Networks, Especially CBS, Champion Branson's Donation to Fight Global Warming

ABC, CBS and NBC all ran stories Thursday night tied to Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson's pledge at the Clinton Global Initiative, held in Manhattan, to invest $3 billion to fight global warming by developing cleaner fuels. Doubts about global warming being driven by fossil fuels, naturally, were ignored. On ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, Kate Snow giddily concluded: “Branson says Al Gore gave him the idea for this initiative, but his real motivation was quite simple: To keep the world beautiful for his children.”

CBS's Katie Couric, however, spent the most time championing Branson's cause. She announced: “British mogul Richard Branson is vowing to fight global warming and he's putting his money where his mouth is. He has joined a growing list of billionaires who are donating to philanthropic causes, making a huge pledge today to former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative. He is promising $3 billion over the next ten years.” Viewers then saw an interview with Branson, who proclaimed: “I don't want to be the generation that destroys this world for our children and our grandchildren.” Couric noted how Branson made his “fortune through the airline industry,” presuming it “does contribute, quite frankly, to global warming. Do you find it at all ironic that, that this is your main cause?” She cued him up: “When did you have an awakening about this issue? Do you remember a point in time where you had some kind of epiphany and said, 'I really need to get involved in this cause'?” (Transcript follows)

The ABC and NBC stories pivoted off Branson to look at the Clinton Global Initiative and private support to address major world problems.

From the September 21 CBS Evening News:
Katie Couric: “British mogul Richard Branson is vowing to fight global warming and he's putting his money where his mouth is. He has joined a growing list of billionaires who are donating to philanthropic causes, making a huge pledge today to former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative. He is promising $3 billion over the next ten years. That includes all of the profits from his Virgin Airline and rail interests. He says the money will be used to find new energy alternatives to oil and coal. I spoke with Richard Branson today about his pledge”

Couric to Branson, on the CBS News set: “So, sir Richard, $3 billion. That's a big chunk of change. Why did you decide to give that money to the efforts made against global warming?”

Branson: “ I don't want to be the generation that destroys this world for our children and our grandchildren. And I think if we carry on as we are, we will destroy it. And I'm also in the airline business, so I need to address it more than other people.”

Couric: “There's some irony to that, isn't there? Here you've made your fortune through the airline industry, which does contribute, quite frankly, to global warming. Do you find it at all ironic that, that this is your main cause?”

Branson: “The only way people can get to London, for instance, is to go on Virgin Atlantic or another airline. And so it's not -- you're not going to stop that happening. So what we've got to do is come up with fuels that Virgin Atlantic can burn that are clean fuels, and that's where our money is going to go, in trying to develop new fuels that can fuel cars and planes and make sure that the world is a safer place.”

Couric: “When did you have an awakening about this issue? Do you remember a point in time where you had some kind of epiphany and said, 'I really need to get involved in this cause'?”

Branson: “Well, up until about five years ago, I was a slight skeptic about global warming, and then I started reading and meeting a lot of scientists, and I thought, you know, you know we've got a transportation company. Let's plow the money we make from those into this issue.”

Couric: “Richard Branson, Sir Richard Branson, thank you so much.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center