Chevron Victorious in $8.6 Billion Suit Again, Networks Shamefully Silent

Oil giant Chevron won in court again as a federal appellate court recently upheld a 2014 ruling blocking enforcement of an $8.65 billion claim against the oil company. But just as they did in 2014, the broadcast evening news shows ignored the latest in a decades-old legal fight.

Years earlier, CBS boosted the Ecuadorean battle against Chevron in a segment so biased Columbia Journalism Review’s “The Audit” blasted it for not checking facts. While all three networks should have reported the story, CBS had a greater responsibility given its history of biased coverage of the case.

In 2009, 60 Minutes aired a segment heavily weighted against Chevron by reporter (now anchor) Scott Pelley. That story made attorney Steven Donziger look like a hero helping Ecuadorean tribal people go up against the big, bad oil company. But that wasn’t the whole story.

Amazon Defense Coalition, an “eco-radical” group, was trying to get Chevron to pay $27 billion for environmental clean up Ecuador’s government signed off on more than a decade earlier.

The now infamous 60 Minutes story on the dispute included six anti-Chevron voices versus just one spokeswoman for the company. It also ignored the incredible corruption of the Ecuadorean courts. Pelley’s report also used deceptive video footage – showing not the TexPet (Chevron bought TexPet) sites in question, but the government-run oil pits PetroEcuador was responsible for. 60 Minutes even won an Edward R. Murrow award for that assault on the company.

Evening News at least should have been fair enough to report the 2016 and 2014 court rulings in Chevron’s favor. So far, it has not mentioned the Aug. 8, 2016, appellate court decision affirming the ruling in the 2014 federal racketeering case Chevron filed against lead attorney Donziger.

“On Monday, a panel of three appeals judges sided with Judge Kaplan’s 2014 ruling, finding that he did have the authority under the anti-racketeering statute to bar Mr. Donziger from profiting from the award,” the Journal reported.

Reuters reported that, Circuit Judge Amalya Kearse wrote in the 127-page decision, "Even innocent clients may not benefit from the fraud of their attorney.” Kearse also wrote that there was proof of a “parade of corrupt actions” by Donziger and his team.

All three networks also failed to report the 2014 ruling, when it occurred March 4, 2014.

At that time, Kaplan ruled that Donziger’s 2011 win in Ecuador against Chevron over pollution and clean up was obtained by “fraud and corruption,” The Wall Street Journal reported. The court also barred U.S. enforcement of the lawsuit and ruled Donziger could not profit from it anywhere in the world.

Other media outlets continued to portray Donziger as a hero and Chevron as a villain, in spite of the U.S. District Court ruling earlier the same year.


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Business Coverage Environment Pollution Latin America South America ABC World News Tonight CBS 60 Minutes CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Steven Donziger Scott Pelley
Julia A. Seymour's picture