Dan Gainor

In short, the network treated the Chevron case like most lawsuit stories – wildly favoring the plaintiff and giving almost no time or credence to the Big Evil company on the other side.

It all began when Texaco Petroleum drilled for oil in Ecuador decades ago as the smaller part of a consortium with the state-run PetroEcuador. Oil is a messy business and when TexPet went to leave the country, it worked out a clean-up deal. TexPet spent $40 million cleaning up 40 percent of the sites – equal to its share of the consortium. It did a thorough job with the clean-up and the government of Ecuador signed a paper absolving TexPet of all obligations.

But that wasn’t good enough for some in Ecuador. They got American lawyers and began suing. When Chevron bought Texaco, it also bought was should be a non-issue. But thanks to a sleazy Ecuadorian justice system, it’s not.

Now, the Ecuadorans are close to a victory of some sort. Their justice system, if you can call it that, is expected to rule on the case by November. No one seems to think the ruling is in dispute. If Chevron loses, they will appeal, claiming, quite rightly, that the rule of law has nothing to do with this case.

But this is more than just an international travesty. It’s also a view of how journalists look at the world and how they skew everything you see. In his report, Pelley did what most journalists would do. He glossed over the plaintiff’s unsubstantiated claims of cancer ($9 billion worth of the settlement claim) and looked for heart-tugging victims – Amazonian natives in colorful tribal dress or the man who claimed the oil operation poisoned his well.

“Manuel Salinas’ house is next to one of those pits,” Pelley said. “He’s one of 30,000 people suing Texaco’s owner, Chevron. He says the pollution leaked into his water well.” “We couldn’t drink the water,” Salinas said. Trouble is, Salinas lives next to one of the pits PetroEcuador – not TexPet – was supposed to clean up.

And then there’s the water. Remember when they tell you not to drink the water on trips abroad? Here’s why. Tests from both Chevron and the plaintiff show Salinas’ well was contaminated with fecal coliforms.

In other words, Salinas’ claim was full of the same thing his well was. And SeeBS put him out there like some sort of victim. Sure he’s a victim of bad drinking water – but that has nothing to do with oil and everything to do with poor local hygiene – and poor journalism.


Dan Gainor

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.