WASHINGTON, D.C., October 26, 2012 — Penn State Professor Michael Mann, creator of the infamous hockey stick reconstruction of climate data, is suing CEI for defamation. In an action filed in DC Superior Court on Monday, he’s going after us, National Review, columnist Mark Steyn, and Rand Simberg, a CEI adjunct who authored a blog post on July 13 that Dr. Mann didn’t like.
Dr. Mann disliked the post because it criticized Penn State’s alleged exoneration of his work in the wake of Climategate, and it originally characterized him as the “Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” who “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and the planet.” We made the editorial decision to remove the Sandusky characterization several days later when, on reconsideration, we decided it was a bit of overheated rhetoric that was editorially inappropriate. Subsequently, in late August, we received a letter from Mann’s attorney demanding a full retraction and apology. At that point, we decided to stand our ground. We also offered Mann the opportunity to respond directly on CEI’s blog. Both Mann’s work and Penn State’s investigation had already been widely criticized, and Rand Simberg’s piece carried documentation for his claim. For example, he quoted MIT Meteorology Professor Richard Lindzen, who called the school’s investigation a “whitewash” and said it was “incapable of monitoring violations of scientific standards of behavior internally.” (Bear in mind that these comments were made in 2010, long before the Freeh report came out on the school’s cover-up of Sandusky.)
One of our attorneys, Bruce D. Brown of Baker Hostetler, expertly laid out the legal arguments against Mann’s defamation claim. In short, Dr. Mann is a public figure, and under libel law he would need to meet an exceedingly high standard to prevail. Given the support that Simberg’s criticisms rest on, that standard simply can’t be met. As for Simberg’s Sandusky metaphor, it was purely that—a metaphor.
Nonetheless, Mann has gone ahead and sued. Mann’s complaint states: “Unsatisfied with their lacerations of his professional reputation, defendants have also maliciously attacked Dr. Mann’s personal reputation with the knowingly false comparison to a child molester.” Having participated for years in the global warming debate, Mann should, by now, have a slightly thicker skin.
So the case will go forward. Mann has declared that his suit is part of a campaign to squelch the debate; to quote his Facebook page: “There is a larger context for this latest development, namely the onslaught of dishonest and libelous attacks that climate scientists have endured for years by dishonest front groups seeking to discredit the case for concern over climate change. It’s why I wrote my book "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars" … about my experiences as a public figure in the climate change debate ….” He then goes on to plug the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, which presumably is helping to fund his lawsuit. So his “experiences as a public figure” are apparently doing double-duty here—grist for a book, and grist for a lawsuit. That sounds like one sustainable resource.
In any case, we’ve all gotten Mann’s complaint, and now we will defend our First Amendment rights. That will be an expensive and burdensome task. We hope that those who favor open, and sometimes energetic, debate on this and other issues will support us.
To comment on the lawsuit, please visit our Facebook page and Twitter. For press inquiries, contact Brian McNicoll (202.331.2765), Christine Hall (202.331.2258) or Nicole Ciandella (202.331.2773) in CEI's Media Department.
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• To learn more about the science and politics of global warming issues, visit www.globalwarming.org.
• For analysis and comment on the infamous hockey stick, click here.