The East Palestine, Ohio train derailment entered a new phase this week as the liberal media blamed Donald Trump for the toxic dump of hazardous chemicals into the air and water supply, and painted the semi-present Biden administration and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg as heroes for this working-class town who’ll crack down on the train operator, Norfolk Southern, for any mishandling of the clean-up.
Tuesday gave us two great examples with ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today as they cheered Buttigieg’s latest stern letter to a company and ABC treating Buttigieg to a softball interview. Over CBS Mornings, they followed CBS’s recent dry spell of all but ignoring the disaster with one sentence allusion to East Palestine in a news brief about a factory explosion near Cleveland.
“Toxic train disaster fallout as a clinic opens to treat suffering residents in Ohio. This morning, how the Biden administration is responding. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joins us live,” boasted ABC co-host and former Clinton official George Stephanopoulos in a tease.
In a second tease, he proclaimed Buttigieg would explain “how the Biden administration is trying to hold the rail industry accountable after the derailment in Ohio.”
ABC had two reports (one in each hour) from correspondent Mona Kosar Abdi on the ground that gave the latest with a health clinic opening for residents who’ve developed health problems after the February 3 derailment.
She noted Buttigieg had “call[ed] for new regulations, including increased inspections on routes trains use to transport toxic chemicals,” but emphasized, “it’s unclear if such measurements could have prevented a derailment like this one.”
Stephanopoulos had the interview with Buttigieg, so it naturally came off like a Democratic Party staff meeting, starting with this:
You know, you’ve got two big missions helping the people on the ground in East Palestine right now preventing something like this from happening again. What is the administration doing on both fronts?
Buttigieg droned on about the presence of the various federal agencies and proclaimed “change” needs “to begin right away” with Congress doing more “in order to hold rail companies accountable and things that this industry needs to do differently.”
Stephanopoulos's follow-up wasn’t even a question: “You’re beginning to say it should begin right away, but Ohio Senator J.D. Vance said the administration was loosening rail regulations.”
Buttigieg dismissed the pushback and instead blamed the Trump administration (click “expand”):
I’m happy to talk with him more if he wants to understand the work that we’re doing. For example, we were advancing the requirement on two-person crews on trains. Believe it or not, the rail industry has been pushing to be allowed to have trains have only one human being on board. Imagine what happens if there’s an issue on a train that’s a mile long or longer and there’s only one person to check on something three-quarters of the way back in the train. Now, the last administration froze that rule making. We have been advancing that in order to push safety.
We have been working to make sure that we have more authority to hold rail companies accountable and so, one thing Senator Vance and others in Congress could do to help would be to give us more teeth by raising the fines. Right now, even for the most egregious safety violation like ones involving hazardous materials that result in fatalities, Congress has passed a statute that caps our ability to fine at about $250,000. And that might sound like a lot of money for somebody going through daily life, but to a multibillion dollar company like Norfolk Southern, it is dust. So, I’m urging Congress to do things like work with us to raise the fines, work with us on fortifying tank cars. Under the Obama administration. a rule went into effect calling for a stronger type of tank car to be fully rolled out across the industry by 2025. That got pushed back by an act of Congress to 2029.
With time running out, Stephanopoulos alluded to the chorus of opposition, but he served it up for Buttigieg to easily dismiss them:
[T]he administration has come under some fire for its response. The mayor of East Palestine says it took nearly two weeks for the White House to contact him. There were shouts of where is Pete Buttigieg at a town hall meeting last week. What’s your response to that? When are you going to go to East Palestine?
That’s putting it mildly. Among the critics last week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called for him to resign (which led to some pathetic spin from Buttigieg’s media allies), the area Congressman gave Buttigieg a failing grade, and many noted it took Buttigieg ten days to even comment on the derailment. Even the far-left magazine The Nation panned his response to the crisis.
But because Stephanopoulos gingerly went about presenting the blowback, Buttigieg ran out the clock by saying he “plan[s] to go and our folks were on the ground from the first hours” and suggested his presence would interfere with an investigation into the derailment’s cause.
“[W]hen I go, the focus is going to be on action. Look, I was mayor of my hometown for eight years. We dealt with a lot of disasters, natural and human,” he stated, adding that he’d be a man of action and not someone “there to look good and have their picture taken.”
NBC’s Today had correspondent George Solis in Ohio, who began with a report focused on the plight of residents, but pivoted partway through to trumpeting Buttigieg for “calling for immediate action from Norfolk Southern and the entire freight railroad industry, arguing that current rail safety regulations are too lax”.
One week ago, we called out ABC, CBS, and NBC for having abandoned the largely white town with a measly one minute and 42 seconds once the evacuation order was lifted late on February 8 (after 28 minutes and 16 seconds of coverage prior). Following our study, the networks just so happened to care about the health concerns and threats to wildlife raised by residents.
We offered an updated report card Friday afternoon that showed, from Tuesday through Friday morning, ABC had skimped on the derailment with only half the time (6:33) CBS and NBC gave it (13:28 and 13:59, respectively).
Once again, ABC responded. From Friday night through Tuesday morning, ABC came through with 22 minutes and 54 seconds, which was a smidge behind NBC’s 24 minutes and 26 seconds but well ahead of CBS’s paltry four minutes and four seconds.
Since the first flagship network newscasts after the derailment late on February 3, the three have combined for 115 minutes and 22 seconds of coverage with NBC dutifully devoting 47 minutes and 55 seconds, ABC back at 38 minutes and 58 seconds, and CBS even further behind at 28 minutes and 29 seconds.
This latest attempt to defend their beloved Pete Buttigieg and the administration was made possible thanks to advertisers such as Ancestry (on ABC), BMW (on NBC), and Gillette (on ABC). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant transcripts from February 21, click here (for ABC) and here (for NBC).