RESULTS: Nets Shamed into Rediscovering Ohio Train Derailment Fallout After MRC Study

February 15th, 2023 3:23 PM

On Tuesday, NewsBusters reported that the broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC had abandoned the environmental fallout from the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio on their flagship morning and evening shows with zero seconds on ABC and only a minute and 42 seconds on CBS and NBC after an evacuation order was lifted on February 8.

But since the study’s publication and public outcry about the threats posed to the community’s air, food, residents, and water supply, the liberal networks rediscovered the issue Wednesday morning for a combined six minutes and 42 seconds with Tuesday’s CBS Evening News having a 31-second brief.

CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell told of “[g]rowing concern about the toxic followed after that train crashed earlier this month” with “[r]esidents...complaining of sore throats and headaches after chemicals were released during a controlled burn of the derailed train cars.”



She added that “[o]fficials are adamant there is no threat to human life” and they “continue to test the air, water, and soil,” “but Ohio’s Natural Resources Department revealed an estimated 3,500 fish were killed.”

CBS Mornings stayed on the case with a two-minute-and-29-second report. Separately in the show’s “Eye Opener,” co-host Tony Dokoupil teased: “Local residents question the response to a toxic derailment in eastern Ohio as the governor threatens the train company.”

Co-host Gayle King sang a similar tune at the start of the segment, noting “local residents are very reluctant to accept official advice that it’s safe to return home” since “people are complaining about health issues, and there are urgent questions about how their concerns were handled.”

Correspondent Lilia Luciano cited concern from Governor Mike DeWine (R) that while he would return home if he lived there, he wouldn’t be drinking the water.

Luciano continued (click “expand”):

LUCIANO: There have been numerous reports in recent days of respiratory issues, burning eyes, and dead wildlife, including at least 3,500 confirmed dead fish killed by contamination.

OHIO DEPT OF NATURAL RESOURCES DIRECTOR MARY MERTZ: We don't have any evidence of non-aquatic species suffering from the derailment.

LUCIANO: Five of the train cars were carrying vinyl chloride, a highly combustible chemical linked to a higher risk of some kinds of cancers. Crews conducted a controlled release of the carcinogen to reduce the risk of an explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED HEALTH EXPERT: When you have combustion or burning, you create all sorts of different byproducts. It's important to understand to cast a wide net when you're testing because you want to rule out chemicals that could pose an acute health risk or linger around.

LUCIANO: The governor and other officials lifted the town’s evacuation order a week ago after health officials said air quality was back to acceptable levels, and the city's main water supply, they said, was safe. Two days after the evacuation order was lifted, the EPA said three additional hazardous chemicals were found on the derailed train cars.

Worse yet, she said, was the fact that “DeWine revealed that since only 20 of the 150 cars contained hazardous materials, the company, citing federal law, was not required to notify the state of Ohio that the train had toxic chemicals on board.”

ABC’s Good Morning America made a similar return with two minutes and 16 seconds and never made clear they had ignored it since February 8. To illustrate their shamelessness, correspondent Alex Presha replied to co-host Robin Roberts’s statement that “people and animals are feeling the effects” by conceding that, in light of those concerns, “we have moved two towns west of there.”

On February 7, Presha said he and his team were reporting from only one town away.

“[T]here are more questions than answers. This morning, as residents are told it's safe to return home, unanswered questions remain about potential lingering contaminants from the massive fire and hazardous materials,” he added.

After passing along Norfolk Southern’s claim that “with the EPA, it has completed more than 115 in-home air tests and that none have detected any of the substances related to the incident”, Presha shared the reports of “3,500 fish across 12 different species hav[ing] died in Ohio’s waterways and some residents report their cats including cats and chickens have died” with “gas detectors dot[ting] the town.”

Presha also shared that one woman “moved” her kids “to different schools after they complained of headaches and pains following the derailment.”

Finally, NBC’s Today scrapped together two minutes and 16 seconds to insist it still cares about East Palestine. Separately in the tease, co-host Savannah Guthrie described the “growing outrage” with “concerns mounting.”

Co-host Craig Melvin and correspondent Ron Allen had the story. Melvin described the scene as filled with “new concerns” as “residents are sounding the alarm about their health and safety.”

Allen said “[s]tate officials insist they're carefully monitoring and testing the environment...but....there have been reports of residents complaining of health problems like sore throats and headaches” with “pets, farm animals, and wildlife hav[ing] died because of potential contamination.”

He continued (click “expand”): 

ALLEN: Residents worry about what's still in the air, soil and water of their rural community.

CAHTEY REESE: Don't tell me it's safe. Something’s going on if the fish are floating in the creek.

 ALLEN: Ohio officials confirming 3,500 fish died in local waters in the days after the derailment. But insists extensive testing show there's no threat to other wildlife or humans. They say there’s only anecdotal stories of people getting sick and no confirmed connection to the hazardous materials aboard the train.

JAMI COZZA: I definitely have a right to know what was on that train.

ALLEN: Still for the first time state officials suggested residents returning to the evacuation zone use bottled water, especially if they have a private well while testing continues.

Allen closed with a piece of information we haven’t heard on the other networks: “Residents have filed multiple class action lawsuits seeking damages from the rail operator, Norfolk Southern, including free health monitoring and screening. The company said it's paid more than a million dollars in assistance already”.

For his part, Melvin said “we’ll keep an eye on it,” which is something NewsBusters will be certain to track.

To see the relevant transcripts from February 15, click here (for ABC), here (for CBS), and here (for NBC).