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CNBC vs. NBC: Did Democratic Donor Influence Latest Keystone Delay?

On Friday April 18, the Obama Administration announced yet another delay on whether or not to proceed with the Keystone XL pipeline. The Obama Administration’s decision came in the wake of a new ABC News-Washington Post poll which found 65 percent of Americans support the construction of the pipeline with only 22 percent opposed.

Following the latest delay, NBC mostly ignored the story, giving it a paltry 18-seconds on the Saturday April 19 Today. Keystone was briefly mentioned on Sunday’s Meet the Press during an interview between moderator David Gregory and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL). CNBC’s Squawk Box was the only NBC program to mention that Democratic billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer had pledged $100 million for Democratic candidates on the condition that Keystone not be approved. 

Starting with the announcement on Friday April 18, NBC Nightly News ignored the Keystone delay altogether, In addition, Friday, Sunday and Monday's Today skipped the decision, but both CNBC’s Squawk Box and MSNBC’s Morning Joe did discuss Keystone on Monday April 21.

On Meet the Press, Gregory asked Wasserman-Schultz: "Isn't it true that because the president can't get a big law to combat climate change, he doesn't want to upset those environmentalists who'd really be upset with him if he approved Keystone?" Unfortunately, the NBC host failed to mention that those environmentalists include billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer. 

On Squawk Box, Politico’s Ben White was the only persn to describe the Tom Steyer connection to Keystone:

It is bad for Landrieu, it’s bad for Mark Pryor in Arkansas. I think its net negative for Democratic candidates across the board. But that’s totally outweighed by the $100 million from Tom Steyer. He’s an environmentalist who says look if you approve the Keystone, my money goes away.

And the White House says that they need that money. The Koch brothers are going to spend like crazy, to win the Senate. We need to counter balance that with $100 million from Tom Steyer, whoever else we can get it from.

See relevant transcripts below.

CNBC's Squawk Box

April 21, 2014

6:12 a.m. Eastern

REBECCA QUICK: John why don’t you stick around we’re going to bring in our political panel this morning as well. Ben White is Politico’s chief economic correspondent. He’s also a CNBC contributor. And bestselling author of Carol Roth, who is also a contributor here at CNBC. And folks, welcome to both of you. Ben, your thoughts on this, you heard what John thinks.

BEN WHITE: I'm not sure I agree on Mary Landrieu. I mean her whole case, Democrat from Louisiana facing a tough re-election is that she’s got a lot of influence in Washington, she can help Louisiana. The energy committee, and she's not just displaying that by getting the Keystone pipeline done. I think it's actually probably a net negative for her. I mean, there's some truth to the fact that she can say I'm standing up to my president who is unpopular in Louisiana and I’m for Keystone. But what would really help her in Louisiana would be to get this thing done and be able to say, it was partly due to my influence that we have approved this. It is bad for Landrieu, it’s bad for Mark Pryor in Arkansas. I think its net negative for Democratic candidates across the board. But that’s totally outweighed by the $100 million from Tom Steyer. He’s an environmentalist who says look if you approve the Keystone, my money goes away. And the White House says that they need that money. Thee Koch brothers are going to spend like crazy, to win the Senate. We need to counter balance that with $100 million from Tom Steyer, whoever else we can get it from. They are making the calculation that that's more important than another sort of hit against conservative state Democrats, Landrieu, Pryor. I don't know if they are right about that. I think they may be wrong about it ultimately. Clearly they have made the decision. They can hang one think, there’s one piece of substance. They can say we’re delaying this because in Nebraska the court has said we're going to review the process by which this was approved to go through Nebraska, Keystone. So that doesn't mean the administration couldn't say right now we are for it, but at least it gives them the peg to say, we're unsure what's going to happen. There could be a new route based on what happens in Nebraska. So we'll wait until this court plays its way out. I agree with John, it’s totally politics but at least they have this to hang it to say this is why we are doing it.

 

NBC's Today

April 19, 2014

7:13 a.m. Eastern

JENNA WOLFE: It will be several more months until a decision is made on the highly controversial Keystone pipeline. On Friday the State Department announced it would hold off on making a decision on whether or not to go through the project until after the mid-term elections. The State Department cited legal issues and is giving federal agencies more time to review the project.

— Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Jeffrey Meyer on Twitter.