News Channels Ignore D.C. Climate Change Traffic Shutdown

While the protesters sought attention for their cause, networks largely ignored them

Environmental activists block an intersection in Washington, D.C. / Getty Images
• September 24, 2019 3:10 pm


The radical climate change protesters who shut down Washington, D.C., traffic Monday received virtually no coverage on cable and network news outside of Fox News.

An estimated 2,000 activists shut down six D.C. intersections Monday morning, causing delays for the city's bus system and disrupting the morning commute for thousands. But a TVEyes search of terms such as "climate," "environment," "protest," "traffic," "D.C.," and related terms turned up zero mentions of the "#ShutdownDC" climate protest on CNN or CNBC during Monday broadcasts. TVEyes transcripts are inexact and based on automated speech recognition, so it is possible the search service missed an isolated mention of the shutdown.

The traffic shutdown received only two passing mentions on MSNBC. "Today protesters took to the streets of Washington, D.C., demanding action on the heels of Friday's global climate strike," host Ali Velshi said in the 1pm hour, before his co-host Stephanie Ruhle pivoted to Donald Trump briefly appearing at a U.N. climate summit.

MSNBC host Katy Tur also mentioned the traffic shutdown in the 5pm hour, citing it as evidence that climate change is "such a big deal." That mention, alongside references to Pope Francis and 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, was also just a preface to Tur admonishing Trump for leaving the climate summit after 15 minutes.

Conservative media watchdog NewsBusters likewise reported there were zero mentions of the D.C. protest on the "Big Three" networks. Instead, "NBC Nightly News reported on a lost dog being found while both ABC's World News Tonight and CBS gushed about Prince Harry being in Africa," the analysis said.

The protest aimed to "block key infrastructure to stop business-as-usual, bringing the whole city to a gridlocked standstill." Activists halted traffic during the morning rush hour by burning trash in the street, dumping a boat in an intersection, and "twerking" while tossing confetti. Nearly 30 people were arrested in connection to these disturbances.

Fox News devoted 8 segments across 12 hours entirely to the traffic shutdown. Reporter Ellison Barber produced a detailed on-the-ground report of the protest that aired on Fox News's Special Report.

The protest did receive more coverage from reporters on social media, although not all of it was positive. "Not sure blocking K St and screaming ‘we demand a green new deal' is going to get it done," snarked the Washington Post‘s Josh Dawsey on Twitter.