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By Robert Rapier on May 18, 2009 with no responses

Misinformation from Jon Stewart

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Ken Salazar
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I watch very little TV, but one show I always make it a point to watch is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. While I find that Bill Maher (who has similar political views to Stewart) generally gets on my nerves, Stewart always makes me laugh, and usually has very witty insights into politics, the media, etc.

Because I am not usually in a position to watch The Daily Show live, I generally record it or watch it on the Internet. Last night I finally got around to watching the May 7th episode (that’s the direct link, in case the embedded video doesn’t work for you) in which Stewart interviewed Secretary of the Interior (and Colorado rancher) Ken Salazar. The questions start out by mentioning the issues with corruption at the MMS, and then go on to oil leases and coal. Position on the clip is noted in parentheses.

Jon Stewart (2:30): Famously, there is a corruption issue in the MM..what is it? (Salazar: The Minerals Management Service.) They were accused of corruption, of being literally in bed with oil and energy executives. How did you clean that up, because obviously that’s under your office, no?

[RR: For more on that particular story, see Report Says Oil Agency Ran Amok.]

Ken Salazar (2:50): We cleaned it up, new code of ethics, and you know, a few bad apples at the very top essentially created lots of problems; but we cleaned up the mess, and they are out. We continue to clean up the mess every day.

JS: (3:03): What is the Interior responsible for; aren’t you sort of the oil company landlord? They pay you, you lease the public lands to the oil companies, and then they pay you for it?

KS: (3:18): That’s right.

JS: (3:20): Now you are looking at me like you don’t know. (Laughter). For a second there you were looking at me like “I’m not sure about that one.”

KS: (3:25): No, that’s not all that we do. We manage 20% of the land mass of the United States on behalf of the American citizens. We also manage 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf with the Department of America [RR: ?]; we go coast-to-coast, sea to shining sea, and way, way out into the oceans. We really are the department of America; the department of everything that happens in America.

[RR: Skip down to 4:35]

JS: (4:35): What about the oil companies? The relationship is obviously changing. I am under the impression that the oil companies are not paying the American taxpayer to lease these lands over the past 8 years to the tune of about $50 billion. Is that correct?

[RR: That's a blatantly false statement, and incredibly irresponsible for Stewart to spread misinformation like that. As far as I can tell, Stewart is talking about the contracts that were signed by the Clinton administration that supposedly amounted to an error in the calculation of royalties. I have never heard anything like what Stewart charges here about lease payments. Salazar looked at him for a moment as if he doesn't know quite what to say, but then doesn't correct him.]

KS: (4:50): Well, there needs to lots of reform, and royalties – we need to collect more royalties on behalf of the American taxpayer. The American citizen has to get a fair return and we are in the process of getting that done.

JS: (4:58): Would you call up Chevron, and be like, “What’s up man, Ken Salazar.” (laughter) (KS: Fork it over.) “Listen, where’s my money?”

JS: (5:05): What recourse do you have?

[RR: I want to know what recourse the oil industry has for Stewart spreading this sort of misinformation. With junk like this being spread around, it is no wonder people hate oil companies. The only problem is that Jon is grossly misinformed.]

KS: (5:08): We have the authority to adjust royalties, and we are working with Congress right now to take a look at them.

JS: (5:14): Can you kick them off? Can you say “If you don’t give us our royalties, that’s my derrick now brother?”

[RR: This is just awful. Stewart needs to retract this whole line of questioning and apologize.]

KS: (5:23): We probably can’t kick them out, because they have lease arrangements. But we need to make sure those lease arrangements are fair to the American taxpayer, and that’s what President Obama has charged us to do. That’s what I am trying to do in the Department of the Interior.

JS: (5:38): Coal is our oil. That’s the natural resource we have the most of. We have got to make good use that in a responsible way, because we can’t just give up on that. Coal’s good stuff.

[RR: Not something I would have expected Stuart to say.]

KS: (5:50): Coal is good stuff, (JS: That’s what I’m talking about.) but we have to make sure we use it and burn it cleanly.

JS: (5:55): What? (laughter)

KS: (5:58): We have to use it and burn it cleanly.

JS: (6:00): I like the use it; burn it cleanly doesn’t sound right to me.

KS: (6:03): You have to sequester the carbon; put it in the ground.

JS: (6:05): And you just repealed a law, making it where they can’t dump their waste in the Appalachian streams any more. Because weren’t they doing that over 8 years?

[RR: Salazar again looks confused, as if he doesn't know what Stewart is talking about.]

KS: (6:13): That’s right, we have to protect our streams. We have to protect our water.

JS: (6:16): You act like I am babbling secrets here. (laughter) You are sitting there like “Oh, you are going to tell them about the coal in the water.” Those people don’t deserve that. They should have some clean streams. And we should use their coal. And we should get that money back from the oil companies. Come on, brother! Who’s with me?

KS: (6:35): I’m with you.

[RR: The interview wrapped up at that point. I know that it is a comedy show, but people who watch it regularly know that the underlying messages from the show are serious. Plus, the interviews are generally serious, with high-profile guests. John needs to do a much better job of explaining the issues he brought up, or he just furthers ignorance on the topic of energy. He gave everyone the impression that oil companies decided to simply stop paying on their leases, therefore ripping off American taxpayers. That just is not the case.]