PBS and Global Warming Skeptics' Lockout

I've repeatedly asked politicians, policymakers, and mainstream media journalists to explain to me why we need greenhouse gas regulation when skeptic scientists' climate assessments indicate that it's a pointless action to stop a natural phenomenon.  You'd think at least the journalists would directly answer my questions about their articles' claims of a scientific consensus, acid oceans, and who corroborated a singular accusation that fossil fuel industries conspire with skeptic scientists to fool the public.  Each time, I got evasive replies instead.

Rush Limbaugh will probably howl at me for expecting the MSM to accurately report both sides of the issue, but my incessant inquiries reveal that one news outlet, PBS' NewsHour, appears unable to clearly state why skeptic scientists' viewpoints aren't worth considering.

Its national affairs editor, Murrey Jacobson, has now sidestepped my questions three times in a row about why his program excluded skeptic scientists since 1996, first via a private 12/7/09 e-mail forwarded to me after numerous inquiries to the PBS ombudsman.  Having received Jacobson's permission to quote it publicly only days ago, I placed it word-for-word here, for all to see.  Back when I got it in 2009, I suggested to the ombudsman that it should be public, which resulted in Jacobson's different but equally evasive public response that I linked to in the first paragraph of my 12/19/09 piece, "The Lack of Climate Skeptics on PBS's 'NewsHour.'"  He sidestepped my questions for the third time in his 6/20/11 e-mail, seen verbatim here.

Jacobson's defense essentially boils down to a "belief" that skeptics are far outnumbered, and an insistence that the NewsHour's coverage "has reflected the trajectory of the data while offering differing perspectives on these issues."  I'll point out that those are perspectives on solving the human-created problem.

After seeing Robert (aka "Robin") MacNeil repeat Jim Lehrer's "personal guidelines he works by as a journalist," I stopped waiting for Jacobson and tried to get answers from the top man himself, via snail-mail directly to Lehrer.  If Jacobson's responses are troublesome, Lehrer's is a jaw-dropper -- scroll down the page if you can't wait to see it. But first, my literal word-for-word letter is here (I had to spell out my web links), now as an open letter:

May 18th, 2011

Dear Mr Lehrer,

I wanted to respond to what Robin MacNeil said about your 'stealth exit from the NewsHour' May 13th. As a NewsHour viewer since sometime in the late '70s, you might find it amusing that as recently as a few years ago, I was still occasionally calling your show the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" despite Robin's long-ago departure. No offense to the commercial news broadcasts, but when John Chancellor retired from NBC, the NewsHour became my sole source of properly done news and analysis of current political events. I particularly appreciated the two-side analysis approach on Middle East affairs, US / Soviet relations, and US political developments, as I reasoned the solutions to such problems lay somewhere in the middle, and could decide for myself just where that middle ground was.

No doubt this is what you mean in your MacNeil/Lehrer journalism guideline about "assume there is at least one other side or version to every story."

Now for my journalism concern, which may be something you are not fully aware of:  I firmly believe this guideline was never applied to the story of man-caused global warming at the NewsHour. Correct me if I am wrong, no skeptic scientists have ever appeared on the program in debate with IPCC scientists. I've done my own extensive online research at the NewsHour archive pages, going as far back as they allow, to 1996, and I also do not see any as guests offering their basic science viewpoints, while substantial amounts of time were given to multiple-repeat IPCC scientist guests like Michael Oppenheimer, Stephen Schneider, and Kevin Trenberth, along with others offering detailed explanations on conclusions about man-caused global warming.

My worry is that you or your staff relied on reasons to exclude skeptic scientists from former Boston Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan, who was described by Al Gore as the Pulitzer-winning discoverer of 'smoking gun' evidence showing skeptic scientists received fossil fuel industry money in exchange for fabricated climate assessments that were only intended to confuse the public. My fear is that nobody at the NewsHour ever checked the veracity of Gelbspan's claims or myriad other problems with his assertions:

  • Gelbspan never won a Pulitzer; surely you'd agree his CYA response about it borders on preposterous -- the Pulitzer group rewards exemplary reporting, not conceiving story ideas, editing, or guiding a reporting staff.
  • Gelbspan did not discover the set of 1991 coal industry PR campaign memos he is so widely credited with doing, where one in particular contains a sentence which is the central bit of evidence in his accusation against skeptic scientists. In fact, he never discloses how those memos came into his hands.
  • Neither Gelbspan nor multiple other reporters who rely on that central accusation sentence ever show the memo in its full context in any book, magazine article, web page, or media presentation. A reading of the actual memo reveals the sentence is out-of-context, and not actually any kind of top-level industry directive (I found the complete memo after seven months of searching for it, at an obscure Greenpeace page of archive scans).
  • Gelbspan's fossil fuel funding accusation is at best guilt-by-association; he never shows irrefutable proof that an exchange of industry money to skeptic scientists prompted false climate assessments.
  • No one else has corroborated Gelbspan's accusation, yet he is relied on as evidence in places ranging from Al Gore's movie to two of the major global warming nuisance lawsuits.
  • The long-repeated idea that the media gives too much balance to skeptic scientists is literally unsupportable. That is proven by the sheer lack of such scientists appearing at the NewsHour or even significant amounts time on the program devoted to skeptics' viewpoints, plus the credibility of a 2004 study by Boykoff & Boykoff supposedly proving the existence of 'too much balance' is critically undermined by their own ties to Gelbspan.

I could go on and on. I've done my own research, and have accumulated a computer notes file of web site pages and keyword phrases copied from those that is over 62,000 words. My concern about the lack of skeptic scientists at the NewsHour has been seen online at the PBS Ombudsman pages several times now. Yes, Murrey Jacobson responded to my question about why no skeptic scientists debated IPCC scientists in the December 17, 2009 Ombudsman page, but it is rather apparent he danced around the question instead of answering it directly.

I did my own reporting on this at the American Thinker web site back in December 2009 in a blog piece titled "The Lack of Climate Skeptics on PBS's 'NewsHour'  http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2009/12/the_lack_of_climate_skeptics_o.html  In a July 2010 American Thinker article, I quantified the sheer imbalance of IPCC side vs skeptic side at the NewsHour and further showed how Margaret Warner appears to have relied on a Gelbspan book quote in her Dec 1997 interview of Western Fuels CEO Fred Palmer, see  "The Left and Its Talking Points"  http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/07/the_left_and_its_talking_point.html  My latest A.T. article details how an ex-WCCO TV anchorman appears to be repeating Gelbspan's 15-year old talking point about 'unfair media balance', and how the lack of fact-checking in this particular situation showcases an ominous sign of things to come for the mainstream media, see "Warmist Mantra Wearing Out" http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/05/warmist_mantra_wearing_out.html  (note: headlines at A.T. are written by its editors)

Do you understand the enormity of this problem, not only for you specifically, but also for all of basic journalism? I'm no journalist, I don't pretend to be one, and I even partially turned back praise by the UK Telegraph's James Delingpole of my research being 'investigative journalism' in my A.T. article "Warmist Slander of Scientific Skeptics" http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/09/warmist_slander_of_scientific.html  I am simply asking tough questions that journalists have surprisingly not asked.

You've had a fabulous career, but the apparent huge contradiction to your own guidelines on this specific topic threatens to put a very black mark on it. I seriously doubt this is deliberate on your part, but is rather a simple oversight that's been made more serious over the years through a self-feeding influx of information supporting only the original oversight.

This is an appearance problem you must face, and either prove me wrong, or acknowledge the problem and address how you intend to fix it. My preference is for you to do so at the PBS Ombudsman page, or better yet, at the NewsHour itself. I have nothing to hide, and would be glad to share all that I've found, if you have questions about any part of it. And, to borrow a point made by one of the more prominent speakers about the skeptic side, Lord Christopher Monckton, "no need to trust what I say, you may look all of this up for yourself."


Russell Cook

 And now, Jim Lehrer's response. He gets "green credits" for using outdated stationery:  


"I hear you on your concerns."  I replied with an 800-word snail-mail letter asking, "What does that mean?" among many other questions.  No response yet.

Evasive, vague answers kept Bernie Madoff's billion-dollar operation alive only until the point where they were no longer tolerated.  In the case of Al Gore and his supporters, they've kept global warming alive not solely with infusions of money like a standard Ponzi scheme, but with constant infusions of media reports saying there is a vast scientific consensus, skeptic scientists are corrupt, and there is no need for journalists to have interviews with skeptics because of the previous two reasons.

What happens to the NewsHour and the other news outlets if we no longer tolerate their evasive, vague answers about not investigating obvious red-flag problems?

Russell Cook's collection of writings on this issue can be seen at "The '96-to-present smear of skeptic scientists," and you can follow him on Twitter at QuestionAGW.