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Clinton Faces New Challenge from Fractivists After 'Insulting' Comments

As presidential campaigns head to New York, an anti-fracking epicenter, climate activists say they won't give their votes to Clinton so easily

"I feel sorry sometimes for the young people who, you know, believe this. They don't do their own research." (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Hillary Clinton is facing fresh scrutiny for her environmental track record, following her viral confrontation with a Greenpeace activist and some poorly-received follow-up remarks last week, as the presidential race heads to New York—home to a dedicated anti-fracking movement.

Clinton told Greenpeace campaigner Eva Resnick-Day last week that she was "sick" of Bernie Sanders' campaign "lying" about her taking contributions from fossil fuel companies, a charge which Sanders and Greenpeace have since separately defended. And environmentalists were even less enthused after Clinton told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, "I feel sorry sometimes for the young people who, you know, believe this. They don't do their own research."

Resnick-Day told Democracy Now! on Monday that Clinton's comments were "insulting."

"As a youth movement, we have done our own research and that is why we are so terrified for the future," she said.

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New York activists in particular remain skeptical about Clinton, whose previous equivocating on fracking stands in stark contrast to Sanders' call to ban the controversial gas extraction method, which was outlawed in the state in 2014 after a years-long environmentalist effort.

"We now have literally thousands of fractivists who are battle-tested, who understand the politics of these issues," one such activist, Walter Hang, told the New York Times on Monday. "And they have zero inclination to give away their vote without firm commitments."

The New York primary will take place on April 19. Polling shows Clinton ahead of Sanders 53-42, although Sanders has closed the gap somewhat in recent weeks. He also remains ahead of Clinton in the "must-win" primary state of Wisconsin.

Clinton has shifted leftward on environmental issues following months of sustained pressure from the climate movement and the growing populist support for Sanders—but critics say this as an indication that her campaign is simply pandering to win the green vote.

Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and anti-fracking activist who supports Sanders, told the Times, "We're in the middle of a climate emergency, and we have to keep all fossil fuels in the ground. Hillary Clinton has definitely shifted her positions. Whether she shifts them again should she become the Democratic candidate in a general election and softens them, that's the question I hear people wondering about."

Or as climate activist and author Naomi Klein tweeted, "Young people: Hillary Clinton feels sorry for you because you don't do research. Or maybe because you do..."

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