CNS' Fossil-Fueled Bias
The Media Research Center receives a notable part of its income from the oil and gas industry, and that manifests itself in articles at CNSNews.com that shill for the industry.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center receives no small amount of its funding from oil industry sources. For instance, it has received more than $400,000 from ExxonMobil.
The MRC has also benefited from the largesse of oil and gas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. Most notably, as detailed in the MRC's 2007 annual report, Pickens -- a member of the MRC's board of trustees -- gave a $1.5 million challenge grant to the MRC for the creation of its Business & Media Institute. As a result of that donation, MRC vice president Dan Gainor -- last seen ironically and hypocritically obsessing over the philanthropy of George Soros -- holds the title of T. Boone Pickens Fellow.
Such funding by those in the oil and gas industry appears to be delivering tangible returns. For instance, MRC chief Brent Bozell's Nov. 9 column is dedicated to his "old friend" Pickens, with whom Bozell spent time in his skybox at the football stadium of Pickens' alma mater, Oklahoma State University, to which Pickens has given hundreds of millions of dollars (to the extent that said stadium is named after him). Bozell made no mention of the money Pickens has given to, or his personal relationship with, the MRC.
It also manifests itself in another way: favorable, uncritical coverage at the MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com. A ConWebWatch review of CNS articles this year found several that may as well have been written by the industry itself.
The lead promoter for the oil industry at CNS is Penny Starr, who has a predilection for parroting the claims of the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying and promotion arm of the oil industry. A May 26 article by Starr demonstrates her bias by uncritically reporting on a PowerPoint presentation given by the John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying and promotion arm of the oil industry:
Armed with a Power Point presentation to illustrate the state of American energy, John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute (API), said the majority of “big oil” and natural gas ownership is in good hands the hands of the American people.
Starr made no effort to seek out anyone who might be critical of the API's claims.
That's just one of many examples of Starr's shilling:
Starr is only the most prolific industry promoter at CNS. A June 23 article by Susan Jones trumpeted the "job creating" Keystone XL pipeline while noting that "Actor Danny Glover, a perennial protester, plans to march with other liberal activists outside the White House in the summer heat to protest a proposed oil pipeline that would bring crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries in Texas, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the process."
Jones wrote that "protesters mention oil leaks" -- then devoted three paragraphs to how the pipeline's developer, TransCanada, responded to a leak on another pipeline it operates, quoting a TransCanada press release on how "the integrity of Keystone is sound."
A Nov. 9 article by Jones claimed that "Virginia's two U.S. senators, both Democrats, and the commonwealth's Republican governor are pressing the Obama administration to reconsider its decision to omit Virginia from its 5-year offshore drilling plan."
A Nov. 11 article by Jones followed Starr's footsteps in touting inflated job-creation numbers for the Keystone XL pipeline, asserting that it would "create 20,000 new jobs." Later in the article, Jones uncritically quotes the head of the company that is proposing the pipeline making more job promises:
"We remain confident Keystone XL will ultimately be approved," said Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer. "This project is too important to the U.S. economy, the Canadian economy and the national interest of the United States for it not to proceed."
In fact, even this lower job number is highly questionable. As Media Matters detailed, the TransCanada-funded study that generated those numbers uses an opaque and suspicious "person-years" job claim to come up with those figures. Meanwhile, others point out that TransCanada's job numbers are wildly inflated, claiming instead that the pipeline will generate no more than approximately 5,000 construction job and as few as 50 permanent jobs.
Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert mocked similarly inflated job projections coming from Fox News personalities: "Those numbers come fresh from the pipeline those experts built from their ass straight to the airwaves."
In CNS' case, the source appears to be external: the pipeline of cash from oil interests to its parent, the MRC.