President Obama had previously told Vox in an interview that the media “overstates” the terrorism threat while understating the threat of climate change.
Vox asked Obama, “Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?”
The president responded in the interview released this week: “Absolutely. And I don’t blame the media for that. What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that’s the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs. … And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.”
Yesterday in an White House briefing, spokesman Josh Earnest doubled down on Obama’s remarks in an exchange with Jonathan Karl, when he asked for clarification.
KARL: [The president] was asked if the media overstate the level of alarm people should have about terrorism, as opposed to longer-term problems of climate change and epidemic disease. He said absolutely. So, let me just clarify. Is the president saying, as he seems to be implying here, that the threat of climate change is greater than the threat of terrorism?
EARNEST: I think, Jon, the point that the president is making is that there are many more people on — on an annual basis who have to confront the impact — the direct impact on their lives — of climate change, or on the spread of a disease, than on terrorism.
KARL: So, the answer is yes? The president thinks that climate change…
KARL: … is a greater threat than terrorism?
EARNEST: … I think the — the point that the president is making is that when you’re talking about the direct daily impact of these kind of challenges on the daily lives of Americans, particularly Americans living in this country, that that direct impact is more — that more people are directly affected by those things than by terrorism.
KARL: So — so, climate change is more of a clear and present danger to the United States than terrorism?
EARNEST: Well, I think even the Department of Defense has spoken to the significant threat that climate change poses to our national security interests. Principally because of the impact that it can have on countries with less well developed infrastructure than we have.
KARL: I’m not asking if it’s a significant, but I’m asking if it’s a greater threat.
EARNEST: Well, again, I — I wouldn’t have a whole lot more to say about what the president has said in that interview.