Mainstream Media Distorts Donald Trump's Climate Stance

In the children’s game “Telephone,” a message whispered from person to person becomes progressively distorted until the final version bears little resemblance to what was originally said. Media reporting of Donald Trump’s comments on climate change in his November 22 interview with the New York Times provided a real-world example of this.

In the interview, Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman asked the president-elect:

Are you going to take America out of the world’s lead of confronting climate change?

Trump responded:

I’m looking at it very closely. ... I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully.

White House correspondent Michael Shear followed up:

Do you intend to, as you said, pull out of the Paris Climate [agreement]?

Trump answered:

I’m going to take a look at it.

Then, the Times incorrectly reported this after the interview:

Despite the recent appointment to his transition team of a fierce critic of the Paris accords, Mr. Trump said that “I have an open mind to it.

The Times video summary of the interview showed a slightly less distorted, though still wrong, representation of Trump’s comments. No matter. In the second step of this game, London’s Guardian stretched the truth a bit further, claiming:

Donald Trump has said he has an "open mind" over U.S. involvement in the Paris agreement to combat climate change, after previously pledging to withdraw from the effort.

The wire service Reuters similarly erred:

Trump said … he was keeping an open mind on whether to pull out of a landmark international accord to fight climate change.

Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), made much the same mistake. In the third step of the telephone game, prominent news magazine The Week deviated still further from reality, headlining their November 22 article:

Donald Trump changes his mind on climate change, Clinton, the press in meeting with The New York Times

The Week asserted that Trump’s new stance on the Paris Agreement is, "I have an open mind to it." And so it continued across mainstream media, with The Independent (UK) newspaper reporting that Trump “indicated another important U-turn -- this time in regard to climate.” The Australian then proclaimed: “Donald Trump backflips on prosecuting Hillary, climate change, Obama.”

Some commentators do not regard these as innocent mistakes.

Climate realist Marc Morano of the leading Washington, D.C.-based Climate Depot news site labeled the coverage “dishonest,” pointing out that the reporting “was not supported by the full transcript of the meeting.” Heartland Institute President Joe Bast agreed, adding:

The Left wants to drive wedges between Trump and his base by spinning anything he says as "retreating from campaign promises." But expressing nuance and avoiding confrontation with determined foes who buy ink by the barrel is not retreating.

It was a false alarm. Trump has not backed off on his commitment to pull the U.S. out of the United Nations Paris Agreement on climate change.

Will he follow through? Or will he follow the pathetic example set by Stephen Harper, the former conservative prime minister of Canada, who campaigned against the climate scare but changed sides after being elected?