by Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, New York City’s flagship public television station, WNET, has dropped the richest man in New York, carbon pollution billionaire David Koch, from its board of trustees. Days before the monthly board meeting on May 16, Koch’s name was removed from the WNET website. Koch had been a board member since 2006. Koch has been funding WNET since 1986.
The severance of Koch’s longstanding relationship with WNET — which not only serves the New York City area but also produces national programs such as Charlie Rose, Nature, and Great Performances — comes at a time of increasing tension between Koch’s anti-regulatory, climate-polluting industrial empire and the educational mission of public television.
The inherent conflict between Koch’s conspiratorial, anti-science ideology and the public interest with has come under attention in recent months. After Superstorm Sandy struck, WNET’s Charlie Rose and Bill Moyers ran shows on the tragic consequences and threat of greenhouse pollution for the New York region. More recently, reports of Koch Industries’ interest in the newspaper holdings of the Tribune Company have spurred nationwide protests.
Koch also was featured in the November 2012 PBS documentary Park Avenue, which contrasted the extreme wealth of Koch’s residence at 740 Park Avenue with the stark poverty less than a mile north in East Harlem. In the documentary, a former doorman noted that Koch, with a net worth of about $45 billion, gives only $50 holiday tips.
On May 16, the evening after Koch left the WNET board, the station ran a major live town hall on Superstorm Sandy. Broadcasting from New Jersey and New York City, the NY/NJ/Long Island affiliates under WNET management broadcast a two-hour show that talked repeatedly about the major threat posed by climate change in rising sea levels and more frequent storms of increased intensity — threats which Koch’s Cato Institute denies.
In anticipation of today’s piece on the Kochs in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer, Koch Industries issued a conspiratorial rant accusing her of running a “left-leaning” “smear” campaign, in coordination with “MSNBC, ThinkProgress, The New York Times, NPR, The Nation, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and more”: