L. Gordon Crovitz falsely claimed in a Wall Street Journal column that Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, told BBC that "there was more warming in the medieval period, before today's allegedly man-made effects," when in fact Jones said the available data does not establish this claim. Moreover, Crovitz falsely claimed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "has backed away from" its 2007 statement that up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rainforests are highly sensitive to reductions in rainfall; in fact, IPCC stands by the statement, which is supported by peer-reviewed science despite the incomplete citation in the IPCC report.
Serial health care reform misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that, under the Senate health care reform bill, "for the first time in history, government officials are given power over how doctors treat privately insured patients." In fact, through criminal law -- including the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act -- federal drug laws, and other methods, states and the federal government currently regulate the relationship between doctors and patients, privately insured or not.
In a February 14 post, the climate scientists at RealClimate.org addressed the media coverage of recent allegations that errors in the IPCC's 2007 report discredit the UN panel and undermine climate science:
To those familiar with the science and the IPCC's work, the current media discussion is in large part simply absurd and surreal. Journalists who have never even peeked into the IPCC report are now outraged that one wrong number appears on page 493 of Volume 2. We've met TV teams coming to film a report on the IPCC reports' errors, who were astonished when they held one of the heavy volumes in hand, having never even seen it. They told us frankly that they had no way to make their own judgment; they could only report what they were being told about it. And there are well-organized lobby forces with proper PR skills that make sure these journalists are being told the "right" story. That explains why some media stories about what is supposedly said in the IPCC reports can easily be falsified simply by opening the report and reading. Unfortunately, as a broad-based volunteer effort with only minimal organizational structure the IPCC is not in a good position to rapidly counter misinformation.
One near-universal meme of the media stories on the Himalaya mistake was that this was "one of the most central predictions of the IPCC" - apparently in order to make the error look more serious than it was. However, this prediction does not appear in any of the IPCC Summaries for Policy Makers, nor in the Synthesis Report (which at least partly explains why it went unnoticed for years). None of the media reports that we saw properly explained that Volume 1 (which is where projections of physical climate changes belong) has an extensive and entirely valid discussion of glacier loss.
What apparently has happened is that interested quarters, after the Himalyan glacier story broke, have sifted through the IPCC volumes with a fine-toothed comb, hoping to find more embarrassing errors. They have actually found precious little, but the little they did find was promptly hyped into Seagate, Africagate, Amazongate and so on. This has some similarity to the CRU email theft, where precious little was discovered from among thousands of emails, but a few sentences were plucked out of context, deliberately misinterpreted (like "hide the decline") and then hyped into "Climategate".
As lucidly analysed by Tim Holmes, there appear to be a few active leaders of this misinformation parade in the media. Jonathan Leake is carrying the ball on this, but his stories contain multiple errors, misrepresentations and misquotes. There also is a sizeable contingent of me-too journalism that is simply repeating the stories but not taking the time to form a well-founded view on the topics. Typically they report on various "allegations", such as these against the IPCC, similar to reporting that the CRU email hack lead to "allegations of data manipulation". Technically it isn't even wrong that there were such allegations. But isn't it the responsibility of the media to actually investigate whether allegations have any merit before they decide to repeat them?
Overall then, the IPCC assessment reports reflect the state of scientific knowledge very well. There have been a few isolated errors, and these have been acknowledged and corrected. What is seriously amiss is something else: the public perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm. All of these various "gates" - Climategate, Amazongate, Seagate, Africagate, etc., do not represent scandals of the IPCC or of climate science. Rather, they are the embarrassing battle-cries of a media scandal, in which a few journalists have misled the public with grossly overblown or entirely fabricated pseudogates, and many others have naively and willingly followed along without seeing through the scam. It is not up to us as climate scientists to clear up this mess - it is up to the media world itself to put this right again, e.g. by publishing proper analysis pieces like the one of Tim Holmes and by issuing formal corrections of their mistaken reporting. We will follow with great interest whether the media world has the professional and moral integrity to correct its own errors.
The RealClimate scientists single out the British media, but as Media Matters has repeatedly shown, American media outlets are more than willing to forgo serious evaluation of false and misleading claims about climate science. Indeed, today the Wall Street Journal editorial board asserted that IPCC's reports "are sloppy political documents intended to drive the climate lobby's regulatory agenda." To support this claim, the Journal cited "news that an IPCC claim that global warming could destroy 40% of the Amazon was based on a report by an environmental pressure group." The editorial further stated:
Take the rain forest claim. In its 2007 report, the IPCC wrote that "up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state."
But as Jonathan Leake of London's Sunday Times reported last month, those claims were based on a report from the World Wildlife Fund, which in turn had fundamentally misrepresented a study in the journal Nature. The Nature study, Mr. Leake writes, "did not assess rainfall but in fact looked at the impact on the forest of human activity such as logging and burning."
In fact, as the RealClimate scientists explain in their post, the IPCC's statement on the sensitivity of much of the Amazonian forests is supported by peer-reviewed studies. And Daniel Nepstad, the author of several of these studies has stated that "the IPCC statement on the Amazon was correct," a fact that never had a chance with readers of the Journal editorial. The IPCC citation was incomplete, but the "rain forest claim" itself was correct. This is the kind of information that a responsible media would provide.
RealClimate.org offers a rundown of "errors -and supposed errors" alleged to have been included in the IPCC report. It is required reading for journalists and media figures covering this issue.
From Chapter 1 of Peter Robinson's interview with News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch: [emphasis added]
ROBINSON: David Carr, writing in the New York Times. Carr says that Robert Thomson, the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, and Gerard Baker, the deputy managing editor, quote, "The two men have had a big impact on the paper's Washington coverage, adopting a more conservative tone and editing and headlining articles to reflect chronic skepticism of the current administration," closed quote. Fair?
MURDOCH: I don't think it's become conservative, maybe a little more -- a little more balanced. I -- if you read into every story very carefully, it certainly hasn't become conservative. Were there, in the past, a few correspondents there who had a bit of a left-wing tinge or what in the way they covered stories? Yes, probably.
ROBINSON: Can I -- according to the Gallup organization, 20 percent of Americans call themselves liberals. Forty percent call themselves conservative. I think we can accept, given the various polls that have been done through the years, the various newsroom surveys, that overwhelmingly newspapers in this country are dominated by editors and reporters who are liberal. Why shouldn't the Wall Street Journal be quite straightforward about saying we intend to be a newspaper for the rest of Americans, and incidentally that market is twice as large? Or is there a danger in being explicit about it? How do you think that through?
MURDOCH: No, we want to be objective as one can be and as fair as one can be. And we think the rest of the press is monolithically very often unfair. But you forgot to mention the 40 percent of Americans who call themselves independents.
MURDOCH: Now they're the people who don't like either party. They're not about to join the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. This country is, I say, vaguely center right in mood. And if you look at me and a few people, you might say we're a little bit more right than that. But the paper, I don't think is. There's no question that the editorial writers, the opinion writers at the back of the paper of the front section are consistently -- take a pretty conservative attitude. They never endorse candidates, but they look very skeptically at big government and what's going on in Washington.
Conservative media outlets have used recent winter storms in Washington, DC, as an excuse to forward attacks against former Vice President Al Gore and climate science. In fact, winter snow on the east coast of the United States does not disprove the scientific consensus that global warming is real.
The right-wing media narrative that the Obama administration endangered security by giving Miranda rights to alleged attempted Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is falling apart. Contrary to claims based on unnamed sources in the right-wing media, Obama administration officials agree that Abdulmutallab gave valuable intelligence during his first interrogation and that Abdulmutallab has begun divulging intelligence again.
Numerous conservative media outlets have criticized President Obama's plan to hold a bipartisan health care summit "to go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward," by attacking the summit as a "dog and pony" show or a "PR stunt" before the event has even occurred. Additionally, some have urged Republicans not to participate.
In a February 3 statement on the House floor, Rep. Barney Frank responded to false claims that circulated in the right-wing media that he had planned to introduce a bill on universal voter registration.
Media Matters for America documented how the claim originated with Wall Street Journal writer John Fund and spread to other right-wing media figures and outlets, including The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.
In his floor statement, Frank recounted how the falsehood spread through the right-wing media: "It begins with a lie from this editorial writer from The Wall Street Journal. It is then a lie repeated by all of his right-wing colleagues."
In concluding his remarks, Frank stated: "I hope people will take from this the lesson to be very skeptical when these right-wing propagandists - Limbaugh, Beck, or The Washington Times, or The Wall Street Journal editorial board -- propagate these vicious smears."
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, foreign policy journal editor Mackubin Thomas Owens argued against repealing a ban on gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military by claiming it would "undermine the nonsexual bonding essential to unit cohesion"; Family Research Council senior fellow Peter Sprigg made a similar claim during the February 2 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball. But those claims are heavily undermined by the fact that other countries allow gay men and lesbians to serve in the military and have not experienced issues with "cohesion."
In a February 1 editorial, the Wall Street Journal claimed that the U.S. corporate tax rate is 35%, which "is among the highest in the world," ignoring the effective corporate tax rate, which is lower in the United States than it is in several other countries.
A January 29 Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that President Obama's remark during the State of the Union address about how he believed the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC could "open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections" is "false." But, in fact, Obama's comments echo what four of the Supreme Court justices wrote in their opinion -- that the decision "would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans" to make certain election-related expenditures.
A Wall Street Journal editorial asserted that Obama "re-pitched the health bill now in Congress with the same contradiction-covers more people but saves money too-that all but the most devoted partisans long ago dismissed as unbelievable." However the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the health care reform bills passed by both the House and the Senate would reduce federal deficits through 2019 and beyond.
A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that "current White House chief economist Christina Romer has done economic research showing the superiority of tax cutting over spending as fiscal stimulus," presumably referring to a March 2007 paper by Christina and David Romer, who found that "tax changes have very large effects on output." However, contrary to the Journal's claim, the Romers' paper did not compare the impact of tax changes on output to the impact of spending.
Ignoring Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates showing health care reform will reduce deficits, a Wall Street Journal editorial asserted that President Obama should "[d]rop the health-care bill" if Democrats "really are serious" about fiscal responsibility. The editorial further attributed all of the fiscal year 2009 spending to Obama, but the increases in spending and the deficit also reflect the impact of policies enacted under former President Bush.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch has stated that News Corp. "can set an example" and "reach our audiences" when it comes to fighting climate change, promising in 2007 to make all of News Corp.'s operations carbon neutral by 2010 and most recently commissioning pollster Frank Luntz to conduct a survey that reportedly studied the most effective way to communicate with voters on climate change. However, media figures at his news outlets, including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, have routinely advanced false and misleading claims in denying climate change.