On Earth Day Eve, ABC And Huffington Post Call Obama An ‘Indentured Servant’ To The Coal Industry [UPDATED]

Prominent environmentalist and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has long described the Bush administration as “indentured servants” to the oil and coal industry, in particular because “virtually all the principal environmental agencies” were “being operated by lobbyists from the very businesses they’re supposed to regulate.” In a blatant attempt to create a Earth Day conflict between President Obama and the environmental movement, ABC News’ Brian Ross and Joseph Rhee are claiming that RFK Jr.’s attacks on the Bush administration and other coal advocates apply to the Obama administration:

RFK Jr. Blasts Obama as ‘Indentured Servant’ to Coal Industry
“Clean coal is a dirty lie,” says environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who calls President Barack Obama and other politicians who commit taxpayer money to develop it “indentured servants” of the coal industry.

After ABC News wrote this misleading story, the Huffington Post — where RFK Jr. is a guest blogger — promoted the piece on its Politics and Green channels:

RFK: Politics RFK: Green

In fact, RFK Jr. has never called President Obama an “indentured servant” of the coal industry or anyone else. It is ABC News and the Huffington Post that are making that inflammatory statement, on the eve of Earth Day.

RFK Jr. has called the phrase “clean coal,” one that President Obama uses frequently, a “dirty lie,” in particular because of catastrophically destructive mountaintop removal mining:

The Obama administration, in line with President Obama’s call on the campaign trail to end mountaintop removal, has taken initial steps to restrict the process.

Below follow quotations from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about the “indentured servants” of the coal and oil industry, clearly identifying the likes of “West Virginia Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller,” the Bush White House, “John Stossel or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity,” and industry lobbyists/Bush appointees Steve Griles, Mark Rey, Marianne Horinko, Linda Fisher, and Jeffrey Holmstead:

The coal industry’s indentured servants in the Senate managed to include more than $4.5 billion in benefits for King Coal in the Senate version of the economic stimulus package. West Virginia Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, whose state has been devastated by mountaintop removal coal mining, injected several of the so-called “clean coal” projects into the bill. [RFK Jr. and Brian DeMelle, 1/30/09]

So it’s the mother forest of all North America, and that’s why it’s the most diverse and abundant temperate forest in the world. Because it’s the longest living. And today, these mining companies with the help of their indentured servants in the White House are doing what those glaciers couldn’t accomplish. What the Pleistocene Ice Age couldn’t accomplish which is to flatten the Appalachian mountains and destroy those forests. [RFK Jr., 12/12/08]

Now we’ve all heard the oil industry and the coal industry and their indentured servants in the political process telling us that global climate stability is a luxury that we can’t afford. That we have to choose now between economic prosperity on the one hand and environmental protection on the other. And that is a false choice. . . . The next time you see John Stossel or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity — these flat-earthers, these corporate toadies, lying to you, lying to the American public, and telling you that global warming doesn’t exist, you send an email to their advertisers and tell them that you are not going to buy their products anymore. [RFK Jr., 7/8/07]

There is nothing wrong with having businesspeople in government. It’s a good thing, if your objective is to recruit competence and expertise. But in all of these cases, these individuals, as I show in my book, have entered government service not to benefit the public interest but rather to subvert the very laws they’re now charged with enforcing — in order to enrich the President’s corporate paymasters. . . The industry and the great big polluters and their indentured servants and our political process have done a great job. And their PR firms and their faulty “biostitutes,” and all these think tanks on Capitol Hill, have done a great job over the past couple of decades of marginalizing the environmental movement, of marginalizing us as radicals, as tree huggers or, as I heard the other day, pagans who worship trees and sacrifice people. But there is nothing radical about the idea of clean air and clean water for our children. [RFK Jr., 9/10/05]

This is why campaign-finance reform is the most critical piece of environmental legislation that can be passed. If you want to run for Senate in a state like New York, you have to raise $25 million. That means you’re raising $10,000 contributions from people. Do you know anybody who can accept $10,000 from somebody and not feel indebted? That’s legalized bribery. If you look at all the major environmental issues here in the West—water, mining, grazing, lumber—it’s all about subsidies. We’re giving huge subsidies to the richest people in our country, and these welfare cowboys have got their indentured servants on Capitol Hill demanding capitalism for the poor while they’re protecting this system of socialism for the rich. . . Today you have a situation where virtually all the principal environmental agencies are being operated by lobbyists from the very businesses they’re supposed to regulate. The head of public lands, Deputy Interior Secretary Steve Griles, is a mining-industry lobbyist who believes public lands are unconstitutional. You have Mark Rey as the head of the Forest Service—a timber-industry lobbyist who’s spent his career trying to destroy environmental rules. In Christie’s agency, the EPA’s second in command, Linda Fisher, is a former lobbyist for Monsanto, the world’s largest developer of genetically modified crops. The head of Superfund, Marianne Horinko, was a consultant for petrochemical conglomerate Koch Industries, one of the worst offenders in the country. The head of the air division, Jeffrey Holmstead, was a lobbyist for the filthiest polluters in the electric industry. [RFK Jr., 11/04]


At the Huffington Post, Josh Nelson notes RFK Jr. actually told ABC News that President Obama was a “great” man:

It’s a sad testament to the impact of campaign contributions, our system and the political clout of this industry that you have very sensible politicians, including great men like Barack Obama, who feel the need to parrot the talking points of this industry that is so destructive to our country.

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,ABC News has posted a transcript of their RFK Jr. interview, in which he says he believes Obama feels he is “indebted” to the coal industry:

ROSS: So what’s going on here then with these extensive campaigns and all the candidates in the presidential election last year endorsing this?

KENNEDY: The coal industry and the carbon industry in general are the largest contributors to the political process. So, you know, you have politicians who have essentially become indentured servants to these, and adopt the talking points of these industries.

. . .

ROSS: Have you seen the commercials they’re running now with President Obama, “Yes, we can” talking about clean coal? What’s your reaction to that?

KENNEDY: Well, again, I think it’s sad when political leaders feel that they are so indebted to these industries that they, and so fearful of them, essentially, that they have to endorse conditions that clearly are wrong.

ROSS: And you say that about President Obama?

KENNEDY: Yeah. Anybody who looks at this understands that the term “clean coal” is a dirty lie.

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