On Thursday, the Washington Post published an article by Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin titled “The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.” The article’s first paragraph included this claim:
The biggest lease holder in the northern Alberta oil sands is a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately-owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.
The theme of the article was that the Keystone Pipeline is all about the Koch brothers; or, at least, that this is a plausible claim. The Post authors relied on a report by a far-left group called International Forum on Globalization that I debunked last October.
So Thursday evening, I wrote about the Post article here. I pointed out that Koch is not, in fact, the largest leaser of tar sands land; that Koch will not be a user of the pipeline if it is built; and that construction of the Keystone Pipeline would actually be harmful to Koch’s economic interests, which is why Koch has never taken a position on the pipeline’s construction. The Keystone Pipeline, in short, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Koch brothers.
My post garnered a great deal of attention, and Mufson and Eilperin undertook to respond to it here. It isn’t much of a response: they don’t deny the truth of anything Iwrote, and they don’t try to sustain the proposition that Koch is even in favor of the pipeline, let alone the driving force behind it. They lamely suggest that if Koch leased 2 million acres, rather than 1.1 million as they reported on Thursday, then Koch might be the largest leaseholder. But they make no attempt to respond to the official Province of Alberta maps that I posted, which clearly show that Canadian National Resources, Ltd., for example, leases more acreage than Koch.
The Post’s response attempted to explain “Why we wrote about the Koch Industries [sic] and its leases in Canada’s oil sands.” Good question! What’s the answer?
The Powerline article itself, and its tone, is strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year. That’s why we wrote the piece.
So in the Post’s view, it is acceptable to publish articles that are both literally false (Koch is the largest tar sands leaseholder) and massively misleading (the Keystone Pipeline is all about Koch Industries), if by doing so the paper can “stir and inflame public debate in this election year?” I can’t top Jonah Goldberg’s comment on that howler:
By this logic any unfair attack posing as reporting is worthwhile when people try to correct the record. Why not just have at it and accuse the Kochs of killing JFK or hiding the Malaysian airplane? The resulting criticism would once again provide “strong evidence that issues surrounding the Koch brothers’ political and business interests will stir and inflame public debate in this election year.”