Four years ago, CNN’s Candy Crowley had the perfect opportunity to ask President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney what they would do about climate change. An audience question on gas prices sparked a heated debate about energy policy and oil drilling. But when neither candidate mentioned global warming, Crowley quickly moved on.
This story originally appeared on Grist.
Climate hawks squawked with outrage. “Where is global warming in this debate?”tweeted former Vice President Al Gore. “Climate change is an urgent foreign policy issue.” The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert called climate “the debate’s great unmentionable.”
“I had that question for all of you climate change people,” Crowley would later respond to critics. But she skipped it, choosing to stick with the economy instead.
The 2012 cycle would turn out to be the first since 1988 in which climate went unmentioned in either a presidential or vice presidential debate — although to be honest, it’s hardly ever a popular topic with moderators. The advocacy group Media Matters for America analyzed the 1,477 questions asked during the first 20 debates of this year’s primary season and found that only 22, or 1.5 percent, covered climate.
“That is really malfeasance on the part of our fourth estate,” says Shawn Otto, a co-founder of ScienceDebate, which pushes for more discussion of scientific issues from candidates.
Because so few moderators have chosen to ask about climate over the years, Grist turned the tables and asked moderators to answer for themselves. Most declined, including Crowley, but those who spoke up said a good debate question includes two elements:
- It exposes differences for undecided voters.
- It makes for dramatic TV.
“The exercise was always trying to draw out differences,” says Scott Spradling, a former anchor of New Hampshire’s WMUR, who participated in four 2008primary debates. “Allow there to be opportunities to clearly state positions by the candidates, but to also draw distinctions so voters can be educated on where they differ.”
Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus, who moderated primary debates in 2000 and 2008, said: “The second big goal, to put it as crassly as possible, is to produce a good television show.” Climate, apparently, gets poor ratings — a conclusion you can also draw from the scant amount of coverage it receives on thenightly network news.
“It doesn’t grab viewers the same way other stuff does: bombing in New York, terror, immigration,” says Tom Fahey, a former New Hampshire Union Leader reporter who worked two presidential primary debates. “I’m just talking about Joe Sixpack.”
Despite that, Fahey asked one of the most straightforward questions on climate in recent debate history: “Is science wrong on global warming?” he queried GOP hopefuls in 2007. “And what, if any, steps would you take as president to address the issue of climate change?”
Environmentalists say the focus on other issues is an industry problem. “The media themselves think of climate change as an environmental issue, and they have niche reporters on it,” says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. “They’re not the reporters who moderate debates. Their questions tend to go more to what’s in the news that week or some of the political attacks, some of the partisan stuff, some of the issues that they consider more immediate — and even silly things.”
Juliet Eilperin, the Washington Post’s White House bureau chief (and a former environmental reporter), says debate moderators rarely have environmental expertise. “While I think it’s most notable in terms of the moderators, you also see that on the trail itself. The candidates may not be asked about this as much because the people who are with them day in and day out have not been immersed in these issues.”
Will this year be different? Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will meet in New York on Monday night for their first debate, and climate change shows signs of becoming a more salient election issue. This year’s Paris Climate Accord, a string of temperature records, and Clinton primary challenger Bernie Sanders have made the issue increasingly central in 2016.
An August poll showed 65 percent of adults want the U.S. government to act on climate change domestically and abroad. And a July analysis from Yale and George Mason showed the highest percentage of Americans alarmed about climate change since 2008 — but also the deepest gulf between climate voters and deniers since that same year.
“Climate change began as an issue that was obscure and little known and poorly understood,” says McManus, the L.A. Times columnist. “It is now one of the signal issues that divides the two parties.”
With political pressure building for climate action, advocates are also pushing for more airtime on climate during the debates. Several environmental organizations, including 350.org, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), and Climate Truth, have created petitions, mobilized their hundreds of thousands of members, and lobbied via social media to challenge moderators on climate. For the upcoming debates, LCV, Media Matters, the NRDC Action Fund, and others have collaborated on a petition calling for climate questions, which now has over 100,000 signatures. An effort spearheaded by the same coalition has pushed out more than 90,000 emails to moderators of the September 26 debate.
Sometimes pressure works. During the Republican primary, Climate Truth worked with a group of 21 Florida mayors on letters to moderators that helped get airtime for two climate questions.
“Numbers matter,” says Spradling, the WMUR anchor. “The more people are asking that question, the more likely that question gets asked in higher-profile debates.”
McManus calls Trump’s claim that climate change is a hoax “catnip for a debate question.” In other words: good TV.
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Here's the 'near-identical script' Republicans are using to reframe Trump investigation as a war on America
On Wednesday, People Magazine published an analysis of the "near-identical scripts" of talking points Republicans are using in the wake of the FBI search warrant at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Florida — and how it is all designed to deflect any possibility the investigation is legitimate and frame it as tyranny or a war on America.
"A number of talking points are being echoed in far-right groups following news that Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home was visited by FBI agents executing a federal search warrant on Monday," said the report. "Some Republican officials, as well as conservative outlets like Fox News, are offering up near-identical descriptions of the search."
Among the phrases commonly used are "banana republic," used by politicians like Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO); "civil war," used by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and a flood of Trump supporters on social media; "Department of Injustice," also used by Boebert; the idea that the FBI search warrant was a "raid," used by Greene and in fundraising emails by the Republican National Committee; and the idea that the FBI is President Joe Biden's "Gestapo," used by Boebert, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), and Steve Bannon.
In reality, the warrant — part of an investigation into classified documents that were improperly removed as Trump and his allies departed the White House — was independently approved by a federal magistrate judge, and there is no evidence Biden even had knowledge of it.
Trump himself has lashed out at the probe, calling it "political targeting at the highest level" and a "Witch Hunt" — identical language that he used to disparage the Mueller investigation and both impeachment investigations.
Notably, Trump and his officials are also refusing to release a copy of the FBI's warrant, which — while it likely wouldn't reveal all the details of why the FBI is investigating him — would at least give more insight into what the FBI was searching for.
You can read more here.
As Republicans erupt over the FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, some Democrats have taken to social media to point out the GOP's hypocrisy.
Back in 2016 when former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was alleged to have used a private email server for communication with her State Department staff, Republicans applauded then-FBI director James Comey for doing everything in his power to investigate. Now, the FBI is investigating Trump.
Soon after the FBI searched his property, Trump issued a statement where he called the investigation a "weaponization of the justice system."
"Hillary Clinton was allowed to delete and acid wash 33,000 emails AFTER they were subpoenaed by Congress," Trump said on his social media platform, Truth Social. "Absolutely nothing has happened to hold her accountable."
The investigation into Clinton's email server found that of the thousands of emails reviewed, 113 contained classified information, and three of them had the official classification market. The FBI concluded that while Clinton had acted with extreme carelessness, it was not her intention to break the law and no charges were filed.
But Comey then publicly reopened the case 12 days before the election, a decision of his that some studies suggest cost Clinton the biggest price of them all: the presidency.
Now, Republicans are acting at odds with their own outrage over Clinton's emails and the FBI's decision to investigate further.
A video, which was first published by Trevor Noah's "The Daily Show," calls out Republicans for being hypocrites. The video shows clips of prominent Republicans applauding the FBI for investigating Clinton next to footage of the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago. The tweet has more than 50k likes.
"The FBI stepping forward at this moment has demonstrated real integrity." former Vice President Mike Pence said.
Fox News hosts Harris Faulkner and Sean Hannity both piled onto Clinton at the time.
"I mean common, are we supposed to believe that after all this time that she just didn't know what the rules were," Faulkner said.
"Multiple felonies that we are talking about here." Hannity added.
But now that the roles are reversed Republicans cannot seem to fathom that the FBI is acting without political motivation. Cries of "defund the FBI" are circulating among the GOP.
After Trump was elected to office, he signed a law that strengthened the penalty for the unauthorized removal and handling of classified documents, making the act a felony offense.
Fox News On Hillary But Make The Footage Trump | The Daily Show www.youtube.com
Rick Wilson: Republicans are inflaming a base they know is easily 'motivated to violence' with attacks on FBI
On CNN Wednesday, former Republican strategist Rick Wilson tore into GOP figures for their increasingly violent rhetoric surrounding the FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Republicans are riling up voters about the search, conducted as part of an investigation into missing classified information, despite knowing they are prone to acts of violence in the aftermath of the January 6 attack, Wilson pointed out.
"You got Matt Schlapp, who runs that thing called CPAC, who says the FBI move 'shows that we've become a third-world country," said anchor John Heilemann. "Bernie Kerik told Newsmax the Democrats are trying to 'assassinate' Trump. This really is a Big Lie 2.0, and it strikes me as arguably more incendiary and more dangerous in the moment like you really are striking the match right next to a house that's already been soaked in kerosene."
"I think that's right, John," said Wilson. "The terms they're using, that this was an assassination, this was a hit, this was a raid, all these things are doing, they're trying to frame this out as something that's outside the bounds, that has nothing to do with Trump's long, consistent pattern of illegality. Merrick Garland is a guy who never once in his life has yelled hold my beer. This was a careful warrant. It was issued by a judge. It was done with all the reviews. They knew this would have those political impacts, and it was done in a very careful scope and manner, and of course, Trump is going to lie about it. Of course, his people are going to lie about it."
The rallying around Trump, continued Wilson, is going to have other effects too.
"This also is a real sign that all the flirtation with Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz and anybody else who thought they were going to run in '24 with Fox, they're all back on board now with Trump, they're all back in bed with him, and I think you're going to see that Trump's going to try to leverage this experience into his next campaign into disrupting the country as much as he can," said Wilson. "The Schedule F idea, basically burning down the government and filling it with little clones like Steve Bannon, is extraordinarily dangerous. They're relying on rhetoric and communications and narratives right now that are encouraging a base of people who have already demonstrated that they can be motivated to violence without much effort.
Rick Wilson on GOP attacks on the FBI www.youtube.com