As internal text messages prove what most have long known about Fox News (that it's a conservative propaganda machine posing as a news outlet), it's important to remember that these days, Fox is hardly alone. While Murdoch's Fox and Wall Street Journal are the unquestioned Big Leagues of right-wing disinformation, there's a whole set of bush league outlets serving as training grounds.
The Tucker Carlson-founded Daily Caller is one of the primary examples of how Fox and the Koch-funded climate change counter-movement are intertwined. Back when they were mostly Koch-funded, Koch-trained Michael Bastasch was regularly running climate disinformation featuring Koch-funded climate deniers. These days, their funding has diversified a bit thanks to Carlson's feud with Kochs, though giving the Daily Caller money still appears to increase the odds of the outlet writing favorable content about you. But Bastasch returned last year as Managing Editor of the Daily Caller's non-profit tax dodge foundation, after a stint at Fox News writing for election-lie-spreader Laura Ingraham.
Since his return, we've been watching closely to note any changes, and at this point can say it definitely appears that Bastasch is using his position to spread climate disinformation through multiple channels at the Caller, not just the "Big Tent" opinion vertical we noted last week.
In the past, most of the Caller's climate disinfo would come from just one or two employees who appeared to be tasked with turning press releases from Koch cronies into "news" as their job on the "energy" beat (like Thomas Catenacci, who now works for, you guessed it, Fox News).
But these days, attacks on climate change science, policy, and experts have become a feature of coverage across the website and its various staffers.
It really stood out between 5 and 7 p.m. last Wednesday, when the Daily Caller published a triple-play of climate disinfo: defending a fossil-fuel loving white supremacist, cherry-picking climate change from a US National security assessment, and attacked environmentalists organizing on TikTok to #StopWillow.
The first was from "news and commentary writer" Brianna Lyman, who provided a short write-up framed as criticism of Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), who "accused one of the witnesses of being racist." Who, you might ask? Well, despite the fact that 'who/what/where/why/when' is a basic tenet of journalism, Lyman didn't identify the person at the center of the House committee meeting, and in fact, described Bush as "criticizing the oil industry before turning her attention toward an unidentified witness."
Which is an absolutely astonishing thing for a supposed journalist to write, because Congressional hearings are very easy to look up. Alex Epstein, one of the "so-called ‘energy experts’" called by Republicans, is who Rep. Bush called "a philosopher who has previously espoused white supremacist views," before Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) interjected to try and censor her by calling for the comment to be removed from the Congressional record.
But naming Epstein would require doing actual reporting, and apparently all Lyman did was watch a video clip of the hearing (that she embedded in the story). If you'd like to see what real reporting of the hearing looks like, as opposed to someone running cover for a fellow traveler, Timothy Cama covered it for PoliticoPRO and named Alex Epstein right up front.
Roughly thirty-six minutes after Lyman’s article defending a racist was posted, the Daily 'whoopsie we keep hiring racists' Caller published a piece on the US intelligence community's Annual Threat Assessment. The headline of "reporter" Micaela Burrow's coverage? "Intel Community Warns Fight Over Green Energy Tech Will Worsen Global Tensions."
The 10-paragraph write-up quotes the assessment just twice to justify the story's thrust that fighting climate change will somehow make the world more dangerous. That's probably because the 40-page assessment only devotes 2 pages to climate, and then otherwise focuses on a bunch of things that the Daily Caller doesn't spread disinfo about.
Finally, rounding out a very busy day for the Caller, "Associate Editor" Ailan Evans' hit piece ran at 6:49, attacking the #StopWillow campaign on TikTok because one of the participating groups is funded by "a Swiss billionaire with a documented history of philanthropy and political donations, primarily to left-wing causes and candidates." Though it's dressed up as some sort of scandalous revelation, at no point does Evans attempt to explain how or why this is somehow bad.
But that's the kind of training you get from the Daily Caller. Both Evans and current Fox Production Assistant Kendall Tietz were 2021 fellows of the Daily Caller's American Journalism Institute, where they train the next generation of political hacks to pretend to be journalists.
So next time you hear about some bizarre disinformation, rank political propaganda, or shameless defense of racism on Fox News, remember that it's not an accident, they're trained to be that awful. There's a whole farm league of conservative propaganda shops like the Daily Caller — the frack-backed Daily Wire and Heritage's Daily Signal come to mind — and while they'd all oppose a Universal Basic Income as socialism, they're proof that as long as would-be-journalists are willing to play ball for the highest bidder, they'll never want for work.