Why Is A Mainstream News Company Sponsoring Climate Denial?

Jun 25, 2014 by


Hubbard Broadcasting is co-sponsoring the Heartland Institute’s Climate Conference.

Photo Credit: LittleStocker/Shutterstock

A news organization that runs several ABC and NBC affiliates nationwide is co-sponsoring a Heartland Institute conference promoting climate denial, in line with its chief executive’s views, which have seeped into the stations’ reporting.

In July, the Heartland Institute will host its annual conference railing against the scientific consensus that humans are the main cause of climate change. The conference was  nearly ended in 2012, after  funders fled the organization for running a short-lived billboard campaign comparing those that accept climate change to the Unabomber. The  co-sponsors of the 2014 conference, who  pay anywhere from $150 to $10,000 and are asked to “[w]rite at least one story” before and after the event,* are mostly right-wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Media Research Center, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Leadership Institute. However, one group stands out: Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., an American  television and radio corporation that owns several ABC and NBC affiliates across the country.

Hubbard Broadcasting is run by billionaire  Stanley Hubbard, who, according to  Rolling Stone, has said that global warming is “the biggest fraud in the history of America.” Hubbard has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates (most of whom are Republicans) both individually and through his  corporation. He  supported former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who  denies man-made climate change, in the 2012 Republican primary for president. He was a major  funder of a now-defunct group founded by Newt Gingrich that promoted increased extraction of fossil fuels. Hubbard has also  told the Koch brothers, billionaire Republican donors who made their fortune in the oil industry, that they can “count” on him and attended at least one strategy conference run by the Kochs.

Hubbard Broadcasting’s flagship station,  KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate broadcasting on Channel 5 in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, has cast doubt on climate change by citing the Heartland Institute. In September 2013, the news station conveyed  false balance by hosting Heartland Institute CEO Joseph Bast to cast doubt on findings from the “Intragovernmental [sic] Panel on Climate Change.” KSTP did not give any background information about Bast, who  claimed in the 1990s that smoking “in moderation has few, if any, adverse health effects.” In 2008, KSTP  reportedly aired a 10-minute video by the Heartland Institute titled ” Unstoppable Solar Cycles” that espouses the long-debunked claim that recent climate change is being driven by changes in the sun. The station’s chief meteorologist has also  suggested that the sun, rather than human activities, is the primary driver of climate change.

Hubbard stations WNYT and WHEC, which serve parts of New York State, have also seen the impact of their CEO’s climate denial. In 2008, former WNYT anchor Ed Dague  suggested at his Times-Union blog that his popular former colleague Lydia Kulbida was let go in part because she resisted inserting climate denial into the news:

Lydia Kulbida was a member of the union’s “mobilization committee” and had resisted some of management’s attempts to insert Hubbard family opinions into news content. The Hubbards do not believe in global warming and have distinct views about unionization. My belief is that her salary didn’t make her a target for the cutback but her activism and attitude did.

WHEC’s chief meteorologist, like KSTP’s, also denies climate change. At a Tea Party rally in 2010, WHEC’s Kevin Williams  claimed the “Earth is not warming.” Williams has also  promoted climate denial on Twitter.

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