CNN’s Carol Costello: Journo joker? (Cf. “Who’s Your Expert, Carol?,” infra.) If the BP oil spill ecological disaster were not so tragic, perhaps, Carol’s Orwellianly named report, “Emotion vs. Science: Are sand berms a smart defense?” would have been comedic. As President Barack Obama, under fire for being unemotional and for his reticence to approve of the sand berms to protect the Louisiana wetlands, traveled to Louisiana today, Carol seemed to be on a personal mission to give him cover from his detractors, both liberal and conservative.
Introducing her straw-man segment, Carol stated, “When President Obama comes here today, some people want him to show more emotion. They want him to take emphatic charge of the situation. There are plenty of local politicians, showing a lot of emotion. You know, they want to build those sand berms. But, scientists say, ‘Hold off on the emotion for just a minute and think about what these sand berms really do to the environment.’ So, is emotion or science better? A gut check this morning.”*
As footage of the disaster site ran, including that of Louisiana Governor Jindal, local Louisiana officials, and an oil-soaked pelican in the wetlands of Louisiana, Carol opined, “Louisiana’s governor is usually low-key but not these days. He’s fired up, emotional like so many other Louisiana politicians…There is a sense of doom here and some say politicians in their eagerness to do something are calling for solutions that may not work like giant six-foot walls of sand or sand berms. It’s a concept that politicians say has been in their area contingency plan with the Corps of Engineers. President Obama finally agreed under pressure, approving six berm sites.” [Italics added for emphasis.]
After portraying the Louisiana “politicians” as being uber emotional, Carol turned to a young unidentified bearded man with sunglasses and a BTNEP baseball cap, asking, “Would these giant sand walls really work?” He answered, “There are instances where they would be of benefit.” With no mention of his credentials, Carol continued, “Mel Landry studies the barrier islands and marshlands Louisiana politicians are so desperate to protect.” Subsequently, she solicited his view on the berms which he said “could have adverse impacts” citing a bulldozer’s incidental leveling of nests in the berm-building process. (Seemingly not satisfied with her sound bite, Carol superimposed, “He adds the berms could be blown away in a hurricane and could also disrupt natural tidal flows if they’re use to block gaps between barrier islands. But local politicians aren’t hearing that. The berms will go up and BP will pay the price, $360,000,000!”)
As the footage ended, Carol remarked, “John, six berms have been approved. One berm is under construction. Um, experts tell me [that] it could take a couple of weeks for these things to be put up but they’re raring to go.” Then strangely BP sensitive, Carol facetiously snarked, “And, hey, BP’s footing the bill, $360,000,000. So a lot of people here are saying, ‘If it is a waste of money, who cares? BP is paying!”
Seemingly, less than impressed with Carol’s reasoning, John sensibly stated, “Alright. Well, some good news for those folks there.” Similarly sympathetic to the plight of Louisianans on the Gulf coast, Kiran (who herself had reported from Grand Isle and other devastated areas in Louisiana) cogently countered, “The front page of all the papers this morning has some heart-breaking pictures–and we have the video as well–of these birds covered in oil. And, a couple of the datelines at East Grand Terre Isle, which is where one of those berms is being built currently, and they said [that] if they could have just gotten that done earlier, maybe, that marshland would not have become oiled. So, there are very strong opinions on both sides about that.”
Unfortunately, after Carol nonchalantly said, “Absolutely,” and asked for viewer input to her AM blog, she got back on message. Shaking her head, Carol icily commented, “I mean, should politicians just step back just for a minute and really study this and bring scientists in and, and really get a group together to see if these berms are really effective because sometimes the solution could be worse than the initial problem–because if these sand berms are gonna kill the wildlife anyway, why erect them?”
As an, apparently, incredulous John sat tight-lipped, wide-eyed, and stone-faced, Kiran reasonably remarked, “Yeah, a lot of questions this morning about that situation. And, another guy (vis-a-vis Landry?) locally said, ‘Hey, if a hurricane does knock the berm over, it’s done its job. At least, it’s protected it from getting on shore. So, again, a lot of differing opinions about it. Carol Costello this morning, thank you.”
Carol smugly smiled and shrugged her shoulders.
“Who’s Your Expert, Carol?” Even though John and Kiran seemed to sanely reject Carol’s premise that the sand berms were a case of “Emotion vs. Science” (or, in Carol’s case, local Louisiana “politicians” versus her mysterious scientific expert Mel Landry), they did not tell you the “rest of the story.” Just who is Mel Landry, Carol’s source for science or font of wisdom? According to his Facebook page, the twenty-nine year old Mel Landry is a 2004 college graduate from LSU who majored in fisheries and aquaculture. Furthermore, he states that he is the “Public Involvement Coordinator for the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.” In his role, Landry explains, “I work with local communities, businesses, governments and volunteers across the state to save Louisiana’s vanishing coast and culture. I’m neck deep in science and politics and anyone who’s been around long enough knows that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
So, for her scientific authority, Carol depended on a mere college graduate who is “neck deep in science and politics” and who works as the “public involvement coordinator” of a non-profit organization, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. Perhaps, she could not find a non-political, post-graduate Louisiana scientist to do her bidding. After getting this senior sage who taxied her around Grand Isle and a berm or two, Carol (in her AmFix blog) vapidly and vacuously pontificated, “So, chalk up one for emotion: the berms will go up, BP will dole out $360 million for the project, and maybe science will be the better for it. Or not.”
“Chalk up another one for emotion”? Indeed. In fact, Carol’s seeming selection of her own “expert” to make her case is remarkably similar to the time (about six months ago) that she apparently chose a panel of four “very sharp” women to pan, er, critique Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue. Now, as then, she appears to have readily obtained the conclusion that she wanted from her self-selected “experts” that had few if any bona fides. Playing politics with Sarah Palin is one thing but playing politics with Louisiana, its wetlands, and its way of life is another thing altogether.
Carol, as a CNN reporter, you should be ashamed of yourself for producing another biased, specious piece: strike two. Jamie, as AM executive producer, you should be embarrassed for letting it air once, much less a second time. And, Jon, as CNN news chief, if you really meant that you wanted CNN “to position itself as an opinion-free, middle-of-the-road alternative to its cable news rivals — conservative Fox News and liberal MSNBC,” you need to make it happen.
*American Morning – 06/04/10 (@6:32 a.m. ET)