President Donald Trump’s disastrous withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Change Accord understandably has the media in a frenzy. “Unconscionable and fatuous,” proclaimed The Economist (6/1/17). Trump “shamefully abandons the fight against humanity’s greatest threat,” wrote Bloomberg News (6/1/17). But when given the opportunity over the past four months of his presidency to ask Trump a question on climate change, no outlet has bothered to bring up the topic at all.
In their respective interviews with Trump since he became president, AP News (4/23/17), CBS News (4/30/17), New York Times (4/5/17), The Economist (5/11/17), NBC News (5/11/17), ABC News (1/25/17), Bloomberg News (5/1/17), Fox News (2/5/17), Breitbart (2/27/17), Reuters (2/24/17), Time Magazine (3/27/17) and the Financial Times (4/2/17) all failed to ask Trump about his climate change views or policies.
The same Economist and Bloomberg who now lament, in almost apocalyptic terms, Trump’s withdraw from the Paris Accords, when given the opportunity to press Trump on his climate change policies—or even broach the subject at all—chose not to.
FAIR could not find a single question about climate change in any interview or press conference with Trump since he took office on January 20, 2017.
The Washington Post (3/21/16) and New York Times (11/23/16) editorial interviews with candidate and president-elect Trump, respectively, did ask him about his climate change views. However, the vast majority of interviews by others during both the primary and general election campaign did not, including other interviews by both publications: The Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (4/2/16) did not ask Trump about climate change, nor did the Times’ Maggie Haberman and David Sanger in two separate interviews on international policy (3/26/16, 7/21/16). NBC’s Meet the Press (8/16/15), Fox News (10/16/15, 5/16/16), CNN (3/9/16, 3/29/16), ABC News (8/2/15, 8/6/16), CNBC (9/12/16), Fortune (4/21/16), CNN (6/5/16) and many others also did not ask Trump about his views on climate change.
The 2016 presidential and vice presidential general election debates did not have a single question on climate change for either Trump or Hillary Clinton (FAIR.org, 10/19/16). There hasn’t been a mention of “climate change” in any of the post-primary debates since October 2008, when CBS’s Bob Schieffer referred to it as “climate control” in a question that wasn’t even about climate change, but dependence on foreign oil.
Liberal media watchdog Media Matters’ annual study found that in 2016, evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as Fox News Sunday,
did not air a single segment informing viewers of what to expect on climate change and climate-related policies or issues—including the Paris agreement—under a Trump or Hillary Clinton administration.
Despite the universal consensus on the science of climate change and the urgent need to act, the tremendous stakes to the planet and humankind, and the fact that the last three years were the three hottest on record, the media seems fickle at best in prioritizing the topic. They’re mildly outraged when Trump pulls out of the only meaningful global effort to curb climate change, but have next to nothing to say in the lead up to him doing so.
Why no questions on climate change in any of the debates? Why no mention of climate change in dozens of interviews and press conferences since he’s taken office? If the most existential crisis of our generation isn’t taken seriously by the media, how can we expect the public—much less the president—to do so?