Fox News LA Launches Misleading Hatchet Job on HSR Project
Wow – I’ve seen some biased reporting in my time but this segment that aired on Fox 11 in Southern California last night blows everything else out of the water. The report, a deeply misleading and flawed attack on the high speed rail project, takes as gospel criticisms made by Michael Brady, a longtime HSR opponent, fails to investigate the veracity of the charges, and barely gives any room for anyone else to get a word in. Pour yourself a strong drink before you click play on this:
Everything those reporters learned in j-school got tossed out the window in that segment. Particularly appalling was the way that Brady was given unprecedented airtime (usually quotes from interviewees are much, much shorter on TV news) to spout his claims, which the Fox 11 reporters immediately declare to be true and then start attacking the project on that basis.
The only differing argument they offer is a short quote from California High Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, almost surely a smaller quote from a longer statement the CHSRA gave Fox 11. The rest of the time the reporter and anchor continue to attack the project.
Brady’s claims are all flawed or invalid. First, he is a longtime anti-HSR activist, not a former supporter, as this local news article makes clear. Brady was the one who filed an anti-HSR lawsuit in 2009 claiming that Union Pacific’s permission was needed before doing any work to the Peninsula rail corridor. That lawsuit was thrown out of court by a Sacramento judge in 2010.
But Brady never stopped his legal jihad against the bullet trains, and in late 2011 began claiming that the new “blended plan” and the new business plan were somehow in violation of Prop 1A. That’s the centerpiece of his current lawsuit, the one that Fox 11 simply decided was totally true without doing any independent research to verify the claims.
The core of Brady’s arguments, as summarized by Fox 11, are:
• All rail lines are supposed to be electrified
• Trains supposed to go from L.A. to S.F. in 2 hours 40 minutes
• Without transfers
• All money should be in the bank before building
The problem with these arguments is they’re totally misleading. The CHSRA will be building the project in phases, as was always planned and intended. Prop 1A is written to facilitate building the project in phases.
The Caltrain work on the Peninsula will indeed be electrified. So too will the HSR trains once they begin operating.
Trains will indeed go from LA to SF in 2 hours, 40 minutes, as CHSRA board chairman Dan Richard has verified earlier this year:
Richard has been emphatic that the train will achieve the speeds the law requires. In a presentation in April in Fresno, he said: “Our engineers have told us it will achieve the performance standards the voters insisted on in the ballot measure. And so that means trains that can go from Los Angeles Union Station to the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco in two hours, 40 minutes.”
Brady also says it won’t be a single-seat ride from SF to LA. Initially, a transfer may be required, but that’s only because trains will begin operating before the entire system is finished. That too is allowed in Prop 1A. If the CHSRA were planning to stop there, Brady might have a point. But they’re not, and so Brady is willfully misinterpreting reality.
Finally, yes, the CHSRA will have all the money they need to begin constructing the segment from Bakersfield to Fresno. That too is consistent with Prop 1A, which nowhere says that all the money for the entire SF-LA project has to be in the door before any construction can begin. No transportation project in the country is financed like that; construction usually happens in a rolling process as money comes in the door, one factor in the long amounts of time it can take to build projects and systems.
Brady’s entire lawsuit is predicated on misleading the court and the public that a temporary phase of the project is somehow a permanent phase. It is a dishonest claim that I expect will be thrown out of court just like his last lawsuit.
The difference this time is that Brady now has a major TV station in the state blindly repeating his claims. Fox 11 didn’t always used to traffic in this kind of journalism and I doubt that John Beard would have tolerated it. Of course, Fox 11 fired him in September 2007 so they could stop doing hard news and go more toward baseless fluff, which judging by this report they’ve clearly succeeded at doing.
I’ve heard reports that the national Fox News channel is interested in picking up this story, which would come as no surprise given that it fits their own M.O. so well. Fox News would use this story to attack President Barack Obama, who has strongly supported the California HSR project. If they followed the same path as their LA affiliate, they’d be simply repeating Michael Brady’s misleading and false claims. Which is exactly what I expect them to do. Sigh.