Heartland-Gate Day 5: Green Coalitions Dump Institute, Forbes Slams Anthony Watts of WattsUpWithThat

Conservation Hawks: “We condemn the intellectually bankrupt and morally bereft Heartland Institute.”

It is the fifth day of the Heartland Institute’s online offensive comparing people who accept climate science with serial killers and mass murderers. The billboard is down, but the radical climate deniers of Heartland have explicitly refused to apologize for the ad. Worse, they’ve kept the more offensive hate speech on their website.

Unsurprisingly, corporate sponsors have started to flee, senior staff have left, partnerships have started to crumble, and all but the most extreme anti-science deniers have condemned Heartland. But as we’ll see, the origins of this smear go back many years for both Heartland and its long-time partner, Anthony Watts of the blog WattsUpWithThat.

First, Heartland has been quietly dropped from two significant coalitions with top environmental organizations, Climate Progress has learned. Under pressure from Forecast the Facts and Greenpeace, insurers who funded Heartland’s Washington DC vice president, Eli Lehrer, ceased their support and helped to convince Lehrer to leave the organization. With Lehrer’s departure, the Heartland Institute has been excised from the websites of two green coalitions:

The Smarter Safer Coalition, an effort to reform the National Flood Insurance Program by top insurers, environmental organizations including American Rivers, the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, Ceres, and the Nature Conservancy, alongside conservative groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Conservative Union, and Americans for Tax Reform

The Green Scissors Campaign, an initiative to reduce anti-environmental government spending with Friends of the Earth and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

According to leaked documents, Lehrer brought about $700,000 a year into the Heartland Institute for his Center on Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate, including the majority of Heartland’s corporate funding. The insurers who announced their departure from Heartland include the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, XL Group, Renaissance Re, Allied World Assurance, and State Farm Insurance.

Corporate sponsors of the Heartland Institute who have resisted calls to end their financial support include Microsoft, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Comcast, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Heartland’s seventh climate-denier conference will take place in Chicago in two weeks.  To add your voice to the petition calling on corporations to end support for the Heartland Institute, click here.

I don’t know what is more amazing, truly, that the Heartland organization collectively ever thought this major messaging campaign was a good idea — or that they refuse to apologize or take down any of the absurd attacks on climate scientists and reporters from their website.

Every day, new groups condemn Heartland. Conservation Hawks, Inc., “a group of hunters and anglers working to defend America’s sporting heritage,” released a powerful statement condemning Heartland, which concluded:

If we accept the Heartland Institute’s premise, every single hunter or angler who believes our planet is warming is in league with a serial killer. In Heartland’s own words, “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

This kind of warped, twisted rhetoric is an insult to every American who hopes to pass on a healthy natural world to future generations. When the Heartland Institute ran this ad, it not only took direct aim at our hunting and fishing, it also put our children and grandchildren squarely in the cross-hairs. This dishonest attack must not go unchallenged.

Conservation Hawks is working with America’s hunters and anglers to address the single gravest threat on the horizon – climate change. We condemn the intellectually bankrupt and morally bereft Heartland Institute.

It is worth noting that as beyond-the-pale as Heartland has become, the origins of their smear tactics go way back.

Eli Rabett notes in a post, “Billboards are just repeats of garbage on Heartland’s website“:

They’ve done this before:

July 2006 column by Heartland President and CEO Joseph Bast:

The Inconvenient Truth About Al Gore

….I have difficulty taking Gore seriously on environmental issues ever since it was reported that Ted Kaczynski, the murderous “Unabomber,” kept a heavily marked-up copy of Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, in his tar-paper shack and liberally borrowed from it when writing his anti-humanity treatise. There’s even a Web site ( that offers a quiz to see if you can tell Gore’s words from Kaczynski’s. I bet you can’t.

Was that a cheap shot? Maybe….

The Unabomber also was absolutely sincere in his belief that technological progress was an evil that had to be stopped, with violence if necessary. Fortunately, Kaczynski didn’t have access to the incredible powers of the Presidency of the United States. Unfortunately, Al Gore still aspires to that post.

I’m glad people are taking it seriously, but don’t expect it not to happen again so long as this organization is given the time of day.  There’s a lot at stake, so this repetition of history goes beyond a farce.

And then we have long-time Heartland partner Anthony Watts, who runs the most extreme anti-science, anti-scientist website in the blogosphere, WattsUpWithThat.

Watts has also been pushing precisely this kind of hate speech for a long time (see “Purported eco-terrorist shot and killed by police“). When James J. Lee held people hostage with a gun and bombs strapped to his body at the Discovery Communications way back in 2010, this was Watts’ offensive headline:

And the first line of Watts’ post is “Well, you filthy readers, see what happens when we don’t acquiesce?“  Remember, Watts is a guy who demanded others “dial back the rhetoric.”

And he stands by that headline and text to this day, just as Heartland stands by its hate speech.

Of course, this is standard operating procedure for Watts, who has, for instance, directly questioned the patriotism of both Rabett and Tamino (see “Peak readership for anti-science blogs?“) leading Tamino to write, “This just might be the most loathsome thing Watts has yet done with his blog.”

Watts tried to link Bin Laden with the U.S. environmental movement back back in 2010, also (see here).

Watts also keeps reposting the disinformation of The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, even though TVMOB is the leading purveyor of outright hate speech among the disinformers (see Lord Monckton repeats and expands on his charge that those who embrace climate science are “Hitler youth” and fascists).  Since he reposted TVMOB twice last month alone, one can only assume he fully supports TVMOB’s methods.  Indeed, after Prof. John Abraham eviscerated TVMOB in a must-see video, Watts reposted an effort by TVMOB to “censor” Abraham, as Skeptical Science noted.  Deltoid put it this way: “Monckton, supported by Anthony Watts, is trying to suppress Abraham’s presentation. Over at Watts Up with That? Monckton defames Abraham and asks for help in suppressing Abraham’s speech.”

Perhaps this is why Watts minimized what Heartland has done in the Washington Post, which Forbes couldn’t help but skewer in a column titled, “Unabomber Fiasco Was Tame By Heartland Institute Standards“:

Self-described climate-change “skeptic” Anthony Watts says he knows why the Heartland Institute shamelessly equated more than 97% of all climate scientists with terrorists on Thursday, when that make-believe “think tank” erected a billboard with the Unabomber’s mugshot and the caption, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

I think Heartland is suffering battle fatigue,” Watts told the Washington Post. “When you’re suffering battle fatigue, sometimes you make mistakes.”

Ah…  so that’s it.  They’re victims in all of this.  I’d have thought that if anyone is suffering battle fatigue, it’s the scientists and reporters who receive hate-mail and death threats fueled by Heartland’s campaign of distortion and innuendo.

Precisely. Forbes continues:

Far from being an aberration, this is just the latest in a long string of embarrassing acts that Heartland has carried out in public — and they’ve been at this for more than 25 years.  Before they got into the anti-climate-science racket, they were in the anti-lung-science racket, where they helped the tobacco industry assuage our concerns over second-hand smoke.  (Don’t you love someone who makes you feel good about doing something bad?)

They’ve also been working arduously for years to destroy the reputation of people like Michael Mann.  He’s the climate scientist that Heartland loves to vilify because he had the audacity to publish scientific findings that challenge their fragile ideology.  (I covered this a bit last week as well, and here is another piece from the Guardian.)

… But maybe Watts is onto something.  Maybe Heartland is beginning to suffer something akin to battle fatigue. After all, it can’t be easy regurgitating all that pseudo-science year after year when people like Mann are out there generating solid research.  Then there’s all the psychological dissonance they must be dealing with.  That’s got to take a toll on their fake “think tank” soul.

Think about it: if you were guilty of doing what they are guilty of doing, wouldn’t you feel kind of bad?

Funny stuff, except, of course, that Heartland doesn’t actually feel bad —  they have refused to apologize, and their website still asserts, “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

And, of course, Watts doesn’t feel bad, since he’s never taken down any of his offensive posts or  offered anything more than lukewarm criticism of Heartland: “Sometimes you make mistakes.”

A mistake is when you make an error that you correct once it is pointed out — and you apologize if it is a big enough mistake.  If you don’t apologize and you stand by your original words, it’s hard to call that a mistake. That’s more like a strategy.

Climate Progress has no difficulty condemning offensive language from environmentalists who get it wrong. We immediately criticized the offensive and disgusting “No Pressure” video with a post by Bill McKibben (that I added my thoughts on) and then another post by me.

It was also brought to my attention this week that a TP Green post on the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik was put under the Climate Progress banner after TP Green merged with us a few weeks ago. That post had not been on CP post before, and it isn’t any longer (it is now part of TP Security).  I apologize for any confusion caused by this switchover.

Related Post:

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.”

29 Responses to Heartland-Gate Day 5: Green Coalitions Dump Institute, Forbes Slams Anthony Watts of WattsUpWithThat

  1. Jeff Poole says:

    Sorry, run that by me again… Friends of the Earth and the Sierra club actually had some sort of connection to this bunch of anti-reality d*ckheads?

    Some people in those organisation need to be sacked immediately…

  2. John Mashey says:

    Drug companies fund Heartland side-by-side with tobacco companies, see Fake science, … pp.37-46.

    Heartland’s Joe (Camel) Bast strongly defended the most successful campaign in US history to get kids to smoke.

    Heartland had a Philip Morris exec as a Board Member for more than a decade.

    p.46 Heartland has had a Smoker’s Lounge Website, advertised in Environment and Climate News, run by James Taylor.

    p.176: Heartland ran a defense of secondhand smoke, in *2008*, including a dandy picture of a guy blissfully puffing smoke a foot away from a young girl.

  3. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, that is appalling. But I can’t understand why any of these companies would contribute. Where is the advantage in it for any respectable organization? ME

  4. Peter says:

    Bill Gates of MSFT still hangs in there for Heartland. A True Robber Baron.

  5. Ziyu says:

    Parody of how to take the Heartland tactic to a new level.

  6. Sasparilla says:

    Excellent article Joe. I had no idea Heartland was one of the Tobbaco Companies old PR fronts…its good to know where they came from and explains alot.

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    We need to remember that the Heartland crowd are the shock troops, not the players. Behind all of the right wing “think tanks” are some of the most cynical and calculating groups imaginable- Exxon, Koch, .1% money managers, and others like them.

    They are the ones who should be held to account. Watts, Bast, and Monckton are just cartoonish front men.

  8. Tom King says:

    Sounds like a hard lesson for the heartland. You can bend perceptions a little, but eventually they snap. If each fractured perception puts more strain on the ones still intact then eventually they will snap too. Soon I suspect we will all hear an implosion.

  9. prokaryotes says:

    Nice to see the denial sphere outing them self as what they are. Extremists and Fundamentalist. These people are not logical thinkers they are sociopath willing to put all of us into harms way. The active denialist is a threat to the national security.

  10. ceal smith says:

    Off topic but, what happened to “Solar Investing Goes Mainstream: Top Five Creative Ways To Finance Solar Projects”? I can’t find the story even though it shows up on google and my newsfeed.

  11. Barry Saxifrage says:

    Panic is setting in with Big Bad Carbon and its denier minions. The Joplin tornado dropped the house on their wicked witch. Irene huffed and puffed and blew their house of cards down and the freak Texas drought and March Hare heatwave is burning what is left. Tiny voices in the MSM are starting to whisper that the denier have no clothes and the murmur is spreading through the crowd. Spittle and froth fly as we are urged with increasing hysteria to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    If I had trillions of dollars in stranded carbon assets heading for the toilet I would be panicking too.

  12. riverat says:

    I have to give Microsoft a bit of a pass on this one. They have a program to give discounts on software to 501(c)(3) non-profits. Heartland is such a non-profit. That’s where the MS “donation” comes from. I’m not totally comfortable with the idea of MS picking and choosing who gets the discount either.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Many of the big ‘Green’ groups have sold out to the money power, from time to time. The usual excuse is that they are attempting to ‘influence’ Big Business to act better. Whether out of naivety or some Green big-wig’s desire to cash in by ingratiating himself with the capitalist money machine, one can never really tell. Buying off Green leaders is way more effective than hysterically abusing them, but the hate keeps flowing and keeps getting more lurid because that is what the Right does best.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes, organs like Heartland are the shock troops, pushing the bounds of ‘acceptable’ opinion. They will be followed enthusiastically by the worst haters, while the pretend outraged ‘mainstream’ denialists tut-tut, for a while, then follow the spearhead. I’ve seen far worse, often, by denialist bloggers. Soon enough the denialist groupthink will encompass the new parameters, waiting for the next excursion into hatemongering. Believe me, after years reading the local Murdoch press, with its daily menu of one hatemonering, scaremongering or fearmongering screed after another, this sort of thing doesn’t surprise me. Murdoch uses the services of ‘Spiked’ a lot, one of the mutant offspring of the ‘Living Marxism’ fraternity, and, in my opinion, they’d go down a treat at Heartland.

  15. BillD says:

    Just wonder when Romney will be called on his “we just don’t know enough to spend money to prevent climate change”(?)

  16. bjedwards says:

    A few comments:

    Anthony Watts is getting as shrill and out-of-control as Joe Bast.

    Joe Bast seems to have inordinate power and control of a non-profit corporation. Who are Heartland’s board members and shouldn’t they be identified and held to account publicly?

    Both Bast and Watts are exhibiting behavior consistent with intellectual desperation than intellectual honesty.

  17. Some European says:

    Whoops! Not the right link…

  18. Mike 22 says:

    Please get the story about Microsoft donations to non profits straight!

    Most software companies donate software licenses to non profit. Microsoft’s (like virtually all others) goes through a third party administrator.

    All Heartland has to do is meet the requirements–ie a non profit of the correct type with a real address–and they are eligible to apply and receive software donations through the third party administrator.

    Microsoft wasn’t involved, except to make the original block donation, and then to get the corporate tax write off. They probably should be now–in fact all the software companies making donations should probably generate a black list.

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    You are probably right Mulga but it shows that we have lost any sense of long term strategy as exemplified by Sun Tsu in the Art of War. Ultimate outcomes have been lost within the contemporary timeframes of now and tomorrow.

    That so many, for whatever reason, gave their money to Heartland, demonstrates the maladaption of our time – our loss of respect for our home, our sustenance, and our loss of meaning as a species who is supposed to know better, ME

  20. Gail Zawacki says:

    I think the Heartland is loathsome as much as anyone. In fact, I’d gladly infiltrate their conference again but I’m pretty sure I must be on their SH*T list after being thrown out last summer.

    But I agree with Mike Roddy. Heartland is so pathetically unimportant, it’s almost a waste of time to get everybody’s knickers in a bunch about the stupid things they do. In fact, this sort of hullaballoo is almost just a convenient cop-out for climate activists and big green NGO’s.

    WHY? Because it looks to their base of support like they are doing something substantive about climate change when in fact, they’re not.

    What I want to know is, when are climate organizations going to take on the military? When are they going to answer “…switching to clean energy is too expensive” with “Stop exploitative wars over oil and other resources, bring the troops home and put them to work building green infrastructure?”

    Instead, all we get are pathetic articles saying how terrific that the military has acknowledged that climate change is a national security issue…oh, and they’re using biofuels.

    When are we going to acknowledge that this empire is finished and it’s time to transition to sustainable, local agriculture?

  21. Lynden says:

    You can get it at Rocky Mountain Inst.

  22. AA says:

    How is Gates, who has dedicated so much of his time and fortune to solving global problems, the bad guy here? It’s irrelevant anyway, since Gates is not involved.

    Joe and others need to give Microsoft a pass on this one; all they do is provide free software.

    See Tamino:

  23. Peter says:

    Gates has donated heavily to republicans- throughout the years. The so called ‘Great Humanitarian’ of the 2nd American Gilded ages is no better then the same rich plutocrats who went down with the Titanic in 1912.

  24. Peter says:

    Gates is well aware of Heartlands ultra conservative leanings. Gates is just another plutocrat of the 2nd American Gilded Age- circa 1980-? Why defend the SOB? Tell me – with all his wealth and power what he is doing now to prevent a climate disaster? Nothing. So you defense of him here seems most perplexing.

  25. IANVS says:

    re: “Joe and others need to give Microsoft a pass on this one; all they do is provide free software.”

    No, no, & hell no!

    As long as Microsoft continues to give money or resources to CEO Joe Bast & the Heartland Institute so they can continue to publicly lie to & deceive the American public about the science & dangers of anthropogenic climate change & publicly attack the reputation & character of leading climate scientists, they do not get a pass.

    Until Microsoft no longer supports bad actors like Joe Bast & Heartland, we will no longer purchase their products. Rather, we will purchase products & services from Microsoft’s competitors who do not support bad actors like Joe Bast & Heartland.

    And a loud & clear public apology to the American people, especially our children & grandchildren, would be a good start to repair Microsoft’s corporate image as a responsible corporate citizen.

    That goes for Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo, Comcast, Time-Warner, & the rest of Heartland donors as well.

  26. AA says:

    Microsoft’s contribution to Heartland is insignificant. All they get is what Microsoft gives all non-profits. Think about the implications of Microsoft having to personally vet every single organization that wants a free copy of Win7.

    This “total war” attitude is ridiculous; it’s not worth it. We need to be re-engineering a civilization, not winning tiny PR battles.

    If you’re really so deeply upset about Heartland having a few free copies of software, follow John Mashey’s lead and work to get HI’s 501c3 status revoked… that would kill two birds with one stone.

    Your reference to HI’s other sponsors misses the point that their support of HI takes (or in many cases took) a fundamentally different form.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You see Merrelyn, the system, the market capitalist oligarchy that rules the planet, advances the interests of the opportunist, the unscrupulous, the egotist, and actively sidelines the principled, moral, consistent and farsighted. I can honestly say that, whereas when I was young, I could easily name scores of people in public life who were clearly of good character, even if I thought their ideology misguided, today I can think of very few. Moreover, the number of really malignant rogues keeps growing like topsy. Furthermore, in the MSM, where several of my family have been employed, the situation is grievously worse, with much that one can read clearly deriving from deep spiritual wickedness and seemingly boundless depths of hatred and contempt, in particular for the weak and deprived. Our terminal plight derives, I believe, from a moral and spiritual debacle caused by the total dominance of the Right. And they are growing worse by the day.

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In the end, the vast majority of the plutocrats will hang together rather than hang separately.

  29. IANVS says:

    The directors & officers of the Heartland Institute are disclosed by law on page 7, Part VII, Section A, “Compensation of Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, Highest Compensated Employees, and Independent Contractors”, of the 2010 Heartland IRS Form 990 (public document):

    Joseph Bast
    Rajeev Bal
    Robert Buford
    Paul Fisher
    Richard H. Collins
    Dan Hales
    Jeff Judson
    James Johnston
    Jeffrey Madden
    Arthur Margulis
    David Padden
    Mike Rose
    Herbert Walberg
    Harrison Schmidt