Chastened Clayton: Toxic Cheerleader?

U-S-A! U-S-A! Mo’ nuke plants on your way! Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Clayton Morris seemingly echoed that ominous cheer as Japanese nuclear reactors threatened to melt down both Saturday and Sunday. Happily, co-host Alisyn Camerota checked him Saturday and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace chastened him Sunday for his quick and cavalier advocacy of an unthinking embrace of America’s nuclear industry.

Throughout the show Saturday, F&FW producers seemed to downplay the potential dire threats of the inadequately cooled nuclear reactors in Japan. Then, in the final segment, Heritage Foundation fellow for nuclear energy Jack Spencer appeared poised to perform the coup de grace as he assured his F&FW audience that the “Japanese authorities seem to be keeping this under control” and that “human health and safety has [sic] rarely, if ever, been affected–certainly, not in the case of Western nuclear power plants.”* Disconcertingly, Spencer laughed, “The one time that it, that there really was real impact was Chernobyl.” After then asserting the obvious, i.e., that the situation “absolutely has to be stabilized,” he blithely concluded, “I predict that once this is all said and done, we’re once again gonna see the inherent robustness of nuclear energy and that even when subjected to these sorts of stresses that it’s able to be maintained, the safety of that over time.”

When the segment ended, Clayton thanked Spencer for his expertise. After he had done so, Aly interjected, “It’s so interesting what Jack [Spencer] left us with because, obviously, there was momentum building for more nuclear energy here.” Nodding his head, co-anchor Dave Briggs concurred, “Yeah.” Arching his eyebrows, Clayton derisively declared, “And, there still is!” Uncowed by his risible remark, Aly retorted, “Well, you don’t know! I mean, if after this, people will be so scared.” Somewhat indignantly, Clayton countered, “Well, you don’t stop multi-billion dollar projects that have been being [sic] built for years–fifteen years–right now, so.” Interposing, Dave portentously proclaimed, “Perhaps, we will dive into that debate tomorrow.”

And, “tomorrow,” they did indeed engage again. As the weekly Fox News Sunday promo segment with anchor Chris Wallace began, Aly asked, “It seems as though the nuclear power argument was just gaining some momentum. I mean, after decades of it being a bad word, suddenly, people were revisiting it. How does this change that dialogue now?”** Confidently, Chris answered, “Oh, I got to think it’s a total game changer. And, you’re exactly right, Alisyn, because, obviously, Republicans have been pushing nuclear power for some time…[and] the President and Democrats were on board the idea of nuclear power as safe, green energy, no carbon, greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, we’re seeing now in Japan something a whole lot more dangerous than carbon emissions–radiation….Remember, after Three Mile Island, we had about a thirty-year moratorium on the building on any new nuclear power plants in this country….This could be another thirty-year hold.”

Not exactly pleased with his colleague Chris’s answer, Clayton contended, “Yeah, major concerns, of course, about, about the radiation poisoning there although we’ve been hearing reports this morning that, maybe, it’s been overblown. And, after all, it survived a 9.0 magnitude….So, here is a plant that survived not only a 9.0 earthquake, it’s a forty-year-old reactor….And, it survived a tsunami. And, at this point, only 160 people have been treated for radiation and only three have been sickened.” Finally, he concluded, “So, that’s a pretty good track record.”

Shaking his head, Chris countered, “I think you’re jumping the gun there, guys. I mean, first, of all, I wouldn’t say [that] it survived anything, given the fact that we’ve already had an explosion at one of the reactors. There’s the possibility of meltdowns at another one of the reactors. And, I think this is a still a very active situation: so, I wouldn’t say anything about a good track record at this point. I think the situation at two nuclear power plants and multiple reactors at both is very much in play.”

Recanting abruptly, a chastened Clayton answered, “Well, I’m saying that, and we had Jack Spencer on the show from the Heritage Foundation and a nuclear expert who [sic] those were his words this morning. Not to jump the gun and no concern. Certainly, not OUR words.”

Or, certainly, not ALY’s words.

*Fox & Friends Weekend – 03/12/11 (@ 9:58 a.m. ET)

**Fox & Friends Weekend – 03/13/11 (@ 8:14 a.m. ET)

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