After President Trump’s spectacularly stupid speech on the environment Monday, we went looking for how conservative media covered the story. (Spoiler: uncritically.) Given that the whole point of the speech was to shore up support among those who think that maybe the environment is, like, good, and blind denial is bad, it’d be interesting to see what those who basically think the opposite had to say about it.
Specifically, we were wondering what the White House fed to the Daily Caller’s resident churnalist, Michael Bastasch. Much to our surprise, he doesn’t appear to have covered the speech: the story went to Amber Athey instead, the Caller’s White House correspondent.
So we popped over to Bastasch’s Twitter feed, and noticed that while he’s still interacting with his friends in the paid denial space and taking pot-shots at real media outlets, his bio now says he’s “Former Daily Caller News Foundation.”
What happened!? According to an automated response to an inquiry sent to his Daily Caller email address, Bastasch is “no longer at the Daily Caller News Foundation as of 6/28” but is “excited for future adventures.”
Now, from a “people should have jobs” perspective, this is sad and shouldn’t be celebrated as a win for the climate and those fighting the particularly pointed brand of fake news that Bastasch supplied. And it would be poor form to be excited that a seasoned propagandist with deep ties to organized denial is no longer capable of serving as a cog in the fossil fuel industry’s misinformation machine by masquerading as a journalist. (Plus, any celebration would be particularly short-sighted given the likelihood that Bastasch will find employment at another Koch-funded institution, as he has his entire career.)
On the other hand, for those who might shed a tear, rest assured that the Bastasch household is still getting some Koch cash. As it turns out, Mike’s wife Jackie (who we only know about because he links to her in his Twitter bio) is a copy editing assistant for the Daily Signal, the Heritage Foundation’s version of the Daily Caller. (Not to be confused with Ben Shapiro’s version, the Daily Wire…)
But is this the end of the Daily Caller’s constant stream of climate denial propaganda? Given that there seems to be a rift growing between founder Tucker Carlson and the Koch network, and the Koch network claims to be trying a new direction for its (supposed) philanthropy, it’s definitely possible that the Caller cut Bastasch and will slow down on climate denial as a result of the Koch network pulling its support.
While Bastasch isn’t the only one who’s carried Koch water for the Caller, there seems to have been a decline in coverage recently. Reporter Chris White has covered some Koch vs clean cars work, and Jason Hopkins had dutifully transcribed hit pieces from GOP opposition research groups. But Hopkins is now on the immigration beat, per his Twitter, and although White is still publishing the occasional surprisingly-not-that-anti-green piece, he’s technically a technology reporter.
Will Bastasch be replaced? He’d been at the Caller for seven years, so it might make sense for the outlet to seek out a cheap new political operative to pretend to be a reporter. After all, it’s not like Bastasch did any actual reporting beyond copying and pasting whatever other Koch cronies send him. But while the Caller is hiring a number of positions, including an(other?) tech reporter, it appears there’s no posting on the energy or environment front.
Regardless, we’re excited to see what sort of adventures the future has in store for Michael Bastasch. Perhaps he and Pat Michaels will start a new two-man denier group, an idiots version of the JASONs, perhaps, called The Michaels.
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