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‘Death Cloud’ Could Kill Millions of Americans Who Live in Oil Refinery ‘Kill Zones,’ ABC Frets
By Alex Fitzsimmons | February 25, 2011
What do oil refineries and rental cars have in common? They will probably kill you, at least according to ABC’s Brian Ross.
Ross is either bored with his job or just doesn’t seem to care about frightening his viewers with exaggerated reports. But either way, ABC’s chief investigative correspondent is breathing new life into the term yellow journalism.
Those who are familiar with Ross’s work might notice an emerging pattern of sensationalism. The latest case studies concern oil refineries in Texas, which Ross’s colleague described as the “toxic threat next door,” and rental cars, which Ross himself cautioned are like “a consumer’s version of Russian roulette.”
The former report, appearing on the February 24 “Nightline,” focused on a CITGO oil refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas that uses hydrofluoric acid in the refining process. This chemical, Ross warned, has made “fear” a “fact of life” for residents of the local community.
An apocalyptic Ross foretold the end times: “An unchecked release of the hydrofluoric acid, as seen in this test film, creating a kind of death cloud that swept across the Nevada desert.”
Ross interviewed government scientists who spelled out the life-threatening effects of hydrofluoric acid and a few residents who “keep a bag packed at the door, ready to flee” if the aforementioned “death cloud” ever creeps up on them, but he only spoke with one source who supported the refinery and accused the oil industry of not taking safety seriously.
“You would admit it’s not a good safety record?” asked Ross, interviewing Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, even though Drevna made no such statement.
Ross parroted unnamed “officials” who claim that only “luck” has prevented the ominous “death cloud” from engulfing Corpus Christi: “Can you really rely on luck to protect the American public?”
Drevna retorted that the industry relies on “technology,” not luck, to ensure safety, but Ross would not let the facts get in the way of a good story: “Hardly reassuring words for the people of Corpus Christi who hear the sirens all day and all night, wondering if this is the day their luck will run out.”
Residents of Corpus Christi are not the only people who should fear for their lives. Ross cited a study by the Center for Public Integrity, a liberal group, to fret that “16 million unsuspecting Americans [live] in potential kill zones.”
That’s right, Ross implied that millions of “unsuspecting” Americans live in areas that could be swept up in a “death cloud” at any moment.
If the story of the boy who cried wolf has a moral, it has been lost on Ross, who frequently hyperbolizes the findings of his “investigations,” often to paint a depressing picture of the future.
In 2005, Ross sensationally hyped the epidemic potential of bird flu: “It could kill a billion people worldwide, make ghost towns out of parts of major cities, and there is not enough medicine to fight it. It is called the avian flu.”
Fast forward to August 2009, when Ross drew a ludicrous connection between health care town hall protesters and racist hate groups, quoting Mark Potok of the left wing Souther Poverty Law Center: “I think that the president has, in effect, triggered fears among a fairly large numbers [sic] of white people in this country that they are somehow losing their country.”
On January 18, 2010, Ross bizarrely asserted that U.S. soldiers were “endangered” by “secret Jesus codes” scrawled on rifles used in Afghanistan.
And just this morning, on “Good Morning America,” Ross somberly proclaimed that “renting a car may be a consumer’s version of Russian roulette.”
Apparently convinced that death lurks behind every corner, Ross has yet to file a “Nightline” investigation into the threat posed by his own shadow (that’s called hyperbole).