Media Matters: The greatest science "scandal" "in the history of man" predictably falls apart


In their never-ending quest to prove that they understand the intricacies of climate science better than actual climate scientists, conservative media figures routinely promote any ridiculous "evidence" they think undermines the scientific consensus about climate change.

This is a group that repeatedly points to snowstorms in February as proof that global warming is not real; claims that CO2 can't be a pollutant because "we breathe" it; and ignores actual temperature data to baselessly claim that the Earth is really "cooling."

Last year, conservative climate change skeptics, in the words of Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel, thought they had found a "gold mine." Conservative media figures seized on emails stolen from climate scientists and proceeded to completely distort their contents. As we pointed out repeatedly at the time, this "scandal" relied on outrageous misrepresentations of the stolen emails and did not in any way undermine the scientific consensus about climate change.

Nevertheless, conservative media figures incessantly hyped the non-scandal with their usual overblown rhetoric:

  • Glenn Beck -- who says he is not a conspiracy theorist, remember -- suggested in the wake of "Climategate" that climate change is a "scam." He also said that if the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report "had been done by Japanese scientists, there is not enough knives on planet Earth for hara-kiri."
  • Noted climatologist Rush Limbaugh, who frequently decries the supposed global warming "hoax," proposed that all of the scientists involved in "Climategate" should be "named and fired, drawn and quartered, or whatever it is."
  • Andrew Breitbart called for "capital punishment" for NASA scientist James Hansen, because "Climategate" was supposedly "high treason."
  • The Washington Times, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Investor's Business Daily, The American Spectator's Robert Stacy McCain, Rich Lowry, Newsmax's James Hirsen, and Michael Ledeen all joined forces to smear the scientific consensus on climate change as a "cult."
  • Fox News' Mike Huckabee explained that "Jesus would be a truthseeker" while discussing the "revelation" that scientists had "cooked" climate change data.

The crew at Fox & Friends spent this year's Earth Day promoting an important cause. No, not encouraging environmental consciousness -- they devoted the show to pushing "Climategate" falsehoods in order to falsely claim that "scientists held back data that discredits theories on global warming." They were joined by Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center, who was there to complain about non-Fox networks "dismiss[ing]" and "ignor[ing]" the story.

Last December, Bozell told Lou Dobbs that "Climategate" is the "biggest scandal in terms of science, finance, and politics ... in the history of man." After Bozell compared the climate science "cover-up" to "the craziness" of Dan Brown's fiction, he actually managed to draw laughter from Dobbs. Unfortunately, contrary to Bozell's suggestion that media outlets ignored the story, numerous non-Fox "Climategate" stories adopted conservatives' dishonest framing of the non-story.

And now for the inevitable conclusion of this manufactured controversy.

As reported by The New York Times' Andrew Revkin -- who, by the way, Rush Limbaugh thinks should "just go kill" himself -- the Independent Climate Change Email Review "cleared climate scientists and administrators" involved in "Climategate" of "malfeasance." This follows several other exonerations of the scientists involved in the phony scandal. In response, Media Matters, joined by numerous progressive and clean energy groups, called on all outlets that reported on the original "Climategate" controversy to set the record straight.

So this leaves us where we were before the "Climategate" freakout: There is still overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the theory of global warming.

And once again conservative media proved that they don't hesitate to rely on blatant distortions, outright falsehoods, and a complete disregard for reality to advance their political causes.

Mainstream media outlets would be doing everyone a service if they remembered that the next time they decide to report on whatever Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fox News, and the perpetual conservative outrage machine are yelling about.

Conservatives' phony scandal of the week: The Obama Justice Department and the New Black Panther Party

While we're on the subject of manufactured scandals that respectable media outlets shouldn't take seriously, Fox News and its friends in the conservative echo chamber spent much of the week promoting phony, trumped-up allegations against the Justice Department.

In short, conservative media outlets have been aggressively promoting the charge by GOP activist J. Christian Adams that President Obama's Justice Department engaged in racially charged "corruption" when it partially dismissed a case against members of the New Black Panther Party for allegedly engaging in voter intimidation outside of a Philadelphia polling center on Election Day in 2008.

As we have documented extensively, Adams should not be trusted. He is a long-time right-wing activist with extensive ties to the Bush-era politicization of the Justice Department. Adams himself has admitted that he lacks first-hand knowledge to support his accusations. Additionally, Adams' charge that the DOJ's action in the New Black Panther case shows unprecedented, racially motivated corruption is undermined by the fact that the Obama DOJ obtained judgment against one of the defendants, and that the Bush DOJ declined to pursue similar allegations against a group of Minutemen -- one of whom was carrying a gun -- in 2006.

Even the Republican vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called the New Black Panthers case "very small potatoes" and said an investigation into the DOJ's decision is full of "overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges."

And yet again, the fact that this is a completely manufactured scandal didn't stop conservative media figures from engaging in one of their time-honored traditions: attempting to obscure their own problems with race by accusing others of racism.

Radio host Jim Quinn -- who once told "race-baiting" African-American "ingrates" to "get on your knees" and "kiss the American dirt" because slavery brought them to the U.S. -- hyped the New Black Panther story by calling the civil rights community "race-baiting poverty pimps."

Rush Limbaugh -- who earlier this week announced that if Obama wasn't black he'd be a "tour guide in Honolulu" and claimed Obama is using the office of the presidency to seek "payback" for the country's history of racism -- forwarded Adams' charge that the case was dropped because of racially charged corruption.

Beck, who infamously called President Obama a "racist" with a "deep seated hatred for white people or the white culture," declared that the Obama administration is "full" of "people that will excuse" the "hatred" of the New Black Panthers. He also relied on falsehoods to try to connect Obama to the New Black Panthers, and claimed today that the New Black Panthers are part of Obama's "army of thugs."

Of course, the New Black Panthers are a fringe hate group, and only a cynical race-baiter like Glenn Beck would claim they are somehow part of Barack Obama's imaginary "army of thugs."

But I'm sure they appreciate all of the publicity, courtesy of Glenn Beck and Fox News.

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This week also marked the launch of Beck's latest attempt to grab money from "educate" his audience: Beck University.

As Beck described it, the online Beck University is an "academic program" that would be a "unique experience bringing together experts in the fields of religion, American history, and economics." At the outset of the first "course" -- Faith 101, with frequent Beck guest/promoter of historical misinformation David Barton -- Beck announced that viewers "will learn more in the next hour than you've probably learned in your entire life about American history."

Laughable hyperbole aside, as we pointed out this week, Glenn Beck is uniquely unqualified to found a university, considering he regularly traffics in bizarre conspiracy theories, distortions, and downright falsehoods on a wide variety of subjects.

The day after the first "course" at Beck University, Beck stood in front of his blackboard and labeled various historical figures "heros" or "villians."

And lastly, by my count, between his TV show last night and his radio program today, Beck launched no fewer than four baseless charges that, by his standards, should get him fired.

This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Media Matters' Ben Dimiero.

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