The Wrong Response to Rubio’s Climate Nonsense

rubio-abcABC reporter Jonathan Karl (5/11/14) interviewed rising GOP star Sen. Marco Rubio on the Sunday show This Week. And afterwards, much of the buzz was about Rubio’s bizarre ramblings about climate change. But Karl’s wrap-up may have been the most unusual part of the whole thing.

After Karl asked a pretty straightforward question– “Do you agree with science on this?”– Rubio responded by saying there wasn’t much humans could do about the climate, which is

always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activity. I do not agree with that.

He added that “natural disasters have always existed”–take that, scientists!–and that he doesn’t “believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” And besides, their solutions will only serve to “destroy our economy.”

So what is the right response for a journalist to take in such an interview? It would be hard to imagine Karl getting into an argument about science with a politician–he saves his anger for Benghazi–but it wouldn’t be so hard to imagine that a closing comment in the segment, recorded afterwards, might mention that Rubio’s take on the issue is dramatically at odds with science.

But Karl recorded this closing comment instead:

It’s talk like that that Rubio hopes will appeal to the conservatives he would need to win the Republican nomination.

This is a perfect example of a journalist adopting the mentality of a campaign strategist or a political operative. Of course a hard-right stance will go over better with the GOP base. But as a reporter, Karl’s first loyalty should be to the truth–and to explaining to viewers that what is good for Rubio’s political fortunes is bad for the planet.


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.