smear videos by the Center for Medical Progress showed "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brains." MSNBC's Joe Scarborough called the comment one of the "most memorable moments of the night," and Fox News asserted it would "really vault her in the polls."
In a September 18 column for The LA Times, Hiltzik asserted "the news media haven't done enough to call out Fiorina's claims," explaining that although some in the media have fact-checked her false Planned Parenthood smear, she has repeatedly "doubled down on her misrepresentation" and noting that "Fiorina's history shows that one of her character flaws is an inability to admit when she's wrong and accept blame":
Defunding Planned Parenthood has become a shibboleth for Republican presidential aspirants: As a legislator or governor, you can't stand as a credible candidate unless you've defunded the organization in your state or voted to do so.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Chairman Carly Fiorina can't compete on this score, never having ever held political office. So at this week's GOP debate she raised the ante, making the most extreme statement about Planned Parenthood of anyone in the field.
"As regards Planned Parenthood," she said, "anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."
This is a pure fabrication. Fiorina is referring to the surreptitious videotapes distributed by the inaptly named anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. The tapes have been conclusively discredited as heavily edited misrepresentations, but not even the "full" versions (though also somewhat edited, according to a Planned Parenthood analysis) show the scene Fiorina describes. Sarah Kliff at Vox, who has viewed every tape in full, provides a helpful guide to finding the scenes shot inside Planned Parenthood clinical laboratories.
The news media haven't done enough to call out Fiorina's claims. By the nature of the format, CNN's debate moderator, Jake Tapper, was in no position to set the record straight, and Fiorina's rivals, jostling to take center stage as Planned Parenthood's leading nemesis, weren't about to do so. But Stephanopoulos countered her statement by citing unnamed "analysts who have watched all 12 plus hours" of the Center for Medical Progress tapes--doesn't "Good Morning America" have the staff to view the tapes themselves? In a typically pusillanimous ruling, fact-checking website PolitiFact rated Fiorina's statement "mostly false," though its own report makes clear that there isn't a speck of truth in it. David Brooks of the New York Times praises her "genius for creating signature moments," but doesn't give a moment's thought to how fact-challenged they are. Doesn't that matter?
Fiorina's history shows that one of her character flaws is an inability to admit when she's wrong and accept blame; in her telling, the responsibility for her abject failure as head of Hewlett-Packard belongs to everyone except herself.
The Republican birther brigade really is one of the most astonishing political stories in recent years. What's truly bewildering and newsworthy is that the birther ranks are apparently expanding and likely number in the millions nationwide. The fact that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump personally vouched for the baseless, anti-Obama conspiracy theory has only elevated its significance.
So why does the press continue to largely turn a blind eye to the telling spectacle?
Amidst the avalanche of news coverage and commentary about Trump's campaign, the birther strain that runs through important parts of the Republican Party (the claim that Obama's secretly a Kenya-born Muslim) has not been a focal point for Beltway reporters and pundits. The media's birther blind spot is part of the larger press failure to grasp, and accurately detail, the truly radical nature of the Republican Party under President Obama.
For instance, since June 1, the New York Times has published approximately 180 articles or columns that included the word "Trump" five or more times, according to Nexis. But just a handful of those have made any mention of Trump's previous birth certificate folly. The same goes for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, for example: Nearly 180 detailed Trump articles and columns published since June between them, but just a few that have addressed the birther nonsense.
I'm not suggesting the topic has been completely ignored. But it is safe to say it's not a priority issue for the press, which seems otherwise consumed with all things Trump.
You can bet that if, for some very strange reason, a left-wing demagogue who previously trafficked in 9/11 Truther conspiracy theories catapulted to the front of the Democratic primary race, that incendiary fact would not be politely ignored or downplayed. But Trump's right-wing birtherism often gets a pass.
Let's face it, the press has never come to terms with the Republican Party's deep birther roots, and therefore hasn't come to terms with the radical revolution unfolding on the far right. This campaign season seems like an obvious time to do so. "We need to reckon even more urgently with what can now be called the 'Trumpists,'" Harvard professor Danielle Allen recently noted, highlighting their birther streak.
It's true Trump's candidacy has for the most part shied away from the touchy birther issue this year. But it's also true that it was his bizarre birther campaign that catapulted Trump to Republican stardom in 2011. That year, he teamed up with Fox News and the two took the dormant issue and turned it into conservative "news," with Fox News hosting more than 50 birther segments within a seven-week span.
Eventually, the White House released Obama's long-form birth certificate and most observers laughed at Trump's political pratfall. And I think most journalists thought that was the end of the issue: The dopey birthplace allegations had been unequivocally debunked, therefore the so-called controversy had been settled, right?
And that's been the press' telltale failure in covering conservatives and Republicans in recent years: Facts often don't matter to them. They occupy their own tribal space and digest the same misinformation that simply feeds their often-paranoid views of Obama and Democrats.
"They have a different sense of what is normal," Rachel Maddow observed about birthers back in 2013. "They have a different sense of what counts as reasonable politics in America -- and failing to appreciate that, means that we fail to develop reasonably accurate expectations for their behavior. And that has become really important."
That's even truer today as America's most famous birther marches towards the Republican nomination.
Trump's appealing to an often-ugly streak within the conservative movement. And he's winning over the demagoguery wing of the Republican Party. That's news.
As Mother Jones' David Corn recently noted, "Many Republicans clearly see the president as a foreign-born secret Muslim with a clandestine plan to weaken, if not ruin, the United States--remember the death panels--and they have a dark, nearly apocalyptic view of Obama's America."
To me, that assertion seems self-evident. So why the Beltway press' reluctance to drill down deep into this troubling phenomenon? What's behind the Beltway-wide decision to pretend there isn't something seismic and disturbing going on within the Republican electorate?
Rather than having the release of Obama's birth certificate dissuade those on the far right about the birther issue, since 2011 the ranks of Republican birthers have swelled to huge proportions as the GOP base clings to the dark fantasy that Obama is an African-born impostor who's ineligible to be president or to command U.S. military forces.
From Talking Points Memo [emphasis added]:
Nearly half of Iowans supporting real estate mogul Donald Trump's presidential campaign don't believe President Barack Obama was born in the United States, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll found that 35 percent of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers don't believe the President was born in the U.S. That "birther" share rose to 46 percent among Trump supporters, the poll found.
And from Public Policy Polling:
Trump is benefiting from a GOP electorate that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country, and that immigrant children should be deported. 66% of Trump's supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12% that grant he's a Christian. 61% think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21% who accept that he was. And 63% want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, to only 20% who want to keep things the way they are.
Has the modern political press ever had to deal with such a large portion of the partisan electorate that's actively allergic to facts the way birthers are? Probably not.
But I also don't think the current path of routinely downplaying the birther phenomenon and its extraordinary pull within the Republican Party is the right way to handle the story. By too often turning a blind eye to the birther juices fueling Trump's ascension, the press overlooks a defining trait in conservative politics today.
Major U.S. newspapers ran front page stories about devastating California wildfires alongside reports on the Environmental Protection Agency's newly-finalized Clean Power Plan, President Obama's flagship policy to address climate change. Yet with only one exception, these newspapers' wildfire articles ignored the documented role that global warming has played in worsening wildfires.
Univision and the Los Angeles Times have thoroughly debunked an ad by the anti-immigrant group Californians For Population Stabilization (CAPS) that blames California's drought-induced water shortage on immigration.
Although CAPS presents itself as an organization focused on "preserv[ing] the environment," numerous experts have pointed out that the group disingenuously uses environmental concerns to promote an anti-immigrant agenda. For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described CAPS as "a nativist organization masquerading as an environmental group." Similarly, Huffington Post reported that the executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) remarked of CAPS: "They're basically trying to find any way to spin their anti-immigrant vitriol, so hey, why not choose the environment?" And NBC News reported that "[t]he National Council of La Raza said CAPS can say their concern is the environment, but that it is actually an anti-immigrant group."
According to SPLC, CAPS is part of an anti-immigration network that includes several organizations that have been labeled as "hate groups." Further, SPLC notes that CAPS has received funding from the Pioneer Fund, which has bankrolled "leading Anglo-American race scientists." The California drought is not the first example of CAPS exploiting a crisis in order to advance its anti-immigrant agenda -- in 2011, the group used California's unemployment rate to advocate for "slow[ing] legal immigration."
CAPS' television ad that plays on concerns about the drought features a young boy asking, "[i]f Californians are having fewer children, why isn't there enough water?" On the May 27 edition of Univision's Noticiero Univision, correspondent Luis Megid interviewed San Francisco State University professor Oswaldo Garcia about the ad:
Garcia, a meteorology professor and tropical climatology expert, dismissed CAPS' claims. He noted that although California's population has grown, 80 percent of the state's developed water supply is used for agricultural -- not residential -- purposes.
The Los Angeles Times also rebutted CAPS in both a news article and column. Addressing CAPS' claims in a May 24 article, the Times reported:
Some drought experts have taken issue with [CAPS'] claims, pointing out that the majority of the state's water supports agriculture.
Blaming the drought on immigrants "doesn't fit the facts," said William Patzert, a climatologist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The drought is caused by meager snowpack and poor planning, he said, "not because the immigrants are drinking too much water or taking too many showers.
Others point out that many immigrants probably use less water than the average California resident because they tend to live in multi-family dwellings, not higher-consuming single-family homes.
"It's unlikely that the 'burden' of immigrants is very significant," said Stephanie Pincetl, professor in residence at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA."
Additionally, in a May 26 column, the Times' Michael Hiltzik wrote that CAPS was "exploit[ing]" the drought by "immigrant bashing," and added that "pointing the finger at immigrants" is "cynical, dishonest and factually incorrect." Hiltzik noted that even with population growth, "a sharp reduction in urban per capital water use" has allowed the state's total water consumption to go down (emphasis added):
The truth is that California has been able to sustain that huge increase in population without a commensurate increase in water consumption--actually, with a decrease in water consumption. In 1990, when the census placed the state's population at 29.8 million, the state's freshwater withdrawals came to 35.1 billion gallons per day, according to the authoritative U.S. Geological Survey. In 2010, with a population of 37.3 million, that state drew 31.1 billion gallons per day.
How did that happen? Chiefly through a sharp reduction in urban per capital water use, which has been falling steadily since the mid-1990s, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, and especially in the populous coastal zone.
CAPS' anti-immigration claims, which were recently echoed by the National Review, are reminiscent of other conservative media outlets that have used the California drought as an opportunity to baselessly attack environmental policies.