Fox News pulled out of Thursday morning’s New York briefing on the area’s deadly storms and floods after a Democratic congressman cited climate change as a factor in the devastation, with anchor Bill Hemmer grumbling that it had turned “political quite quickly.”
Days after Hurricane Ida slammed Louisiana and Mississippi, the remnants of the powerful storm spawned tornadoes and dumped a record-setting amount of rain on New York City and New Jersey, resulting in unprecedented flash flooding, building collapses, transportation shutdowns, and at least 18 deaths.
In the Thursday morning briefing, elected officials such as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) updated local residents on the damage that had been wrought by the apocalyptic storms. Along with addressing rescue efforts and restoration of services, many of the officials brought up the role climate change played in the torrential downpour.
All three major cable news networks, including Fox News, initially carried the briefing. And early on, Hochul and Schumer both said the changing climate meant that we would witness similar storms with increasing regularity and that it was imperative on lawmakers to address solutions.
When it was his turn to speak, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) mourned the loss of life in his district from the storm before pointing the finger at the warming climate as a key factor.
“This is absolutely devastating. And my heart reaches out to each and every one on this block and in this family,” Meeks said. “A mother, a son gone from us because of climate change and these record storms. Storms that were once in 500 years, I’m told. Now that we have to look at them to be storms that come in a regular manner, more intense as indicated.”
As the congressman began praising Congress and other elected officials for helping to send resources to the devastated region, Fox News apparently decided to ditch the briefing because of Meeks’ climate talk.
“It turned political quite quickly,” Hemmer said as the network pulled away. “It didn’t take long to put the focus on quote-unquote ‘climate change’ here in New York.”
After referencing the latest death toll from the storms, Hemmer told viewers the network would monitor the briefing “and let you know what happens.” CNN and MSNBC, meanwhile, stuck with the press conference.
Fox, which recently announced the launch of a Fox Weather channel, has long been dismissive of the scientific community’s consensus that human activity is causing global warming and a dangerously shifting climate—and it’s not just been limited to the network’s opinion programming. The network’s promotion of climate-change denialism, in fact, has even resulted in a public rift between the network’s founder Rupert Murdoch and his son James.