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Environment

Inhofe Attacking Journalists (Again)

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJuly 24, 2006 1:00 PM

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In my book, The Republican War on Science, I noted that James Inhofe in a 2003 speech had included a "harsh attack on science blogger and journalist David Appell." The phrase "sheer lunacy" was used. You can see for yourself here. (Why I'm defending Appell I don't know, as he hasn't been particularly kind to me lately, but whatever, he's part of the tribe.) Anyway, now Inhofe and his staff are at it again, with attacks on two very respected science writers, Seth Borenstein of the AP and Andy Revkin of the New York Times. Much of this has been reported in Greenwire, for which you unfortunately need a subscription. Anyway, the criticisms are seriously weak: Borenstein wrote a completely fair story saying that most experts found Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth to be generally accurate. Well, they did. There's no point whining about it. As for Revkin, the criticism is that he wrote a book (!):

In recent interviews, Marc Morano, communications director for Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), listed the Times' reporter, Andy Revkin, among journalists who have tied their personal and professional reputations to the catastrophic effects of global warming. Morano said Revkin's new children's book, "The North Pole Was Here," leaves readers with the impression climate change is occuring at a rapid rate and predisposes the newspaper and author to write hyped-up stories in the future about global warming. "The title alone implies climate alarmism," said Morano, who added that he has not read Revkin's book.

Revkin's reply, emailed to me, shows just what a flimsy critique this is:

I doubt there's a current account of Arctic climate change out there as true to the science and as spin-free and scare-free as The North Pole Was Here. It is, in every way, an extension of the journalism I've been doing on climate for 20 years, journalism that has been consistently lauded by people on all sides of the climate debate for its accuracy and fairness. With this book, the first on climate change written for everyone 10 and up (a range that includes all elected officials), I'm simply broadening my audience to include the next generation -- which is a vital and under-served part of any discourse on this century-scale issue. My reporting has consistently let the science lead the way. Readers can judge for themselves by exploring www.nytimes.com/learning/globalwarming, where they can find the first chapter of the pole book and links to many of my climate stories and my multimedia work from three recent Arctic trips. As for the book being commercial, well, just the process of selling newspapers in the United States, where the media are not controlled by the government, is implicitly commercial. So which way would Marc and the senator prefer to have it -- state-controlled 'neutral' coverage of this important issue or fair and accurate free-market coverage? By the standard they have set, everyone from John Stossel and Bill O'Reilly to Anderson Cooper and Bob Woodward should close up shop and cover, say, knitting every time a new book is out.

I agree: This standard that is being suggested basically rules out journalistic book writing, because all journalists tie their "personal and professional reputations" to the content of their books (and most even expect to sell a few copies). Furthermore, I have read Revkin's book and interviewed him about it, and I actually find that his statements about climate change science and policy err on the side of caution and conservatism, rather than alarmism....

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