California primary’s impact on Democrats, big oil’s misinformation campaign

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Vintage Esso advertisment. Photo courtesy of Richard Lentinello/Hemmings.

California’s Super Tuesday results could spell the end for some Democatic hopefuls, while also giving Bernie Sanders a decisive edge.  Media coverage will be important in both the primaries and the general election.

If Sanders prevails at the Democratic convention, GOP strategist Mike Madried says “It will be the first time in American history that there will be a populist nominee from both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle.” 

As to the issues, Democratic consultant Darry Srago says he’s surprised by polls showing that homelessness is the top priority for Californians. 

The shortage of housing might or might not divide the parties in the general election, but climate change certainly will, despite the fact that it once was the subject of bipartisan agreement.

In 1990, Repubican President George H.W. Bush said, “We all know that human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and unprecedented ways.” 

But many Republicans are now climate deniers, and President Trump wants to increase reliance on fossil fuels. 

Changes in public perception were brought about, in part, by a long campaign of misinformation, devised by the major oil companies. Amy Westerfielt reports that they exploited  journalism’s devotion to fairness and balance by pushing a narrative they knew to be false.  

Westerfeld, host of the podcast “Drilled,” says that long after major news departments caught on, their sales departments are still purveying misinformation. 

“Working with The New York Times … Mobile Oil invented the advertorial and tracked fairly frequently how much that was benefiting them in terms of people's perceptions of them,” she says.

Big oil’s public relations campaigns are legal, she says, even if they’re essentially propaganda, and as a result, “they haven’t been challenged to slow or prevent the worst effects of climate change.”




Warren Olney


Andrea Brody