As Supporters Jump Ship, Heartland Institute Stands By Its Widely Condemned Anti-Science Hate Speech

The right-wing Heartland Institute launched an “experiment” Friday, comparing believers in climate change to infamous figures such as Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Charles Manson, and Osama bin Laden. After 24 hours, the group pulled down its Chicago billboard but made no attempt to apologize for or retract its stunt.

Even worse, the image of the billboard is still on their website along with some of the most extremist hate-speech ever seen from a global warming denial group — including this absurd assertion, “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

Now, Heartland is seeing the fall-out: After the latest outcry, the leading drink company Diageo, which owns brands like Smirnoff, Guinness, and Johnnie Walker, told The Guardian it will end its ties to Heartland:

DIAGEO SPOKESPERSON: “Diageo vigorously opposes climate scepticism and our actions are proof of this. Diageo’s only association with the Heartland Institute was limited to a small contribution made two years ago specifically related to an excise tax issue. Diageo has no plans to work with the Heartland Institute in the future.

A few months ago, ThinkProgress reported on Heartland’s corporate-funded plan to teach climate denialism in schools. At the time, Diageo said it “vigorously” opposed climate skepticism and it would “be reviewing any further association with this organization.” Diageo contributed $10,000 to Heartland in 2010. Diageo joins corporations including General Motors and AT&T that have recently ended its funding to Heartland’s radical agenda.

UPDATE: ClimateWire (subs. req’d) reports this morning:

The Heartland Institute’s failed billboard campaign attacking the existence of climate change is driving a surge of corporate donors to abandon the group and prompting a mutiny among its Washington-based staff, which is decamping for less volatile surroundings, according to sources.

At the center of the retreat is a contingent of insurance companies and trade groups that donated more than $1 million over the last two years to the libertarian group’s Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate in Washington, D.C., for programs related to federal insurance reform….

“It was disgusting. It was revolting,” Brad Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, said of the ad in an interview over the weekend. “It was a terrible mistake.”

Insurers express ‘disgust and shock’

His group, which donated $125,000 to Heartland over the last two years, told the libertarian president of Heartland, Joe Bast, that their relationship is “untenable” in a letter Friday evening.

Other insurers are also cutting ties in a major upheaval that coincides, sources say, with the departure of Eli Lehrer from Heartland’s Washington-based center, known by its acronym, FIRE. Lehrer and his staff were shocked by the billboard campaign, which they learned about in an emailed press release from Heartland headquarters Thursday, said Ray Lehmann, deputy director of the center….

“All of the insurers and reinsurers that funded Eli are either in the process of withdrawing funding from Heartland or are considering doing so,” said the source, who asked not be identified. “I think everybody’s reaction [to the billboard] was one of disgust and shock. It was the last straw for everybody.”

How radioactive has Heartland become? Consider one invited speaker to their forthcoming conference, Donna Laframboise, a Canadian climate denier who has spent the last several months launching an absurd attack on the IPCC [see Fox Scraping the Barrel for Attacks on UN Climate Panel (or, You Have Got To Be F*!$*%@&! Kidding Me)]. She just published a piece, “Why I Won’t Be Speaking at the Heartland Conference,” writing:

Instead, those of us who had accepted Heartland’s invitation to take part in its conference found ourselves blindsided – a mere two weeks before the conference is set to begin – by a torrent of negative press. Suddenly, we were all publicly linked to an organization that thinks it’s OK to equate people concerned about climate change with psychopaths.

As economist Ross McKitrick said in an a strongly-worded letter to Heartland yesterday:

You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers.


Well here’s the problem. My name – and the name of my book – is currently on the same page of the Heartland website where the above quote appears. Without prior knowledge or informed consent, my work has been aggressively associated with this odious ad campaign.

Forget disappointment. In my view, my reputation has been harmed. And the Heartland thinks it has nothing to apologize for.

And this from a woman so far out of the mainstream that, in the same piece, she compares the work of the distinguished Nobel-prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to that of a “pathological liar.”

Yes, Heartland’s hate speech, which they apparently still stand by, is so far beyond the pale that it harms the reputation of an extremist like Laframboise.

As Climate Central put it:  “Heartland Institute Jumps the Shark.”

UPDATE: Forbes has a great piece on Heartland and “serial Heartland apologist Anthony Watts.”

Finally, the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent reported:

Congressman Sensenbrenner will not participate in the upcoming Climate Change Conference if the Heartland Institute decides to continue this ad campaign. We have contacted the Heartland Institute and voiced these same concerns to them.

Well, it’s running the ad on its website along with the original hate speech. So will Sensenbrenner still attend?

NOTE: ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents attributed to the Heartland Institute and sent to us from an anonymous and then unknown source. The source later revealed himself. The AP worked to independently verify the documents and concluded, “The federal consultant working on the classroom curriculum, the former TV weatherman, a Chicago elected official who campaigns against hidden local debt and two corporate donors all confirmed to the AP that the sections in the document that pertained to them were accurate. No one the AP contacted said the budget or fundraising documents mentioning them were incorrect.” Heartland Institute has issued several press releases on the documents. See also “CAPAF General Counsel Responds To Heartland Institute.”

33 Responses to As Supporters Jump Ship, Heartland Institute Stands By Its Widely Condemned Anti-Science Hate Speech

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    All of the right wing “think tanks” are into climate change denial- CEI, API, Heritage, Cato, etc. The drumbeat of scientific studies showing that global warming is progressing much faster than predicted is making them look increasingly ridiculous. Heartland is little worse or different from the rest of them, since there is a fine line between Lord Monckton and Richard Lindzen.

    The billboard campaign only shows them for what they really are- a pact of convenience among the looney right wing, sunset industry contributors, and slick PR firms like Burston Marsteller and Tim Phillips’ AFP. This alliance of convenience was always doomed, since volcanic emotions and an obsession with money do not make for a clean outcome.

    Heartland and the others have yet to be panned by MSM, and they are treated with a straight face. Their denier fests would make for a great show on cable, but station owners are afraid of them. This has to change. Advertisers dropping out is a good start. Let’s see if firms like Diageo are willing to spread the word to others.

  2. James Cloud says:

    Is condemning the voter’s children to a death by CO2 going to attract any votes still?
    -Obama who has not mentioned the crisis in two state of the unions.
    -Occupy does not support climate change (bankster carbon trading stock markets run by corps).
    -Canada voted in a climate change denying government to a majority and then dumped K2Kyoto.
    -There are dozens of climate change protesters and millions in the global scientific community who refuse to join them.
    In Rachel Carson’s time the scientist was the enemy who poisoned the planet with their pesticides and if you still think condemning billions to the greenhouse gas ovens will change the minds of the “Liberal” former climate change majority, you are the new denier.
    If libs don’t back off and or renounce the CO2 mistake, it will be their Iraq War.

  3. Davis Straub says:

    I sent an email to my local State Farm Representative yesterday asking her to send it to corporate asking for State Farm to withdraw any funding for the Heartland Institute. I also put it up on their Facebook page.

  4. Bryson Brown says:

    What mistake are you talking about? The one where liberals believe what climate scientists, the peer-reviewed science and leading scientific associations world wide say about CO2 (it is a Tyndall gas) and its impact on earth’s climate? Somehow calling that a mistake sounds like a serious mistake to me– in fact, it sounds positively delusional.

  5. David Goldstein says:

    A bit of a strange question I realize…can anyone tell me what Chicago area billboard company put up the Heartland ad? I would like to contact them ASAP.

  6. David F. says:

    Nothing much to say about the Heartland campaign other than it’s despicable and highly offensive. Can’t believe even some of these hardened deniers would attempt to rationalize it. I’d feel the same way if this blog would run an ad linking deniers to mass murderers, such as Anders Breivik, who have promoted climate skepticism. Just a highly inappropriate and senseless analogy.

  7. Chris says:

    On the bright side this just shows how desperate they have become. Hopefully like the boyfriend who leaves hundreds of messages asking “Will you please take me back???” the public will realize they are nuts and move on.

  8. Lore says:

    Sounds like double talk to me. By your estimation ignoring the problem will somehow make it go away and liberals will save their rightious place in the universe by abdicating responsibility to the future as big corporations and their toadies like youself would have it.

  9. Makan says:

    James, your rant ignores the facts of rising air temps, rising sea temps, melting glaciers and sheet ice, ocean acidification, rising CO2-e etc, etc.

    If deniers don’t back off and renounce their blind ignorance, they’ll be left in the dust of history.

    2012 will see the issue back in the media. Obama has signalled that it will be part of his platform, and NYT has a front cover article. U.S. polling shows increased concern.

    Carbon pricing is being implemented at an increasing rate around the world … Australia, South Korea, Mexico.

  10. Jay Alt says:

    Assume for a moment they thought it through. That it’s deliberate and not a blunder. Crazy I know but we should consider all.

    The scandal could gain MSM attention during their upcoming, little-noticed Chicago meeting. Condemnation won’t cut off funds since billionaires galore can(do) pay them on the sly. (And they show how “reasonable” they are by taking down the sign. For now.) We know the overall anti-environmental movement produces story lines for at all demographics. Throw poo at a wall and some of it sticks. This will resonate with a few people. I saw the claim on a chat group, without any attribution, prior to reading it here. (The poster was a grad school engineer who does cellulosic biofuel research!)

    Heartland could be promoting a new theme. Claim those who want to stop AGW are ‘bad people.’ Claim falsely that cutting fossil fuels hurts the poor and disadvantaged. Others groups could promote that theme as the countermovement’s ‘moral high ground.’ Heritage, by boldly seizing the Nut-Job fringe allows the others to sound reasonable. If it is a blunder, they could still try and salvage something that way.

    The problem with that idea is (I realize now), why sacrifice credibility among allies? They could send the same message through their network talking heads, internet ala Morano and ghost websites.
    Perhaps Fox News requires that such an outrageous tale to originate elsewhere to justify coverage. Nothing there as yet, but they could be waiting for the dust to settle, getting feedback from reading Whatts_Up and the other lie-nurseries.

    Other ideas?

  11. Joe Romm says:

    They were so far from reality that this leap beyond the fringe was just a baby step.

  12. jyyh says:

    It appears people of Heartland rather listen to “murderers, tyrants, and madmen” than scientists. It’s kind of weird the companies want to be associated with people who respect “murderers, tyrants, and madmen” better than scientists. But your known by the company you keep or how did the proverb go.

  13. Anne van der Bom says:

    First the harmless protesters being equated to “Hitler Jugend” by Monckton, now this.

  14. Jay,

    I agree with Joe. These guys are just nuts. They’re part of the whole right-wing echo chamber that’s been getting progressively crazier as the years go by. They speak their own language, make up and believe their own facts, and reinforce each other’s alt reality with their own alt reality, spiraling ever downward.

    There is little cunning or calculation here (other than a propensity for lying, justified in the name of the “cause”).

    They’re sadly amusing, but also scary. And, unfortunately, they serve the interests of some much scarier, truly calculating people.

  15. Anne van der Bom says:

    Occupy does not support climate change

    Of course they don’t support climate change. Neither do I. Neither should you. Climate change is a bad thing, independent of the question what causes it.

    But if you’re suggesting ‘Occupy’ doesn’t want action to fight climate change, then:

    “The destruction of our planet and climate change are almost at a point of no return.”


    Canada voted in a climate change denying government

    “Canada recognizes that climate change is a global challenge requiring a global solution.”


  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You’re onto something. These richly financed Rightwing sheltered workshops are cunning, unscrupulous and have the best expertise in the black arts of PR manipulation. This excrescence will be regurgitated by the Dunning-Krugerites. It need only appear for a day. It pushes the envelop of demonisation of environmentalists a little further into the realm of rank hatred, which motivates the Right, who run on hate. I’m pretty certain that soon we will see ‘false flag’ ‘terrorist outrages’, directed against the infrastructure of the fossil fuel death machine, say blowing up a pipeline or something similar, and then this particular exercise in rabid vilification will seem like a testimonial.

  17. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    We need to change our past tenses back into the present. The sign is back up along the inbound Eisenhower Crawlway this morning.

    And to clarify, the Eisenhower is not an “Expressway” so much as it’s a testament to a suburban sprawl resulting from the Levitt Bros. creation of suburbia shortly after WWII, and the commuter society we’ve become as a result. Live here, work there, drive between in one of the two family cars. Many commuters bought their houses early in their careers, when “affordable” housing was… further out into suburbia. And now we have what we have… and all the attending problems. An idea for a CP post, perhaps?

  18. Tom L says:

    Nothing like a convenient Reichstag fire to inflame the sheople. See? we told you the greenies were loathsome animals.
    I won’t be surprised.

  19. Dragan Glas says:


    “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

    This may well come to be applied to those who deny human-exacerbated climate change.

    If their efforts to prevent action being taken results in death – through droughts/floods, famine, etc – then history may well call deniers “murderers”.

    Their ideological intransigence and threats to others who disagree with them may well result in their being viewed as “tyrants”.

    And their clinging onto a untenable position on human-exacerbated climate change, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, may well result in their being labelled “madmen”.

    @ Anne Van Der Bom

    Occupy does not support climate change

    Of course they don’t support climate change. Neither do I. Neither should you. Climate change is a bad thing, independent of the question what causes it.

    Climate change is natural – it’s alright.

    The problem is human-exacerbated – or worse, man-made – climate change.

    This is something we need to alleviate, if not prevent altogether.

    Kindest regards,


  20. Jay Alt says:

    I agree, except with the claim they aren’t cunning. They are quite clever. They are political animals who know that a complex assembly of facts can be rendered inert in the face of a good story. Was it an accident they knew Gore’s energy use as he installed renewables? And then chose not to report the benefits that created?

    Example 2. These groups formerly mocked retired UW climatologist Reid Bryson. But then they found a better story. Bryson was a true pioneer of interdisciplinary climate research. I recall that he liked publicity – alot. All through the 60s and 70s he was quoted by reporters about world climate trends. His North American studies (mostly of periods prior to industrial revolution) suggest that the earth was cooling, headed eventually toward another ice age.
    In the 80s and 90s the think tanks mocked him. ala “See how stupid climate scientists are, does it look like we’re in an ice age now?” He retired but kept his thought to himself on IPCC reports, the publicity Hansen was getting.

    Then the fossil fuel guys realized they could use someone of his stature. A lobbiest befriended him and talked up the idea “IPPC wants to stifle true science skepticism.” Bryson gave an interview to a WI electric cooperative magazine. (The questioner’s other job was lobbying and keeping track of all regulations that might impact WI utilities.)
    This source would not be very credible, but it triggered coverage in the Madison newspaper. Voila! Another denier talking point is born.

    They didn’t stubble into that accidently. They figured out what made Bryson tick, worked him a long time, fed his ego and finally got an old man to vent his frustrations.

  21. Robert says:

    The Heartland Website (linked above) now says the “experiment” has ended.

    But the billboard remains.

    I’m thinking a billboard watch is appropiate. Any readers out there in Chicago who can submit periodic updates?

  22. SecularAnimist says:

    Folks, this comment is spam. This same guy has been copying and pasting this exact same nonsensical boilerplate spam about “Liberals” and their “CO2 mistake” on climate change blogs for years. He won’t respond to your questions or comments. He’ll just keep reposting the same incoherent spam.

  23. Chris Winter says:

    “It was disgusting. It was revolting,” Brad Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, said of the ad in an interview over the weekend. “It was a terrible mistake.”

    Calling this “a terrible mistake” implies at least some level of support for Heartland’s program. I hope I’m wrong about that. If anyone would be opposed to that program from the gitgo, I would expect it to be a leader of the reinsurance industry. After all, the ABIR fact sheet (PDF) says:

    ABIR members and other Bermuda (re)insurers play an important role in the US economy:
    * Bermuda’s reinsurers paid nearly 30% of the insured losses from 2005 Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma
    * Bermuda’s reinsurers paid $22 billion to rebuild the US Gulf and Florida coasts from the horrific hurricanes seasons of 2004 and 2005
    * Bermuda’s carriers provide more than 60% of the hurricane reinsurance in Florida and Texas.
    * Bermuda’s carriers provide up to one third of US crop reinsurance in key states

  24. SecularAnimist says:

    The most striking thing about the Heartland billboards is what they tell us about what Heartland thinks of its audience.

    Who is Heartland targeting with these public billboards — who would respond favorably to such billboards?

    Stupid, ignorant and hateful people. That’s who.

    Which means that Heartland believes its audience consists of stupid, ignorant and hateful people.

  25. Mugsy says:

    If I had the money, I’d place a nice big photo THE POPE over the people these wingers use in their obscene ads.

  26. Coinspinner says:

    Hmm, well then. Looks like it’s boycott time. Dang these would be fun even if they weren’t so crazy effective.

    Someone please post a list of corporations that work with this insane bunch of people.

    Let’s get it on!

  27. John McClellan says:

    Apology is not in their lexicon. They simply don’t do introspection. They are compelled by their DNA to double down on mistakes and invent outlandish justifications for their actions. Morality does not obtain. It’s only about what they can get away with.

  28. Calamity Jean says:

    Thanks for the warning. I hadn’t seen this turkey before.

  29. Bryson Brown says:

    Happily, they seem to be finding the limits of what they can get away with, without at least incurring some serious losses.

  30. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And they are certainly correct. The level of real rage being deliberately fomented by the Rightwing hate media, directed at environmentalists, in this country is beginning to look truly sinister.

  31. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Perhaps we should paraphrase Andy Warhol, ‘Life is what you can get away with’.

  32. Chris Winter says:

    A sidelight I find interesting: Apparently Joe Bast was involved in a hostile takeover attempt of tiny Shimer College in Illinois, in 2010. The college community rallied and repulsed the attempt.

    The first link also sheds light on who Heartland’s anonymous donor may be.

  33. Sime says:

    Until the American public decide on mass that enough is enough, and that you will no longer tollerate being lied too and treated like idiots then these individuals will continue to behave like this.

    They will only stop when you the American public decide it is time to “Take out the trash” and sort this out once and for all.

    The rest of the world simply does not have time to wait for your politicians to grow up and stop behaving like three year olds.