It was a typical Donald Trump moment. After coming to Colorado for a couple of rallies so he could insult everyone and explain nothing, the Republican presidential nominee sat down with Gannet’s 9NEWS reporter Brandon Rittiman for a short interview.
It was immediately clear Trump had done his usual preparation — which is to say none — so his answers were sometimes off the cuff, vague, opposite of the Republican Party’s platform and occasionally just so nonsensical that it left viewers speechless.
Well, at least the viewers who have a minimum of a third-grade education and boast no neo-Nazi tattoos on their face, neck or private parts were left speechless. Can’t speak for that other group.
But it’s not what Trump said or did during his 9NEWS interview that’s the big story here. It’s what happened next that should be an ah-ha moment for all Coloradans.
Trump’s interview with Rittiman addressed four topics of interest. The nominee said that Hillary Clinton is bad. He said he is very concerned and interested in the issue of whether public lands in the West should remain public or be privatized or turned over to the states. He went on to say if elected, he would not use the federal government to crack down on states that have legalized pot. And then he added that, while he personally supports fracking, he thinks states and communities should be able to vote on whether or not they want to allow it.
So obviously this last point flies in the face of Trump’s acceptance speech at the recent Republican convention wherein he promised he’d get everyone and everything out of the way of the oil and gas industry so America could produce really, really, really, great big, massive, never-before-seen quantities of oil and gas. He’s so eloquent when he’s spitting out adjectives to fill in all the holes left by the facts he doesn’t know.
So of course people thought that this pro-community rights rhetoric was the big take away from the interview. After all, it wasn’t what most folks expected.
But, like I said, I don’t think anything Trump said was the big story from the interview.
I think his community rights blurb was one of two things. Either he had another one of his episodes of spontaneous verbal diarrhea wherein crap just came out of his mouth without any engagement from his brain, or some Republican pollster told him he could swing Bernie supporters his way if he claimed to support our right to regulate oil and gas extraction in our own communities.
I think the latter is more likely to have been his motive but, of course, it’s a dumb ploy.
Trump and his “gang who can’t shoot straight” consultants don’t understand that, while community rights are really important to the majority of Colorado voters, they are not something that would compel us to put up with a racist, violence-inciting, misogynistic, fascist-wannabe, pin head of a president for four years in order to get them (Spoiler alert: BW will not be endorsing Trump).
Fortunately, we all understand that we can vote for Initiatives #75 and #78 without having to check off a box for any presidential candidate if we don’t want to.
But back to my point, the Trump fracking remarks aren’t the big story. The big story wasn’t reported, it just flowed out of our TV sets as if it was some perfectly normal part of a newscast, but there was nothing normal about it.
Immediately following the Trump interview — immediate as in it was reported at the end of the interview as part of the same story — 9NEWS cut to a blue screen holding a statement from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) explaining that fracking is actually good for us and our economy would collapse without it. The statement went on to explain how COGA is going to immediately start educating Mr. Trump so that he comes to understand that community rights and citizens voting for initiatives like #75 and #78 is the wrong thing to do.
Yes, of course that’s a paraphrased version of the COGA statement. But the intent is spot on.
So what does this odd rebuttal added to an interview with a presidential nominee tell us about Denver’s corporate news media? It makes it crystal clear that the oil and gas industry is calling the shots when it comes to what Denver TV stations are reporting about all things oil and gas.
For those of us in the news business, who’ve been paying attention and who are fortunate enough to work for publications that have yet to sell out to oil and gas interests, the omission of important coverage of this issue on the TV news is nothing new.
That’s how buying the news with advertising dollars generally works. As a rule, it doesn’t create positive stories about an industry, that would be too obvious. Instead, it just makes sure that negative stories about the industry rarely see the light of day, same with stories that might draw attention to opponents of the industry.
Think about it. How many stories about the growing anti-fracking protests and the participating citizens’ increasing use of civil disobedience have you seen on the nightly local TV news? How many “checking the facts” segments have been done on the content of oil and gas commercials that, frankly, are often built around lies and deception? How many reports about the increasing flow of research on the harm fracking and oil and gas extraction are doing to the environment, our health and our property values have you seen aired?
Exactly, if you only get your information from local TV news, you aren’t even aware that there is massive controversy surrounding the oil and gas industry in Colorado.
But then comes Trump’s unexpected position on fracking and it forces 9NEWS to show its true colors.
So Trump makes roughly four position statements to the 9NEWS reporter: Hillary, public lands, legalized pot, fracking.
Do they find a Hillary spokesperson to counter Trump’s position? Nope.
Do they find a BLM spokesperson to defend the importance of public lands? Nope.
Do they find a modern-day version of Carrie Nation from some Moms-Against-Pot group to speak out against the evils of legalized marijuana? Nope again.
But the second they cut from the recorded interview back to anchor Adele Arakawa in the studio, there was that blue screen with the COGA statement right behind her as she dutifully read the oil and gas industry’s counter point and spin of the presidential nominee’s position on fracking, as if it was just another part of the same “news” report.
The only positive thing to come from this TV news circus is that it clearly exposes the level of control the oil and gas industry has purchased over what gets aired as news on local TV stations. And being aware of this corporate co-opting is the best defense against it.
One final note while I’m pointing fingers at the news media, I would be remiss not to point out that our friends over at the Denver Post couldn’t resist doing the exact same thing as 9NEWS did for their pals in the oil and gas industry.
The paper also gave the last chunk of their story on Trump’s fracking statement during the 9NEWS interview to COGA.
Great corporate minds apparently think alike.