- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

Recent news coverage of President Bush's energy task force offered the conclusion that the White House left environmentalists and consumers out of its national energy policy equation.
Yet most print and broadcast accounts ignored or buried the fact that administration officials actually contacted environmental groups for input but were rebuffed detailed in both an Energy Department letter and an e-mail included among documents released by the agency Monday.
Instead, the media used the occasion to embellish upon their standard portrayals of a conniving Bush administration preoccupied with big oil, big business and influence peddling.
"Consumer Groups Left Out, Data Show," a lead Washington Post story noted Tuesday.
"A first review of the 11,000 pages of documents bolsters the contention of Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups that the Bush administration relied almost exclusively on the advice of executives from utilities and producers of oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy," the story continued.
Citing "new information" yesterday, The Washington Post softened up those initial claims, acknowledging that the energy task force "belatedly consulted environmentalists," but "sought input only after protests."
Still, most media accounts continued to reinforce the idea that the administration had ignored conservationists and consumers.
The Los Angeles Times said the documents proved the administration only answered to industry, giving "new ammunition" to critics who said the energy policy favored business. The New York Times followed suit, but buried significant information in the final paragraphs of a story yesterday.
"[Energy Department spokeswoman Judith] Schroeder said that other Energy Department officials met five environmental and consumer groups the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, Resources for the Future and the American Wind Energy Association. And she said five other groups did not respond to a request for comments, including the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace."
CNN and the Associated Press simply ignored that angle; the Wall Street Journal characterized it as evidence of a "stark contrast" between Bush administration dealings with energy and environmental groups.
News organizations had pounced upon the situation as if providing "some kind of smoking gun demonstrating underhanded administration policy-making," the Media Research Center (MRC) said yesterday. Broadcasters also shaded their coverage, according to the MRC.
One CNN account began with the question, "Do these documents confirm the worst suspicions of influence peddling?"
CBS said the documents showed "the administration consulted business leaders and not consumer groups" and at one point suggested the Energy Dept. had "censored" the documents and possibly broken the law. A later CBS interview featured a National Resource Defense Council spokeswoman who said the documents "have been scrubbed, sanitized, purged."
Online news sites and talk radio were in turn critical of those who would build a scandal around the makings of an energy policy, accusing "the greens of being commie red," among other things.
White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer and at least one Republican leaders remained philosophical. "News flash," Mr. Fleischer told the press corps Tuesday. "It's no surprise to anybody that the secretary of energy meets with energy-related groups."
Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085.

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