12 Days of ClimateGate and Network News Programs Are Still Ignoring the Scandal

It's been nearly two weeks since a scandal shook many people's faith in the scientists behind global warming alarmism. The scandal forced the University of East Anglia (UK) to divulge that it threw away raw temperature data and prompted the temporary resignation of Phil Jones of the university's Climate Research Unit.

Despite that resignation and calls by a U.S. senator to investigate the matter, ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news programming has remained silent - not mentioning a word about the scandal since it broke on Nov. 20, even as world leaders including President Barack Obama prepare to meet in Copenhagen, Denmark next week to promote a pact to reduce greenhouse gases.

MRC's President Brent Bozell called the networks' silence a "cover-up" Dec. 2.

Other news outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and Associated Press have deemed ClimateGate worthy of reporting, but the networks were too busy reporting on celebrity car accidents and the killer whale that ate a great white shark. Instead of airing a broadcast news segment that might inform the public about the science scandal, both ABC and CBS relegated the story to their Web sites. There was one mention of the scandal on ABC's Sunday talk show: "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

The ClimateGate scandal, as it is being called, has the hallmarks of a major news story: private emails purporting to show unethical or illegal behavior supplied by a hacker or whistleblower, high profile scientists like James Hansen and Michael Mann, and a potential conspiracy to distort science for political gain. But the networks haven't bothered with the story.

Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist and BMI adviser, said Nov. 20 of the leaked e-mails and documents: "This isn't a smoking gun, it's a mushroom cloud."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responded to a question about ClimateGate by insisting that "global warming is happening" and that for most people it isn't really a question anymore. That is the same message viewers get from the network news about climate change.

An examination of morning and evening news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC since Nov. 20 yielded zero mentions of the scandal, even in the Nov. 25 reports about Obama going to Copenhagen to discuss the need for emissions reductions. But during the same time period, the networks reported on pro-golfer Tiger Woods' "minor" car accident at least 37 times. They also found time to report on an orphaned Moose and the meal selection at the president's State Dinner.

ClimateGate began after someone (hacker or whistleblower) attacked servers of University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and made thousands of e-mails  and documents public. Those e-mails appear to show a conspiracy to falsify temperature data, a willingness to destroy information rather than release it under Freedom of Information (FOI) law and the intimidation of publications willing to publish skeptical articles.

CRU's director Phil Jones admitted real CRU e-mails had been stolen when he told New Zealand's Investigate magazine, "It was a hacker. We were aware of this about three or four days ago that someone had hacked into our system and taken and copied loads of data files and emails." Others argue a whistleblower was responsible for the breach.

One of those alleged e-mails was from Jones to Michael Mann (famous for his hockey stick graph of global warming) and two others appeared to indicate manipulation of scientific data.

Jones wrote: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [Sic] from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

Jones, who contributed to a chapter of the U.N.'s IPCC report, claims the term "trick" was used "colloquially as in a clever thing to do." Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming Policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), supplied his own view of what Jones and Mann meant by hiding the decline.

Ebell wrote in the National Post: "What is the clever method that Prof. Jones learned from Prof. Mann? I think he is referring to the way Prof. Mann constructed his celebrated hockey stick graph. His proxy records showed flat temperatures for the past 1,000 years, including the past century. But everyone knows that temperatures have gone up rapidly in the past few decades ... So what Prof. Mann did was splice the last few decades of surface temperature records onto his proxy record. Voila! - the hockey stick."

The alleged e-mails were enough to force Jones' temporary resignation. On Dec. 1, Associated Press reported that Jones is "stepping down pending an investigation into allegations that he overstated the case for man-made climate change."

Other leaked e-mails asked people to delete e-mails and one said that if information was requested using FOI, it would be deleted rather than turned over:

Alleged e-mail from Jones to Mann Feb. 2, 2005:

"The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? - our does !  The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind."

In Britain, it is a crime to delete information requested under FOI.

You can read the Business & Media Institute's entire assessment of the ClimateGate scandal and the networks' refusal to report it on the BMI Web site.

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