USA Today Lends Helping Hand to Battered "ClimateGate" Scientist

Four months after "ClimateGate" exposed top climate scientists trying to manipulate data and suppress dissent, USA Today has brought forth a front-page feature article that seems aimed at rehabilitating one of those exposed by the scandal, Penn State professor Michael Mann (pictured at right).

Reporter Brian Winter fretted how "the setbacks have contributed to a growing skepticism of climate science in the USA," and noted a "fundamental shift" by the environmental left (Winter refers to them merely as "environmentalists") in an effort to "try to win back an increasingly skeptical American public."

And in its Thursday, March 11 "Cover Story," USA Today aided that PR effort, repeatedly quoting Mann and a bevy of other climate alarmists at length, all insisting that there should be no doubts about the merits of their scientific claims:

EXAMPLE 1: "In a rare extended interview, Mann acknowledges 'minor' errors but says he has been bewildered by the criticism - including a deluge of correspondence sent to his Pennsylvania State University office that, he says, occasionally has turned ugly.

"'I've developed a thick skin,' Mann says. 'Frankly, I'm more worried that these people are succeeding in creating doubt in the minds of the public, when there really shouldn't be any.'"

EXAMPLE 2: "Despite the mistakes, Mann says the core argument - that the Earth is warming, humans are at least partly responsible, and disaster may wait unless action is taken - remains intact.

"'I look at it like this: Let's say that you're in your car, you open up the owner's manual, and you discover a typo on page 225. Does that mean you stop driving the car? Of course not. Those are the kind of errors we're talking about here,' Mann says. 'Nothing has fundamentally changed.'"

EXAMPLE 3: "Carol Browner, the White House's director on climate and energy policy, says there are 'thousands and thousands' of scientists whose work provides evidence of global warming. She told USA TODAY that, based on her frequent visits to Capitol Hill, recent questions over science have not changed a single vote in Congress on climate change legislation.

"'It's easy to misuse these isolated reports of problems to suggest that the science behind global warming is somehow wrong,' Browner says."

EXAMPLE 4: "Tim Wirth, a former U.S. senator who is now president of the United Nations Foundation, defends the IPCC, stating it has an annual budget of 'only' about $3 million and relies almost entirely on volunteers to produce and fact-check its content....

"'It's not a fair fight,' Wirth says. 'The IPCC is just a tiny secretariat next to this giant denier machine.'"

EXAMPLE 5: "[Mann] says he has been exasperated by the way some politicians, including Inhofe, have portrayed this winter's snowstorms on the East Coast as undermining the case for global warming, while largely ignoring a recent announcement from NASA that the previous decade was the warmest on record.

Citing climate data, Mann says 'there's a better than 50-50 chance' that 2010 will be the hottest year ever. That, more than any political statement, could refocus the debate, he says.

"'If we don't act on this, it's not a failure of science,' Mann says. 'It's our failure as a civilization to deal with the problem.'"

Overall, Winter devoted 23 paragraphs to the views of Mann and his allies, vs. just six paragraphs quoting those from the other side of the debate, a nearly four-to-one disparity.

And, in spite of the fact that Mann was one of the principal authors of "ClimateGate" e-mails that revealed a conniving attitude toward silencing critics and massaging the data, Winter played Mann as a victim "who suddenly found himelf in the middle of 'ClimateGate'" - his e-mails "obtained illegally by hackers" and leading to "violent threats" against the climate scientist:

"The violent threats are not what bother Michael Mann the most. He's used to them.

"Instead, it's the fact that his life's work - the effort to stop global warming - has been under siege since last fall. That's when Mann suddenly found himself in the middle of the so-called 'climategate' scandal, in which more than 1,000 e-mails among top climate scientists - including Mann - were obtained illegally by hackers and published on the Internet."

For much more detail on USA Today's helping hand to the environmental fringe, check out Noel Sheppard's article on the same subject at the MRC's blog,

- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.