Former liberal talk radio host Jim Hightower emerged from his present-day obscurity to spew venom at wealthy oil executives on national television Tuesday night. Hightower appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes to comment on the news that Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson has joined a lawsuit to block construction of a 160-foot water tower near his property in Texas. The tower would supply water for, among other purposes, hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.
This was notable to MSNBC because Tillerson, whose company engages in fracking, cited concerns about fracking-related noise and traffic in the lawsuit. So, naturally, the hypocrisy alarm went off in the Lean Forward network’s newsroom. But for Hightower, it wasn’t enough to call Tillerson a hypocrite. He had to go further.
After mocking Tillerson for awhile, Hightower whipped out his rhetorical knife. Addressing fill-in host Ari Melber, the liberal Texan proclaimed, in his folksy Southern drawl:
[Y]ou know, some of these guys are getting so rich they could afford to air-condition hell. And I tell you what, Ari, they’d better be setting some money aside for that project, I think.
Melber, for his part, let that inflammatory comment pass by without batting an eye. He let out a disinterested “hmm” and then turned to his other guest, documentary filmmaker Josh Fox, and asked, “Well, and Josh, your response?”
Can you imagine if an MSNBC guest suggested an environmentalist was going to hell? Or an abortion doctor? The host would surely protest vehemently. But oil and gas executives are fair game at MSNBC, so Melber let Hightower’s remark slide.
The Texan, who writes a syndicated column and a monthly newsletter, also found some more discrete ways to attack Tillerson during his MSNBC appearance. He wryly remarked, “Well, what we have here is a case of phallic justice if you look at that tower, the 160-foot tower that Tillerson’s complaining about.”
And why does Tillerson deserve “phallic justice?” Hightower explained in his next sentence: “Here's a guy who got $40 million last year in payment in part, large part, for running around the country fracking other people's lives. And now he is in a big pout and a big whine because it's happening to him.”
Oh, so Tillerson fracked other people’s lives, and now he’s being fracked by a 160-foot tall phallus-shaped water tower. I get it. What a sly jokester.
Below is a transcript of the segment:
ARI MELBER: Joining us now from Austin, Texas, Jim Hightower, the former Texas agriculture commissioner, current editor and publisher of The Hightower Lowdown, and of course the author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow. Great title. And here in New York, Josh Fox, who we mentioned, director and producer of Gasland and Gasland 2. Thank you both for being here. I want to start with you having reported on this extensively, Josh. Your thoughts and your thoughts on this lawsuit.
JOSH FOX: Well, from the perspective of listening to Calvin Tillman, I mean, you know things are bad when the mayor moves out of town. You know things are bad when the CEO of ExxonMobil, the number one natural gas producer in the United States, is suing to stop critical fracking infrastructure in his own backyard. And I just want to respond to his lawyers by holding up the lawsuit where it says, quite clearly here, ‘water to oil and gas explorers for fracking shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks, creating a noise nuisance.’ They also talk about light pollution. I mean, this is clearly about fracking. And they're in the business of denial.
MELBER: Right, and it's in the brief, it's in their statements. Jim Hightower – I'm going to bring in Jim. Josh brought show and tell. Jim, what did you bring?
JIM HIGHTOWER: Well, what we have here is a case of phallic justice if you look at that tower, the 160-foot tower that Tillerson’s complaining about. Here's a guy who got $40 million last year in payment in part, large part, for running around the country fracking other people's lives. And now he is in a big pout and a big whine because it's happening to him. I was with some people from Denton County last night where Tillerson's 83-acre little horse farm -- that doesn't count his 18-acre personal home nearby. And they are calling it Rex Tillerson's last direction up there in this thing. People are laughing at this goon, but, of course, it's not funny because it's running roughshod over just workaday people in this country. And, you know, some of these guys are getting so rich they could afford to air-condition hell. And I tell you what, Ari, they’d better be setting some money aside for that project, I think.
MELBER: Hmm. Well, and Josh, your response?