The Future of the Planet? Get Over It

You would think–or maybe hope–that journalists who have to appear alongside climate change deniers would find it a bit awkward. It used to be that media were faulted for creating false “balance” in coverage of climate change–quoting reality-based scientists in roughly equal measure with non-scientists who either don’t think there’s a problem or don’t think human activity has anything to do with it.

That doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem anymore (though it made a comeback after “Climategate”). But ABC has a built-in climate problem: The network’s Sunday morning show regularly includes right-wing climate denier George Will, which means his marginal viewpoint on a massively important story–the fate of the planet– has a seat at the table whenever climate change comes up (which isn’t often).

That’s what happened on the July 7 show. The problem wasn’t just Will, though. The show opened with host Terry Moran saying this:

A record heat wave have people asking: Dog days of summer or evidence of global warming?

“Is it summer or is it climate change?” isn’t really a serious debate. Moran got back to the topic later in the show:

We’re back with the roundtable here. The thing that strikes me as odd is that we don’t make neuroscience, brain surgery, a political question. But we have made whether or not the climate is changing because of human activities an article of political faith on both sides. That seems silly.

This is an interesting one to unpack. The first part of that statement is undoubtedly true. The second part doesn’t make any sense. If Moran meant that Democrats mostly believe in climate science and Republicans mostly don’t, his meaning would be clear. Instead, it’s made to sound like climate change is just one more example of Washington gridlock and an unbridgeable gap between the two major political parties.

The question was answered, first by right-leaning Mort Zuckerman and liberal E.J. Dionne. Then panelist Gwen Ifill of PBS seemed to invite Will to weigh in. Which he did:

You asked us — how do we explain the heat? One word: summer. I grew up in central Illinois in a house without air conditioning. What is so unusual about this?

Now, come the winter, there will be a cold snap, lots of snow, and the same guys, like E.J., will start lecturing us. There’s a difference between the weather and the climate. I agree with that. We’re having some hot weather. Get over it.

That answer led another guest–investor and former Obama “car czar” Steven Rattner–to challenge Will. But since this is Sunday morning television, which is structured to appeal mostly to Beltway insiders, Moran steered the conversation away from facts and back to the election:

Is it an issue for voters? Is this salient? Is this even on the radar screen?

George Will has been distorting climate science for a long time–long enough to see the scientific consensus on the issue only strengthen, and predictions of rising global temperatures born out. As the evidence mounts, his own views do not appear to change in the slightest. He’s entitled to that, of course. But does this embarrass anyone at ABC? The panelists didn’t seem fazed–Will’s “get over it” quip got a good laugh.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.