Following a train derailment and the horrifying release of toxic waste into the area of East Palestine, Ohio, there are two stories to highlight: First, the government incompetence from the Biden administration that seemingly allowed this to happen and is now doing too little to fix it.
Second, the media’s complicit silence on the subject. From first ignoring the event entirely to then giving Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg a pass for staying mum about the disaster for days (instead promoting DEI in construction work), few media outlets have been willing to critique the government for its role in all of this.
Instead, how is the New York Times spending its resources? By complaining about right-wing bias, of course. Among precious few stories on the East Palestine incident, the Times dedicated nearly 1,000 words to the debunking of “right-wing” narratives. “‘Chernobyl 2.0’? Ohio Train Derailment Spurs Wild Speculation” reads the headline.
Rather than sympathize with Ohioans who may rightly fear over the safety of their water supply and environment—while local fish and pets are dying—the article takes issue with how Republicans have responded to the disaster.
“But for many commentators from across the political spectrum, the speculation has gone far beyond known facts,” the article, by the Times’ “misinformation and disinformation” reporter, reads. “Right-wing commentators have been particularly critical, using the crisis to sow distrust about government agencies and suggest that the damage could be irreparable.”
The piece then complains that some commentators “warned, without evidence, that vital water reservoirs serving states downriver could be badly contaminated.” The author himself admits that fish in local waterways have been dying. But where on earth would commentators get the idea that the environment might be unsafe? (An Environmental Protection Agency representative disputed this concern at a town meeting, saying “that the chemicals were lethal to fish, not humans, and that the waterways were already repopulating with fish,” per the piece.)
The article further complains that some have “suggested that the authorities, railroad companies, and mainstream news media were purposefully obscuring the full toll of the crisis.” Well, when the accident took place on Feb. 3 and stories about it didn’t start to get traction until about a week and a half later, it might be worth wondering who stands to benefit from a cover-up.
None of this means that the drinking water is certainly unsafe—the Ohio EPA seems to think it’s just fine—or that there’s proof of a government-media cover-up scheme. But neither of these things is out of the realm of possibility. Even Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said as recently as Sunday that residents are “right to be skeptical” about water and air safety. You would think a journalistic institution such as the New York Times would be more interested in asking questions than telling others to stop asking theirs.
When all of this is happening under the Biden administration’s watch, I guess there had to be some way to deflect the blame. Other outlets are echoing the “Republicans pounce” narrative, but even they have to admit that the story hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves and that the government should be doing more. But don’t fall for the misdirection: The real story is about the neglect and incompetence that led to this crisis—and is perpetuating it.