Wed, Jun

Cable News Refused to Report Trump's Bombshell Quid Pro Quo Offer to Big Oil Execs


MEDIA WATCH - Major cable news networks Fox News Channel, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC all failed to cover former President Donald Trump's promise to Big Oil executives that he would reverse President Joe Biden's climate regulations if they donated $1 billion to his campaign, according to an analysis published by Media Matters for America late Tuesday.

When the news first broke, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch wrote, "You won't read a more important story today." Yet, in the four days after the story broke, it only received 48 minutes of cable airtime—all on MSNBC.

"The most under-covered Trump story is his complete selling-out of the American people on issues they care about most," Jesse Lee, a former Biden communications adviser, posted on social media in response to the report. "If gas prices go up soon, these same networks that ignored Trump's $1 billion oil bribe will cover it constantly—and crucify Biden."

"He is basically saying he's going to destroy the planet that our children... are growing up on just if these guys will write him a check."

The story of Trump's quid pro quo offer to fossil fuel executives was first reported by The Washington Post on May 9. It detailed a dinner the former president hosted at Mar-a-Lago in April attended by leaders of oil and gas firms including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Occidental Petroleum. During the dinner, Trump told the executives that a $1 billion donation would be a "deal" for the industry "because of the taxation and regulation they would avoid thanks to him."

To assess how cable covered—or didn't cover—the story, Media Matters for America looked at the transcripts from May 9 to May 12 for CNN; Fox News Channel; MSNBC; ABC's "Good Morning America," "World News Tonight," and "This Week;" CBS' "Mornings," "Evening News," and "Face the Nation;" and NBC's "Today," "Nightly News," and "Meet the Press." They searched the transcripts for the words "Trump," "former president," or "Mar-a-Lago" close to the words "oil," "donor," "executive," "billion," "industry," "fossil," or "fuel," as well as any version of the words "environment" or "CEO."

Only the MSNBC transcripts turned up any results. These included:

  1. Just over 18 minutes—or nearly 40% of the total—on "Velshi" on May 11, featuring interviews with climate activist Bill McKibben, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington president Noah Bookbinder, and The Atlantic's David A. Graham.
  2. A discussion on the May 9 edition of "Alex Wagner Tonight" between host Wagner and guests former Obama Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and former Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
  3. An interview on the May 10 edition of "All in With Chris Hayes" with New York Times climate reporter Lisa Friedman.
  4. An exchange on the May 11 edition of "Alex Witt Reports" between host Witt and New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker.
  5. An interview on the May 12 edition of "Ayman" with Princeton University sociology professor Kim Lane Scheppele and New York Times columnist and analyst Michelle Goldberg.
  6. Mentions on "The ReidOut" and "The Weekend."

Several of the MSNBC interviews did highlight the importance of the story—which has prompted an investigation by a top House Democrat.

McKibben told Ali Velshi that "in a very real sense this is the most important climate election ever."

Others focused on the blatant corruption of the exchange. Graham noted that it was particularly brazen.

"He is making it clear what the quid pro quo is without any kind of pretense. It's just right here, 'You give me money; I'll do what you want me to do,'" Graham told Velshi.

Rhodes called it "basic pay-to-play corruption," adding, "He is basically saying he's going to destroy the planet that our children... are growing up on just if these guys will write him a check."

There were also comments on what the news said about the fossil fuel executives themselves.

"These are the same executives who, in the wake of January 6, said, 'We're not going to support people who undermined our democracy,'" Bookbinder pointed out. "And there they are, these couple of years later, meeting with Donald Trump, courting his support, hearing his offer—his demands—that they give a billion dollars to his campaign."

Baker told Witt: "I think it's going to confirm for a lot of people who are already suspicious of the fossil fuel industry that they have, over the years, bought off Washington writ large. That's been a longtime conviction on the part of people who think that the energy industry has too much power."

"It's going to cause a lot of cynicism, obviously, especially if Donald Trump were to win and then to try to roll back some of these climate initiatives," Baker continued. "People will make the assumption—and it will have some obvious evidence to back it up—that he is doing so in exchange for large contributions from an industry that's affected by it."

They will, that is, if they caught the 48 minutes of reporting the story received.

(Olivia Rosane is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was first featured.)