'Superstar' Knut: No Longer Media's Poster Bear for Warming Dangers

Maybe he'll fare better than other aging child stars, but for now, he's something of an embarrassment. Cute and cuddly sold climate panic. Predatory and perilous does not.

Two years ago on March 23, Knut the polar bear cub who was saved by zookeepers debuted at the Berlin Zoo.

According to "Good Morning America," "he was one of the biggest stars in the world." Knut was "big business" for the zoo, but also for environmentalists and their global warming alarmist agenda.

But now that Knut isn't so cuddly, but is in fact a "killing machine" the media and alarmists have shifted the spotlight away from him.

Initially, Knut morphed into a celebrity and a tool to spread awareness of global warming. Vanity Fair put Knut on the cover of the May 2007 "Green Issue" along with climate change combatant, Leonardo DiCaprio. That same issue attacked Rush Limbaugh for enabling "environmental destruction," and warned that "almost every move you make affects the health of the planet."

In late April 2007, Turtle Pond Publications announced it would publish a book, featuring Knut, focusing on diminishing polar bear habitats due to global warming.

Craig Hatkoff of Turtle Pond said in an interview with Belinda Goldsmith of Reuters in 2007, "Knut has come along at a time when the environment is front and center of everyone's agenda and he stands out as an environmental icon that can reach young and old."

"We are hoping that a little polar bear can help the world de-polarize the complex issues ... and to raise awareness of the issues in the global climate debate," Hatkoff said.

Other polar bears also made the cover of Time magazine and network newscasts and were used to persuade the public of the dangers of climate change. CBS's Scott Pelley even warned that polar bears "may be headed toward extinction," during a Jan. 20, 2008 global warming special. Pelley is that network's alarmist-in-chief who once compared global warming skeptics to Holocaust deniers.

A photo of a supposedly "stranded" polar bear appeared in the London Daily Mail, The New York Times and many other newspapers in early 2007. The Daily Mail wrote, "They [polar bears] cling precariously to the top of what is left of the ice floe, their fragile grip the perfect symbol of the tragedy of global warming." News media outlets panicked that vanishing ice was leaving the friendly bears to a death by drowning. In the end, it turned out to be a hoax that was exposed on "Media Watch" an Australian ABC show.

Even at five months old, the magazine Der Spiegel lamented that Knut was already "less cute" and "is gradually mutating from a fluffy porridge-lapping cub into a heavy bruiser with a penchant for meat off the bone." At a year old, London's Daily Mail described the bear as a "killing machine" with "fearsome fangs."

Now the former "superstar" cub in his "terrible twos" is no longer the poster animal for warming and Knut is earning far less attention from the alarmist media. A Nexis search of the three networks found the last story about Knut aired Dec. 7, 2008.

In December, 2008, Associated Press reported that Knut may have to find a new home if the zoo cannot build a new enclosure for the 440 pound bear. That "appears virtually impossible due to lack of space," AP said. "With Knut likely on the way out, the zoo is keeping his birthday low-key."

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.