'Today' Show Warns Your Car's Emissions Hurts Puppies, Helps Criminals

Update: See bottom of post
NBC's Martin Savidge took the prize for unexpected environmental advocacy on this morning's Today show. In a global warming story, disguised as a health report, Savidge went over-the-top as he blamed your car's exhaust for seemingly every problem under the Sun. In what was initially teased as an allergy report Savidge blamed fossil fuel emissions for an increase in the pollen count that is not only leading to exacerbated allergic reactions in humans and their pets but also getting in the way of police officers trying to collect fingerprints.

In the 7am half hour, Today co-host Matt Lauer introduced Savidge's global warming, masquerading as health story, segment this way: "Are you sniffling and sneezing right now? Are your eyes so watery you can barely see the TV? Well it could be your allergies. And guess what? We may only have ourselves to blame. That story now from NBC's Martin Savidge."

First up Savidge relayed the high pollen count from a scientist in Atlanta followed by a sound bite from an environmentalist citing fossil fuels as the cause. Then after noting "doctors offices are flooded with patients," Savidge brought a puppy up to his face and warned: "Sure you think you got it bad. The itching, the sneezing, the watery eyes but it isn't just you. There's another big group of sufferers out there, they just happen to be a little smaller."

Not satisfied with pulling on audience heart strings with the puppy shot, Savidge played the fear card as he observed climate change is helping criminals get away: "It's also bad for crime fighters. In some parts of Georgia the heavy pollen coating cars and porch furniture is making it hard for police to collect fingerprints though experts don't have advice for the police."

Savidge then concluded the piece on this ominous note: "Unfortunately some scientists predict that climate change could soon mean year round misery. In fact they say you can count on it. For Today, Martin Savidge, NBC News, Atlanta."

The following is the full segment as it aired in the 7am half hour of the April 3rd Today show:

Matt Lauer: "Are you sniffling and sneezing right now? Are your eyes so watery you can barely see the TV? Well it could be your allergies. And guess what? We may only have ourselves to blame. That story now from NBC's Martin Savidge."

Martin Savidge: "Marie McFalls has been doing this for years but even she is surprised at what her microscope reveals."

Marie McFalls: "Oh my goodness!"

Savidge: "It's her job to count the pollen in Atlanta's air. 120 particles per cubic meter would be extremely high. Her count this morning?"

McFalls: "5,768."

Savidge: "It's not just Atlanta. Across the country allergy levels have never been high this early. And pollen counts have been rising almost yearly. Experts say the problem is us."

Paul Epstein, Center for Health and Global Environment: "Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is, is stimulating plants to make more pollen and the weeds love this stuff."

Savidge: "But allergy sufferers hate it."

Unidentified doctor: "Patients have been miserable."

Savidge: "Doctors offices are flooded with patients. Those with runny noses and those with wet ones. Sure you think you got it bad. The itching, the sneezing, the watery eyes but it isn't just you. There's another big group of sufferers out there, they just happen to be a little smaller."

Dr. Patricia White, veterinarian: "It's just as bad for our dogs and cats, especially those with allergies."

Savidge: "It's also bad for crime fighters. In some parts of Georgia the heavy pollen coating cars and porch furniture is making it hard for police to collect fingerprints though experts don't have advice for the police. For the rest of us they suggest taking medications 30 minutes before going outside using air conditioning on high pollen count days. Dry laundry indoors, shower before bed and wipe down pets that had been outdoors. Unfortunately some scientists predict that climate change could soon mean year round misery. In fact they say you can count on it. For Today, Martin Savidge, NBC News, Atlanta."

Incidentally Savidge's piece wasn't the only bit of global warming bias from this morning's Today show. Earlier in the show NBC's Pete Williams, in his report on the Supreme Court's EPA decision, didn't bother to air a single expert skeptical of global warming but did air environmentalist Dan Hawkins stating the decision: "Means that one way or the other the United States is gonna take action, finally, to cut global warming pollution."

While Williams did air a sound bite from White House press secretary Dana Perino, the clip didn't refute the global warming claim as Perino merely asserted the Bush administration's promotion of better fuel efficiency. Williams then concluded: "This decision does not force the government to set new limits but the sweeping language of the ruling makes it much harder for the government to refuse to do it now. Pete Williams, NBC News, at the Supreme Court."

The following is the full Williams report as it aired in the 7am half hour:

Natalie Morales: "Today the Bush administration is looking at its options following a key ruling on global warming, Monday, by the Supreme Court. It's a ruling that may one day affect the car you drive. More now from NBC's Justice correspondent Pete Williams."

Pete Williams: "In one of the most important environmental decisions in recent decades the court said the government was wrong to claim that it had no authority to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from new cars."

David Hawkins, environmentalist: "It means that one way or the other the United States is gonna take action, finally, to cut global warming pollution."

Williams: "The Court ruled in favor of a dozen states including Massachusetts which warned it was losing coastline as ocean levels rise fed by glaciers melting and the Earth's slowly warming temperatures. In a 5 to 4 ruling the Court said even though reducing U.S. car emissions would not reverse global warming it 'would slow the pace of global emissions.' And the Court rejected the Bush administration's claim that it has no legal authority to limit them. The White House says the President has been pushing the car industry to reduce those emissions voluntarily."

Dana Perino, White House Deputy Press Secretary: "The way to get cars to be more efficient is to burn less gas and to go more miles and that's what we've been working to do."

Williams: "This decision does not force the government to set new limits but the sweeping language of the ruling makes it much harder for the government to refuse to do it now. Pete Williams, NBC News, at the Supreme Court."

Editor's Update (Ken Shepherd | 15:55): It appears the dog is Savidge's pet chihuahua, "Girlfriend." He included Girlfriend in an April 2 post to NBC's "Daily Nightly" blog.:

Girlfriend is the name of our year-old, long-haired Chihuahua, who we adopted after she was rescued from a puppy mill. She joins our other pets, two cats named Bubby and Bella, both from animal shelters.

But girlfriend is the only one who ventures outdoors, and this spring we noticed she had problems -- wheezing and watery eyes. The verdict? She's got allergies.

And she's not alone.

As I learned for tonight's Nightly News story, it's not just humans suffering through record high pollen counts this spring.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.