Why didn’t anyone ask Christie about climate change?

Five networks interview Chris Christie about Hurricane Sandy -- and they're all afraid to mention global warming

Topics: Climate Change, Global Warming, Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Fox Business

If you watched any news on television Wednesday, you almost certainly caught a glimpse of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during his stunning five — yes five! — national television interviews about Hurricane Sandy. The interviews with ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and Fox Business, not surprisingly, featured plenty of 2016 presidential speculation, some conversation about the state of the Republican Party and a bit of discussion about how hard the New Jersey shoreline was hit by the storm.

However, did you happen to notice that something was missing? Yeah, me too. Somehow, in interviews with every major national television news organization about an unprecedentedly severe weather event, Christie wasn’t asked about climate change. That’s right, he wasn’t asked about whether Hurricane Sandy changes his views on climate change or whether Hurricane Sandy means we should address climate change more urgently. He wasn’t asked whether homes should be rebuilt in New Jersey’s climate-change-threatened areas. He wasn’t even asked why he didn’t mention climate change in his first state of the state following the hurricane.

Indeed, he wasn’t challenged with a single question about the entire issue. Not one.

Before this, of course, there has been ample evidence that the national news media and local news affiliates have devoted painfully little coverage to climate change. Up until now, that perhaps could have been written off as some unfortunate combination of bizarre coincidence and poor news judgment. But a mere one day after we learned that 2012 was the warmest year on record, for 5 separate networks to interview the titular head of the Republican Party about a hurricane and not even mention climate change – that suggests something far more pernicious. It suggests that America’s major television news organizations are actively avoiding the subject.



If that sounds like hyperbole, consider the fact that the size and intensity of Hurricane Sandy — again, the specific topic Christie was on television to talk about — is undoubtedly linked to climate change. Don’t take my word on that, either. Read this definitive Scientific American piece, or read the Sandy-related from the vice chairman of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or listen to this post-Sandy interview about New Jersey weather systems with Rutgers University climatologist Jennifer Francis. And not only is the science overwhelming, public opinion polling data show the public sees a strong connection between climate change and Hurricane Sandy.

And yet, despite all this, Christie didn’t face a single question about the issue.

Before you say none of this science or polling matters and that the main reason Christie wasn’t asked about climate change is because the media is obsessed only with political intrigue — remember that asking Christie a climate change question would, unto itself, generate political intrigue. After all, as I reported in a newspaper column back in November, Christie’s previous equivocating comments on the matter all but guarantee that refuse to answer the question, slam his own party members for their climate denialism or take a climate denialist position himself. Any one of those outcomes would be serious political news.

In light of all this, then, Christie not being asked about climate change should be seen as incriminating evidence of something far more profound – and profoundly troubling.

It seems there is now an unspoken rule in television news mandating that the topic of climate change is to be eschewed when at all possible. This rule most likely exists because political reporters, desperate to maintain their image as impartial, fear that they will be aggressively attacked by the right-wing’s oil-industry-funded noise machine for supposedly being unduly “partisan” or “political.” In using such intimidating tactics to suppress coverage of climate change, that machine has already won a victory — and not a small one, either.

When five networks refuse to ask the most powerful politician in one of America’s two major parties about the issue during his hurricane-themed media tour, it’s a huge victory for climate change denialism — and a major loss for the planet.

David Sirota

David Sirota is a senior writer for the International Business Times and the best-selling author of the books "Hostile Takeover," "The Uprising" and "Back to Our Future." E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

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