The Trump Administration: Energy and the Environment

Analysis of the Ideological Stances of Media Outlets via Reporting of the Environmental Stances of Members of the Trump Administration

Since Election Day, Donald Trump, the recently inaugurated President, has been racing to fill his cabinet. Trump, as a conservative Republican, has been nominating other conservatives to these positions. As for these nominees’ policies, conservatives frequently are skeptical of the evidence of anthropogenic climate change, and in general are not committed to an investment in clean energies. Many liberals oppose officials in the Trump administration for these beliefs, as Democrats commonly promote the use of renewable energy and admonish climate change deniers.

Right (Highly Conservative):

Outlet: Breitbart

Author: Michael Patrick Leahy

Title: “EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt: Reject False Paradigm of Energy and Environmental Incompatibility, Observe Rule of Law”

Date: January 18th, 2017

Breitbart is a staple news source for members of the far-right. In an article detailing the January 18th confirmation hearing of Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s nominee to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), writer Michael Patrick Leahy continues to display Breitbart’s tendency of highly conservative reporting. To begbreitbart-logoin, the article contains an image of Scott Pruitt that depicts him happily smiling while walking away from his hearing. By placing an image in the article of Pruitt standing with confidence, readers are given a feeling that Pruitt is strong and composed under pressure. This in turn suggests to readers that Pruitt is highly qualified to lead the EPA, even though Pruitt’s physical appearance does not indicate any knowledge of environmental policy or managerial experience. Superficial adulation of this kind is a widespread practice of news sources on both sides of the spectrum. Leahy continues to use words such as “unflappable” to describe Pruitt, which are used to further establish Pruitt’s character. By framing Pruitt in this positive light, Leahy attempts to support Pruitt’s nomination. From this, one can observe that Leahy not only aims to advocate for Pruitt, but also to champion Donald Trump, the Trump Administration, and the Republican Party in genImage result for scott pruitt hearingeral. Powerful support of the aforementioned entities display a strong conservative bias on the part of Leahy, and this pattern of conservatism is commonly replicated throughout Breitbart articles. In addition to positively displaying conservatives, Leahy subtly voices a contempt for liberals. Leahy states that “Democrat members of the committee” gave questions that “fluctuated between stem-winding lectures and constant interruptions of the nominee”. Through this criticism of liberals, Leahy continues to demonstrate his conservative bias. One final calling sign that this source is far to one sign of the spectrum is no attempt was made at addressing the concerns of the other sign of the ideological scale. The importance of recognizing the unabashed bias of Breitbart is that readers must consider that when reading Breitbart, liberals are likely to be given excess denunciation in comparison to the lighter examination of conservatives.

Center-right (Moderately Conservative):

Outlet: Fox News

Author: N/A

Title: “Trump administration takes aim at climate regs, sets agenda on”

Date: January 20th, 2017

Fox News is a seasoned veteran of center-right reporting. Their reporting is accurate; however, they frequently portray liberals as hypocrites and liars, while conservatives are more commonly treated with kid gloves. In an article published on January 20th, 2017, this
Image result for donald trump inaugurationcan once again be observed. While all of the information included this article is factual and can be corroborated by other sources, the phrasing of sentences quietly debase liberals and praise conservatives. For example, one sentence states, “Trump made clear his administration will seek energy independence for the U.S. by giving a shot in the arm to the oil and gas industries, a platform plank he touted during his successful campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton.” The expression “successful campaign” faintly exposes Fox News’s conservative bias through portraying the Republican, Donald Trump, as prosperous, and the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, as a failure. This word choice shows a slight rightward bend, and support of Trump’s conservative positions, such as his energy policies. While Fox News uses the same tactics–but to a lesser extent–Breitbart Image result for fox newsuses to advocate for conservatives, Fox News also supplies readers with opposing viewpoints. In this article, a quote from the Executive Director of the Sierra Club attacking Trump’s environmental policies is provided. This allows viewers to see both sides of the story. The significance of recognizing that Fox News contains a conservative bias is similar to that of Breitbart, in that opinions frequently permeate into the reporting, and thus have the potential to muddy the waters of journalistic objectivity.

Center (Moderate):

Outlet: Reuters

Author: Steve Holland

Title: “Trump picks former Texas Governor Perry as energy secretary”

Date: December 13th, 2016

The British news agency, Reuters, is frequently considered a gold standard for neutral reporting and tries to avoid bias with absolute scrutiny. One way Reuters displays its minimal bias is in the way that its headlines are phrased. For example, in a piece from Image result for rick perryDecember 13th, 2016, this trend is readily apparent. The headline says nothing but the facts without any opinions thrown in. A more conservative news network might have written this headline as, “Trump picks esteemed Former Governor Rick Perry as energy secretary”. This would have served to provide credibility to the Trump Administration and to increase excitement over the nomination of the conservative former governor. In contrast, a liberal source may state, “Trump picks
climate-change denier Rick Perry to head Department of Energy”. This statement would have the opposite effect of the conservative headline: deprecating Donald Trump and making Rick Perry appear unequipped to head the Department of Energy. Image result for reutersBy removing subjective adjectives from the headline, Reuters shows a strong dedication to neutrality. Reuters also manages to answer to concerns of both liberals and conservative–”The choice of Perry adds to the list of oil-drilling advocates skeptical about climate change who Trump has picked for senior positions in his Cabinet, worrying environmentalists but cheering an industry eager for expansion”–in a single sentence. By using few loaded words, and presenting every side of a story, Reuters accomplishes full neutrality. The usefulness of objectivity cannot be undervalued; people must be able to trust that their news source does not manipulate them with careful tricks.

Center-left (Moderately Liberal):

Outlet: The Washington Post

Author: Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis

Title: “Tillerson doesn’t deny climate change – but dodges questions about Exxon’s role in sowing doubt”

Date: January 11th, 2017

The Washington Post is and has long been an internationally renowned paper. However, that does not mean it is without its bias. As with Reuters, The Washington Post practices unyielding adherence to facts. However, as with Fox News and Breitbart, Image result for washington postThe Washington Post will organize their works in order to support policies they agree with; in this case, these positions are liberal ones. In an article from January 11th, 2017, this is once again replicated. In the headline of this article, loaded words and phrases such as “dodges questions” and “sowing doubt” are used in order to give viewers a negative impression of Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee to become America’s top diplomat. The two aforementioned expressions have unfavorable connotations that function to belittle the Trump Administration. To continue, The Image result for rex tillersonWashington Post points out a disparity between Trump and Tillerson on the issues of
climate change: Tillerson believes in climate change, whereas Trump has historically been a denier of climate change. By showing this disparity, a sense of dysfunction in the Trump White House is created in the minds of the viewers. To be able to read a source and understand in which way said source bends is a valuable virtue.

Left (Highly Liberal):

Outlet: Salon

Author: Karin Kamp

Title: “What you need to know about Donald Trump’s VP pick Mike Pence”

Date: October 4th, 2016

The news site Salon is a prime example of a highly liberal news source. In an article from October 2016 enumerating the political positions of Vice President Mike Pence, writer Image result for mike penceKamp demonstrates the liberal bias of Salon. To begin, when discussing the environmental viewpoints of Pence, Kamp states that “Pence is (surprise, surprise) a climate change denier.” Interjecting a statement such as “(surprise, surprise)” is an obvious use of loaded language. The utilization of sarcasm shows that the author is mocking Pence, and mocking him demonstrates a strong liberal bias. A more neutral source, such as Reuters, would phrase this sentence in a way that does not intentionally insult Pence. For example, this line Image result for salon magazine logocould have been phrased, “Pence has been quoted as being skeptical about the science surrounding climate change.” The founder of Salon, David Talbot, is an outspoken progressive and has referred to Salon as a “smart tabloid”. By referring to his website as a “tabloid”,
neutrality is ceded in exchange for site traffic. No matter the bias of a source, one must be able to identify said bias in order to protect themselves from potentially being mislead by slanted reporting.


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