The Washington Post

Fox issues clarification to report on drones

Fox News Channel on Monday issued an on-air “clarification” to an earlier report that said, incorrectly, that the Environmental Protection Agency was using unmanned drone aircraft to spy on Midwest farmers.

“We identified and discussed the aircraft as being unmanned drones,” Fox’s Megyn Kelly told viewers after 2 p.m. “In fact, the EPA is flying these missions and taking pictures from manned aircraft. We apologize for the confusion.”

That earlier report from Kelly, on June 5, played a role in the propagation of a falsehood: that the EPA was watching for pollution violations with the same menacing technology used to hunt terrorist overseas. The same information was repeated by conservative Web sites, and by four different congressmen.

In fact, the EPA uses small, manned airplanes for its pollution surveys, as part of a program that goes back more than a decade. It does not use drones.

Kelly’s June 5 report was mentioned Sunday in a Washington Post article that traced the drone rumor’s spread.

“Republican lawmakers demanding answers today after learning the Environmental Protection Agency has been using aerial spy drones for years to spy on cattle ranchers,” Kelly said then. “These are the same drones we use to track down al-Qaeda terrorists, flying over Nebraska and Iowa.”

Other outlets that published false information have since corrected the record, including the New American, PJMedia, and the Daily Caller. For its part, Fox had reported the correct details about the drones on June 10 and June 14. Last week, Fox had issued a correction for another broadcast by Kelly, which had also mentioned EPA drones.

David A. Fahrenthold covers Congress for the Washington Post. He has been at the Post since 2000, and previously covered (in order) the D.C. police, New England, and the environment.


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