We’ve reached the final boss level of climate irony. The New York Times reported Tuesday that Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon whose News Corp. owns Fox News, plans to launch a full-time channel focused on the weather called Fox Weather.
Apparently, viewers are hungry for weather content—the Weather Channel’s viewership was up 7% in the first half of this year, while viewership fell for big cable networks. And looking at the historic heat waves gripping much of the country this summer—caused partially by stalled climate action aided by Fox News working in tandem with oil companies and the Republican Party to spread climate misinformation—it’s not hard to see why.
The irony of Fox creating a weather channel, of all things, is as deep as the rapidly heating ocean and as wide as our swiftly overheating country. As much of the rest of the world ponders how to dig ourselves out of this mess we’ve made, Fox News is still clinging desperately to denial. Last month, star Tucker Carlson used his show to allege that climate activists want to “experiment to make children smaller” to fix global warming (spoiler alert: that is, uh, not true), while in May, climate denier Steve Koonin was invited to not one, but two Fox News programs to promote his book claiming that other scientists are getting too worked up about this global warming thing. Even the supposedly nonpartisan evening news show hosted by Brett Baier has a distinct denier slant: A Media Matters analysis of Baier’s climate coverage from 2009 to 2021 found that a whopping 88% of it ran the gamut from misleading to promoting bad-faith narratives to flat-out lies.
“It’s not just the bigger climate denial,” said Allison Fisher, the director of the climate and energy program at Media Matters. Fox News, Fisher said, “specifically use[s] weather to push climate denial. That is a long-worn tactic of Fox News, even before Trump was tweeting out, like, ‘where’s your global warming now?’ during a snowstorm. That’s a very classic Fox move.”
Fisher pointed out that as recently as this year, Fox News contributors used an April cold snap to claim climate change was a hoax. “They’re emphatic about dismissing the relationship between climate change and weather, whether it’s during a megastorm or the wildfires last year or the record-shattering heat this week, and then also mocking the idea of global warming during moments of abnormally cold weather,” she said. “They’re the ones who have made weather political.”
News Corp owns the denier-friendly Wall Street Journal and New York Post, as well as several right-wing outlets in Murdoch’s home country of Australia. While Murdoch claims not to be a climate denier himself, there’s no question that his companies have made money—and powerful allies in the fossil fuel industry—perpetuating damaging climate “coverage.” A Greenpeace survey released last year found that News Corp’s coverage of the devastating 2020 Australian wildfires drove a “viral misinformation campaign” intended to spread misinformation on the causes of the fire and protect the coal industry in Australia. The company’s explicit and implicit endorsement of climate denial has even led to a fracture in the Murdoch family: during the wildfires, Murdoch’s younger son, James, issued a rebuke of the company on its handling of climate, and he stepped down from the company last summer.
According to Fisher, Fox News has meteorologists on staff who report on the weather, but they mostly do “straight reporting” of what is going on. “They’re not contextualizing” that weather, she said—despite the fact that other networks are letting their meteorologists discuss how extreme weather is shaped by climate change. “That contextualization of these events as climate is what makes Fox’s entry into this space really suspect and troubling.”
All of this raises the question of how, exactly, Fox is planning to go about reporting the weather when it keeps getting more extreme thanks, in part, to a mess they helped create. As Deadline reported a few weeks ago, Fox has tapped at least six meteorologists from different local markets—Britta Merwin, Jason Frazer, Craig Herrera, Bridgit Mahoney, Stephen Morgan, and Nick Kosir—to flesh out the basis of its news team. Earther was able to find just a few tweets from three of them that mentioned climate change.
“Climate change is real and it is a fact,” Merwin, a future Fox morning host and formerly of KPRC-TV in Houston, responded in February to a Twitter user using Merwin’s report of snow on the beach to claim climate change was a hoax. “It is about science,” she wrote. Her future morning cohost, Frazer of WKYC-TV in Cleveland, thanked a meteorologist in 2017 for “sharing ... expertise on climate change” and mentioned climate change in 2018 when discussing the size of a tropical storm. (“You could argue Climate Change but I am not touching that hot potato,” he wrote.) Meanwhile, Herrera, who covered weather for Seattle’s KING-TV and will serve as another coanchor, tweeted about climate in 2013 and 2014, when he covered an IPCC report and did a piece on California’s drought. “We have a long way to go but education and facts are key,” he responded to one user thanking him for his coverage. “Can’t dispute the science or numbers.”
Earther reached out Frazer, Merwin, and Herrera, along with another of their future coworkers, to ask how they planned to handle climate coverage. We will update when we receive any responses.
According to the Times, Fox is dipping a toe into this space because it’s so profitable; it quotes a TV executive saying that “climate change and the environment will be the story of the next decade,” while a spokesperson for Fox told the Times the network will offer “in-depth reporting surrounding all weather conditions, and we are excited to showcase to viewers what a full-service comprehensive weather platform can deliver beginning this fall.” Some of Fox’s future competitors making hay out of the climate crisis could goad the network into figuring out ways to cover it: The Weather Channel, the Times reported, has a whole host of climate change programming planned, including a show about miners looking for minerals in Greenland exposed by newly melted ice (sorry, what?).
But Fisher sees a darker possibility for the new weather service.
“It’s the content they’re producing that’s going to get amplified,” she said. “If they bring on a denier like Marc Morano, if he starts to get a platform there—that content is going to go on his website, it’s going to go into other right-wing media infosphere, it’s going to bounce back on Fox, it’s going to go on social media, and they’re going to push that out in moments when everybody else is saying, ‘this is climate change’–they’re going to be able to tell this right-wing media bubble, it’s not.”