At least six people died and many more were injured in a terrible Amtrak accident on the night of May 12, and before the cause had been discovered, multiple cable news networks used the tragedy to make a political point.
Programming on CNN, CNBC and MSNBC all used the accident to claim the government needed to spend more on infrastructure all before National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators made an assessment to determine the cause of the crash.
The investigation is underway, although NBCNews.com noted the morning of May 13, "Law enforcement officials familiar with the Philadelphia regional and long-distance service identified speed as a likely cause of the crash, adding that whether human error or equipment failure were also involved might take more time to establish."
But none of those possibilities stopped the media or the left from rushing to blame insufficient infrastructure spending, which is a favorite issue of liberals in and out of the media.
Just hours after the accident, CNN Tonight connected the Amtrak accident with lack of infrastructure funding. Lobbying firm O'Neill & Associates Senior Vice President and former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz was among the program’s guests.
“I mean, Amtrak has been under budgetary strains for close to 20 years,” Goelz said. “And, you know, the Congress has a very difficult time allocating funds and, or enough funds to, for Amtrak to do the kind of infrastructure safety work that it wants to do.”
The insensitivity continued the morning after the crash with politicians and TV anchors all saying much the same thing.
“It’s just embarrassing what we do with our infrastructure,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, D, said on May 13, during a Morning Joe discussion of the tragedy. The infrastructure advocate appeared on multiple MSNBC shows that morning.
Co-host Joe Scarborough supported Rendell, citing statistics about the supposedly poor state of American infrastructure and insisted, “We’re talking about people who lost their lives because of our third-world infrastructure.”
“There is no question, Joe, we’re pig headed and not willing to invest,” Rendell said.
Rendell also appeared on The Rundown With José Díaz-Balart and said, “We need a ten-year infrastructure revitalization program in this country and we need it now.” Earlier on the show Díaz-Balart talked with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, and asked, “Senator, I’m wondering why there hasn't been investment on this.”
“That is the question of the moment, and it ought to be on the tongue of everyone in Washington who works in this building and Congress,” Blumenthal said.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest couldn’t resist the opportunity to call for more spending either.
CNN New Day host Alisyn Camerota interviewed Earnest May 13 about the Amtrak accident, noting “this is not the first train derailment we have reported on this year” and asked “What can the government do about this?”
Earnest said investigators were "hard at work" to find the cause of the crash before launching into a discussion about infrastructure funding. He said President Barack Obama "has been a long-time advocate for investing in our infrastructure and making sure that we have the kind of 21st century infrastructure that we know is going to be critical to the success of our country."
CNBC’s Squawk on the Street turned to former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Vice Chairman Robert Francis on May 13.
“Do we need to be spending more [on infrastructure]?” co-host Sara Eisen bluntly asked before adding, “It’s a sad but true fact that issues like this, accidents like this raise awareness and can change the political debate.”
“Well, I think that’s right,” Francis responded. He said rail safety problems extended beyond the Northeast Corridor. “It’s the entire system.”
Liberals and media also quickly took to Twitter, also taking advantage of the Amtrak disaster as a chance to push for more government spending on infrastructure.
Voto Latino President and MSNBC Contributor María Teresa Kumar tweeted multiple times about infrastructure and Amtrak. “Prayers to #amtrakcrash victims & their families. It's time to upgrade our infrastructure, we can't afford another loss. #weneedwill,” Kumar tweeted in the early hours of May 13.
“It's not really luck or the universe that one makes it home ok if it's at the hands of neglect. #Amtrack #fixourinfrastructure,” she tweeted later. (Spelling error was her own.)
“'The big deal is we have a federal government that can’t, for political reasons, invest in public transport. It’s infuriating.’ #amtrakcrash,” left-wing New America President President and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter tweeted May 13.
The media has used previous disasters and scare tactics to call for more infrastructure spending before. On April 7, CNBC’s and MSNBC’s parent network NBC seized on the story about a power outage that struck key government buildings in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas. Nightly News spun the incident to advocate for the increased infrastructure funding and the need to defend against “cyber attacks.”
Ed Rendell said it was the time to raise the federal gas tax to fix the nation’s “crumbling” infrastructure on CNBC’s On the Money Dec. 5, 2014. “Our infrastructure’s crumbling,” he claimed. “Our roads and our bridges are in dangerous condition and it actually will save people money.”
Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood also pushed for higher taxes to pay for infrastructure spending on CBS’s 60 Minutes Nov. 23, 2014. He blamed “politicians in Washington” for lacking the “political courage” to do so.
“They don't want to spend the money. They don't want raise the taxes,” LaHood said.