Abandoning all journalistic standards, CBS libels Michael Mann based on a YouTube video — while reporting his exoneration!

Once-great network airs charges it knew to be false

“You know you’re in trouble when you’re being spoofed on YouTube.”

So begins one of the most shockingly unprofessional “news stories” you are ever likely to see from a major network that isn’t Fox.

The news organization that gave us Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite now bases its reporting on YouTube videos.  Thursday, CBS libeled climatologist Michael Mann on the basis of nothing more than a jingle someone uploaded to the Web:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Memo to CBS:  Pretty much everybody is spoofed on a YouTube video — including the CBS evening news.  Does that mean that we are all in trouble?  I guess some questions answer themselves.

Yes, CBS actually shows Mann singing:

Makin’ up data the old hard way
Fudgin the numbers day by day

Truly unbelievable.

I generally do not use the word “libel” for media miscoverage of climate science.  But CBS reports in the same story, almost as a throwaway, that an academic panel had just cleared Mann of the exact same “charge” leveled at it by the fact-free video.  Thus, the false charge meets the tough legal standard for determining whether a major media outlet has defamed a public figure — that the publisher had “knowledge that the information was false” or that the information was published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

As CBS knows, the Penn State inquiry found no evidence for allegations against Michael Mann.  He was cleared — once again — on any charges that he had directly or indirectly falsified data in his research.  And remember, unlike  the vast majority of published scientific analyses, which merely go through the scrutiny of peer review, the Hockey Stick graph was essentially vindicated in a thorough examination by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (see NAS Report and here).

And while some published climate analyses which do not stand up under subsequent scrutiny in the scientific literature — mostly the stuff by the anti-science crowd that wasn’t reviewed by people who actually understood climate science — the Hockey Stick has not only withstood scrutiny but seen its conclusions expanded (see Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years and Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, ‘seminal’ study finds [figure below]).


We have blown past the temperatures of the past two millenia.  That’s why climatologist and one-time darling of the contrarians Ken Caldeira said last year, “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.”

Bottom line, CBS’s broadcast charges against Mann it knew to be false.  It is recklessly bad and defamatory reporting.

I guess the major media outlets feel they have no choice to hold on to their dwindling audience by going tabloid like the Washington Post has.   Eli Rabett is hopping mad over this too and has translated a post from the German that ends:

Meanwhile, something is happening, which is typical for the media: the law of the series. If a bug in the IPCC reports shows up, then the reader will be fascinated by a series of mistakes. Therefore, bad journalists (the rule) are always happy to report the Himalayan glaciers error as the second breakdown in climate science, (IPCC is just too boring to write, better throw it all in one bag) after covering the stolen emails from the Climate Research Unit, although the two events have nothing to do with each other. Strange when stealing from someone is described as a scandal of those stolen from and curiously, journalists cannot distinguish CRU, IPCC and climate research from each other- such a lack of selectivity might be forgiven for Betty Blueyes and Johann Six-Pack, but not in the media. And so, after Emailgate and Himalayagate (in the sense of Watergate, that is somewhat like comparing a tax increase to the 3rd Reich) now we have Hurricangate and Amazonasgate.

One simply can’t keep up with all of the trash allegations being thrown at climate scientists these days in the hope that someone in the traditional media will be suckered into rerunning them.  But I’ll deal with the debunking of Amazongate this week.

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23 Responses to Abandoning all journalistic standards, CBS libels Michael Mann based on a YouTube video — while reporting his exoneration!

  1. Zan says:

    I think you are right, Joe. I think it is indeed about holding onto an audience.

  2. Leif says:

    I would like to go on record by telling the CBS News that they have indeed lost this individual as a audience. I gave them 10 years of viewer-ship. I rarely glance there way any more. If they insist on pandering to the T-Bag mentality I see no restitution in sight.

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    Traditional media is under crushing economic pressure, enough to make them desperate for readers and viewers. As we’re seeing, more and more outlets are willingly assuming the position of arms merchants. They don’t care which side is right or wrong, they merely want to draw as many eyeballs as possible to the fight. More eyeballs = more advertisers = they get to live another quarter. And they all, no doubt, try to justify their actions by saying they’re being “fair and balanced” or “giving everyone a chance to speak on the issue”, etc.

    But for CBS to go down this road is particularly disgusting…

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    The media are being irresponsible and intellectually stupid — that is, they make mistakes in “thinking” all over the place.

    They should read some great books on the influence of culture and human sociality on human thinking and behavior (a great one is “not by genes alone”, by Richerson and Boyd), read some quotes by Mark Twain on related matters, re-read George Orwell (but pay attention this time), listen carefully to talks by Edward R. Murrow and etc., and carefully consider THEIR OWN ROLE in public misunderstanding and in fueling controversies that are only continuing controversies largely BECAUSE the media continue to cover them.

    The media are doing REAL DAMAGE, and it’s time to keep track. Of course, the science of climate change tells us it’s a problem. But, or and, at the same time, the sciences associated with how humans understand things (or don’t), and with the influence of media, when combined with the actual historical record of what the media have and haven’t done, will show (quite clearly) that the media were, and are, part of the problem. That’s a conclusion that media owners and reporters today will soon need to face, and that’s not going to be comfortable.

    I wouldn’t want to be a reporter or newscaster these days, unless I was doing a heck of a great job that I would be able to credibly defend in a year or two. After all, written reports are part of the historic record, and newscasts are also recorded, so it will be easy to point out CLEAR PROBLEMS in the not-too-distant future.



  5. Russell Swan says:

    From Dr. Jeff Masters’ blog over at

    Corporate profits vs. corporate social responsibility
    I’m sure I’ve left the impression that I disapprove of what the Manufactured Doubt industry is doing. On the contrary, I believe that for the most part, the corporations involved have little choice under the law but to protect their profits by pursuing Manufactured Doubt campaigns, as long as they are legal. The law in all 50 U.S. states has a provision similar to Maine’s section 716, “The directors and officers of a corporation shall exercise their powers and discharge their duties with a view to the interest of the corporation and of the shareholders”. There is no clause at the end that adds, “…but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public safety, the communities in which the corporation operates, or the dignity of employees”. The law makes a company’s board of directors legally liable for “breach of fiduciary responsibility” if they knowingly manage a company in a way that reduces profits. Shareholders can and have sued companies for being overly socially responsible, and not paying enough attention to the bottom line. We can reward corporations that are managed in a socially responsible way with our business and give them incentives to act thusly, but there are limits to how far Corporate Socially Responsibility (CSR) can go. For example, car manufacturer Henry Ford was successfully sued by stockholders in 1919 for raising the minimum wage of his workers to $5 per day. The courts declared that, while Ford’s humanitarian sentiments about his employees were nice, his business existed to make profits for its stockholders.

  6. fj2 says:

    All those beautiful car commercials along pristine country roads and the large media revenue streams . . . and, the occasional important phone call.

    So, what’s so wrong about a touch of libel or a dash of treason?

  7. Bill Waterhouse says:

    The CBS video is hard to watch and certainly undermines reporting of real science. CBS executives should be profoundly ashamed. The IPCC has published tens of thousands of pages – not surprising a few mistakes crept in. But it’s not like the climate scientists made a huge mistake like all the economists and pundits who failed to forecast the melt down of our bubble economy and the resulting deep recession.

  8. espiritwater says:

    Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed. They are so numerous, have so much money to throw at twisting the facts around, it’s very discouraging. Almost makes you want to throw up the towel and walk away. How can a supposedly legitimate, family news channel be so dense, evil, or whatever?

  9. Bob Wright says:

    I think you’re being a little over sensitive. Its an article on PR and the skeptics, not the science, and CBS clearly stated both Mann specifically and global warming science in general have been vindicated. My take was Mann is “in trouble”, but not really, its just cool to be a creative denier.

    [JR: If this were you or your family, you wouldn’t think this defamation was inconsequential.]

    Secondly, this was one short piece. Fox News pounds you with this trivia day after day, and it is NOT fair or balanced.

    [JR: But that’s precisely why this piece is so outrageous — it wasn’t on Fox. And CBS hardly covers the story.]

    Speaking of Chinese temperature statistics, today they released 2009 being by far the warmest year ever recorded on the Tibetan plateau.

  10. David B. Benson says:


  11. Robert Nagle says:

    Here is why this newsclip is so bad. It doesn’t assert anything! “The scientists would appear to be…..” “the scientists may still believe” but “the damage may have already been done.” Has it been done or hasn’t it?

    “The allegation is…” (anything could follow after this phrase, and CBS would have no accountability).

    “Trust was already undermined…” wait. Who is undermining that trust? Is this undermining well-founded?

    “East-Anglia emails which seem to show that inconvenient facts were being hidden…” So do these emails show it or not?

    “It’s a frustrating time for those who claim that global warming” (because? is it because MSM is failing it?)

    If you saw this clip without any actual knowledge of the issues, you would think that the issue merely involves a youtube video that makes fun of a scientist, and scientists with odd beliefs who feel slighted by it.

    I recommend the Charlie Brooker meta-analysis of MSM media. (He’s the Stephen Colbert of UK). One of the most caustic deconstructions I’ve seen.

  12. PSU Grad says:

    I realize and respect that many on this blog may not have any religious beliefs, but I’d ask you to bear with me. Because this morning a passage simply hit me like a 2 x 4. It begins with Isaiah chapter 6 verse 9 (yes, Old Testament):

    And he said, “Go and say to this people:
    ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
    keep looking, but do not understand.’
    Make the mind of this people dull,
    and stop their ears,
    and shut their eyes,
    so that they may not look with their eyes,
    and listen with their ears,
    and comprehend with their minds,
    and turn and be healed.”
    Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said:
    “Until cities lie waste
    without inhabitant,
    and houses without people,
    and the land is utterly desolate;
    until the Lord sends everyone far away,
    and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.

    You get the idea. Again, it’s not my desire to offend or proselytize or anything close to that. The passage simply spoke to me. Loudly.

  13. mike roddy says:

    The Post and CBS, along with the New York Times (Tierney “Lab”), have choked, and are just digging their own graves. They emulate Fox’s model, thinking they can fire science reporters and hire bimbo newscasters and Glenn Beck types for “commentary”.

    This will drive serious and educated media consumers to internet media and blogs. The MSM audience will shrink, as the American Idol and HeeHaw viewers, while numerous, are not influential, and are shrinking. And even they will notice where thoughtful people go for news.

  14. Hugh says:

    Joe ~

    How about a post by a top lawyer specializing in libel law? I would love to see a summary of just how the American system works, and a clear explanation of just what it would take to successfully prosecute a libel or slander case. Are the targets of libel/slander limited to individuals, or are institutions included? Is it illegal in the US to deliberately spread “false news”? (Unfortunately, in Canada it is not.)

    If it turns out that the cost of prosecuting a case is typically just too horrendous, you might follow-up with an online survey, asking your readers whether, and to what degree, they would be willing to contribute to a war chest in support of a solid test case . . .

    If, as blog #5 suggests, corporations’ first responsibility is to their shareholders, perhaps a few stiff libel settlements would help them re-calibrate their corporate interests.

  15. espiritwater says:

    Thanks, PSU Grad, that’s a powerful passage.

    The other night I was looking up the word, “Corporation” just for fun-to see what number it would come out to (I know a little about Numerology). Right away, I spotted 666 and it was evenly spread out over the word. I went ahead and added up the other letters, just to see (not expecting much). It came out to: 666 + 9. You add the 6+9=15 which is then reduced to 6 (1+5=6). You add that 6 to the other two and it comes out to: 666. I don’t have a Bible handy. Do you know what that means? (I think it’s supposed to be pretty bad!)

  16. Eli Rabett says:

    Masters is wrong. Publicly traded companies have an obligation to truthfully disclose all negative and positive factors affecting their business. This was one of the things that eventually nailed the tobacco companies.

  17. Ron Broberg says:

    @PSU Grad:


    And thanks.

  18. caerbannog says:

    A little sleuthin’ is goin’ over at the Rabett burrow:

    Here’s hoping that something will turn up that lifts Phil Jones’ spirits.

  19. Leif says:

    Russel Swan, #5: Great post: I conclude that the long term survivability of humanity if it is more expensive, which it will surely be, is in direct competition with corporate interests and therefore is charged to deceive as the least cost option. Good grief. We have indeed created a “Robot” with a license to kill.

    I would love to see a court case, (Hell it could even be theater or a movie and make some money. It would not matter. In some respects theater or movie would be better. More people might see it.) 21st century Scopes Trial. Science and Humanity verses Capitalism and Corporations. The media would go bonkers! For sure they could in the Movie!

    All the rest of you folks, great posts as well.

  20. lgcarey says:

    @PSU Grad – good for the Isaiah quote. I have some academic background in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka Old Testament) and the social similarities between current day events and the situation of the prophets makes for very uncomfortable reading of both the news and the OT prophets.

  21. fj2 says:

    also @PSU grad,

    I too believe in magic but, that of magicians where when when the trick is understood it is usually quite simple; and, anti-magic where when you look close enough at anything it is really quite interesting, impossibly complex, beautiful, amazing . . .

  22. dhogaza says:

    Masters is wrong. Publicly traded companies have an obligation to truthfully disclose all negative and positive factors affecting their business. This was one of the things that eventually nailed the tobacco companies.

    Disclosure, yes, but that’s not Master’s point. His point is in regard to operations, and yes, it is true that state laws emphasize that the fiduciary duty of the board and officers requires them to focus on the bottom line.

  23. Doug Bostrom says:

    Eli Rabett says: February 7, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    “Masters is wrong. Publicly traded companies have an obligation to truthfully disclose all negative and positive factors affecting their business. This was one of the things that eventually nailed the tobacco companies.”

    Lie by omission, or commission? Or avoid that choice by doing both? What a dilemma. Seems as though it would be much easier and less stressful simply to change jobs.