Newsbusters Blog, RNC Caught in a Lie

Newsbusters, a blog founded to provide Republican leaning political metacriticism, broke a story suggesting that Barack Obama intended to bankrupt the coal industry. To people familiar with Senator Obama’s policies, it should be obvious that this is pure spin.

Mr. Obama was asked about how he would regulate coal power plants. He essentially said that his goal was not to stand in the way of coal power plants, that by and large he would not target coal-fired power plants. Instead, Mr. Obama advocates an aggressive greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, a system that is unbiased, because it applies to all firms, and that instead of going against the market mechanism, taps into it in order to reduce pollution (see this previous cap-and-trade post).

Letting the market find a fair price for this resource insures that it is used in a way consumers want most. Eventually, the worst coal plants may go out of business yes, but they will be replaced or retrofitted to burn coal better. In coming decades coal plants will fade out, but not because of government mandate, but because renewables will get cheaper, and people will get jobs producing renewable energy.

It is not entirely shocking that Newsbusters would distort Mr. Obama’s policy in order to lessen his appeal to coveted demographics in the coal-producing swing states. It is however a shame to see him under attack for the cap-and-trade system, a genre of pollution-regulating system that best taps into the competitive market equilibrium.

Newsbusters’ allegations go further claiming that the San Francisco Chronicle, the news organization that conducted the interview covered up part of the tape. Naturally, the Chronicle took exception to this attack on their journalistic integrity and responded, pointing out that the entire interview has been freely available on their website, unedited, since January.  In spite of this, other Republican figures including Governor Palin, Senator McCain, and the RNC jumped on board and repeating not only the distortion of Senator Obama’s policies but also the lie about The Chronicle‘s integrity. Fox News reporsts that Mrs. Palin went so far as to call it an “11th hour audio tape”:

‘He said that, sure, if the industry [wants to build] coal filed [sic] power plants, then they can go ahead and try, he says, but they can do it only in a way that will bankrupt the coal industry, and he’s comfortable letting that happen. And you got [sic] to listen to the tape,’ she said”1

McCain, and some RNC emails would also launch an attack on these grounds. The Chronicle reports that personnel from the RNC subsequently apologized for propagating the lie about them, although the Newsbusters itself paid them no such professional courtesy:

“‘Here again in the 11th hour, an audio tape surfaced that you, you got [sic] to hear [sic] Barack Obama talking about bankrupting the coal industry’, Palin said to a crowd of supporters in Marietta, Ohio.

“A final note: the shoddy Newsbusters blog has been caught in the past simply fabricating news regarding the Chronicle’s coverage. Our paper has demanded corrections for their fiction, but to no avail.

We contacted Bill Riggs, regional press secretary of the Republican National Committee tonight on his emailing of this erroneous report suggesting a ”hidden” Chronicle audiotape to political reporters. His response: he didn’t confirm it, or write the headline. He just sent it out.

He got taken. And so did the rest.”2

There is no word yet on whether there will be an apology made towards the legions of economists that see promise in a carefully implemented cap-and-trade system. One thing is for sure, Senator Obama should probably not expect an apology their distortion of his policies and his interview comments.


  1. Fox News Campaign Coverage
  2. The Chronicle’s Response

See also:

  1. The original inaccurate article on Newsbusters

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