If the total breakdown of a state’s electrical power grid, plummeting millions of people without warning into subzero temperatures for several days, had occurred anywhere else but Texas, most media outlets, including Fox News, would have dutifully covered the story in accordance with their usual practice.
In other words, it would have been a major news item on Fox, but they wouldn’t have spent an inordinate amount of time on it, certainly not making it a subject for their opinion-based commentators to fixate on. As bad as the effects of the Texas storm were, neither winter storms nor power outages (even severe ones) really reflect that network’s bottom line, which is mainly amplifying political propaganda on behalf of the Republican Party.
However, as reported by Rob Savillo for Media Matters, Fox allotted an extraordinary degree of coverage to the Texas power outages last week. Nearly every instant of that coverage falsely blamed the power breakdown on renewable energy, the Green New Deal, or some other energy initiative notably associated with the Democratic Party
As a historic winter snowstorm devastated Texas, personalities and guests on Fox News and its sister network Fox Business went to bat for the fossil-fuel industry by falsely blaming frozen wind turbines and green energy policies for statewide power outages a staggering 128 times since Monday evening. Fox has continued its false narrative even after other outlets already debunked the claim that renewable energy sources and green energy policies were solely or primarily the cause of the blackouts.
For instance, on the February 15 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson stated that “It seems pretty clear that a reckless reliance on windmills is the cause of this disaster.” On the February 16 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Pete Hegseth began a segment on the Texas snowstorm by highlighting that the state’s “wind turbines are frozen solid” and then asking, “Is this what America would look like under the Green New Deal?” Numerous Fox segments ran chyrons claiming, “Frozen wind turbines cause blackouts in Texas.”
Overall, personalities and guests made such claims 104 times on Fox News and 24 times on Fox Business. The vast majority of those claims — 75% — came from journalists and pundits affiliated with either network.
Fox knew fully well that assertions about renewable energy, the Green New Deal, or wind turbines contributing to this catastrophic power breakdown wouldn’t withstand scrutiny. Its leadership knew fully well that such assertions would soon be debunked by other outlets. Yet the network allowed its army of pundits and “opinion journalists” to relentlessly highlight these lies over and over again to its viewership, with nearly the same degree of vigor and intensity it used in creating a false narrative about the 2020 election being “stolen.” The fact that Texas’ GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans also parroted this line simply confirms this was a coordinated, tactical decision.
Of course, the donor base that funds the Republican Party skews heavily toward fossil fuel interests, so one could simply conclude that Fox News, as a conduit for Republican policy, was simply acting in accordance with those interests by attempting to demonize alternative, “clean” energy sources.
But that alone doesn’t justify the sheer vehemence and baldfaced disingenuousness of Fox’s efforts here. Renewable energies comprise just one-tenth of the state’s power plant consumption; more importantly, though, the failure that occurred in Texas was not due to fossil fuels, per se. Rather it was simply due in large part to a failure to properly equip the existing power infrastructure. In other words, the nature of the problem in Texas didn’t automatically implicate the “fuel vs. clean fuel” debate the media forced upon us.
But there’s another, more existential reason for this unusually high-octane effort by Fox to propagandize what happened in Texas this week: This deadly crisis is directly traceable back to the state’s political leadership’s errors. It’s negatively (and severely) impacted millions of Texans in ways they may well remember for a long time.
Texas, of course, is a state that has been completely dominated by the Republican Party for the past two decades. Republicans have had a trifecta—control of not only the governorship, but also of both state legislative houses—for 19 of the last 20 years. As was clearly demonstrated in the 2018 midterm elections, however, it is also a state slowly, inexorably undergoing a tectonic shift, both demographically and politically speaking.
The importance of Texas to the future of the Republican Party can scarcely be overstated. With its 38 electoral votes, it represents an essential element to sustain any possibility of a Republican president for the foreseeable future. Unlike its “big state” Democratic counterparts, such as New York and California, though, Texas is no longer firmly and safely within the Republican ambit. The GOP saw what happened in Georgia and Arizona in 2020, as once-impenetrable GOP bastions suddenly turned blue. They know that Texas is the ball game as far as the GOP’s future at the national level is concerned.
A statewide failure like this in Texas is the nightmare that keeps the GOP donor base up at night. And Fox News, their prime media outlet, was well aware of that fact. This power fiasco gave them a scare, because it laid bare a myth of Republican competence that the GOP relies on to keep control of this, possibly its most important state. It doubtlessly prompted a certain panic, like when you see a disaster bearing down on you but you don’t quite know what to do.
So with that in mind, Fox News pulled out all the stops on its latest big propaganda push, no matter how ridiculous. It was potentially a life-or-death moment, and all hands were needed on deck.
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