Australian Press Council Criticizes Climate Denier Columnists For ‘Highly Offensive’ Comments

Libertarian columist James Delingpole

by Graham Readfearn, via DeSmogBlog

It’s the new must-have accessory for any self-respecting climate science denialist commentator in Australian newspapers — their very own “Australian Press Council” adjudication showing exactly how they stuffed up the facts and misled their readers on their stories.

Whether they like it or not, serial climate science misinformers James Delingpole and Andrew Bolt are the latest News Ltd contributors to have their online articles furnished with freshly-added hyperlinks to APC judgements finding against them.

Earlier this week, the APC found that Mr Delingpole’s article “Wind Farm Scam A Huge Cover-Up“, published in the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian back in May, had misled readers on several points.

Presumably to the shock of the UK-based columnist on The Daily Telegraph, it turns out that it’s not OK to write that the wind farm business is “bloody well near a pedophile ring. They’re f . . king our families and knowingly doing so,” as Delingpole did when quoting an anonymous sheep farmer. As the press council said in its judgement:

… the report of the anonymous remarks concerning paedophilia, a very serious and odious crime, were highly offensive. The Council’s principles relate, of course, to whether something is acceptable journalistic practice, not whether it is unlawful. They are breached where, as in this case, the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech. It was fully justifiable in the public interest to convey the intensity of feeling by some opponents of wind farms but that goal did not require quoting the reference to paedophilia.

Neither was it OK for Delingpole to write that law firm Slater & Gordon had sought to place “rigorous gagging orders” on landholders without offering any actual evidence and when the firm in question denied it.

Second, [the council] has concluded that the claim that a law firm sought gagging orders has been publicly denied by the firm and, in the absence of any supporting evidence, constitutes a breach of the Council’s principles concerning misrepresentation. The newspaper’s prompt publication of the law firm’s denials prevented aggravation of the breach but did not absolve it.

… Besides professional embarrassment and the requirement to publish the press council’s adjudication, The Australian is free to carry on regardless, as it has been doing for several years in misrepresenting climate science.

Perhaps predictably then, rather than politely decline any further contributions from a writer adjudged to have been too offensive (a bar which you have to jump very highly to get over) and to have misled readers, The Australian has instead published another offensive rant from the same writer.

Writing again in The Australian, Delingpole says of the press council’s judgement: “I stand by every word of the piece – especially the bit about pedophiles. I would concede that the analogy may be somewhat offensive to the pedophile community.”

And what of News Ltd blogger and columnist Andrew Bolt? Back in February (yes, the wheels of the APC turn slowly) Bolt wrote in a story headlined “Time That Climate Alarmists Fessed Up” that the UK’s Met Office had issued data showing there had been no global warming for 15 years.

Bolt had failed to check back with the Met Office, which had two days earlier issued a statement saying such a conclusion was “entirely misleading”. The APC adjudication, delivered earlier this month, said

The Met Office description should have been mentioned in Mr Bolt’s print article and blog of 1 February, even if he then rebutted it as unconvincing. It was not sufficient in these circumstances to assert ignorance of the response or to rely on the reader’s previous posting to inform other readers about it.

The press council also concluded that statements made by Bolt about sea and ice conditions “were likely to be interpreted by many readers as indicating that the longer-term trends had ceased or were reversing” and that he “should have acknowledged explicitly that all of the three changes in question were comparatively short-term and were statistically compatible with continuance of the long-term trends in the opposite direction”.

While judgements such as these are welcome, the APC did stop short of finding against the writers with regard to other elements of the complaints.

For example, the APC decided it was acceptable for Delingpole to claim categorically that wind farms were causing people to fall ill, despite several scientific reviews finding no evidence for such links.

In a curious conclusion to the complaint against Andrew Bolt, the press council said ambiguously that its “adjudication neither endorses nor rejects any particular theories or predictions about global warming”.

“[The council] observes that on issues of such major importance the community is best served by frank disclosure and discussion,” it said.

One has to ask then, how the council aims to judge the merits of “frank disclosure” if it isn’t able to accept that decades of peer-reviewed research on climate change has found the community isn’t “best served” by ignoring the causes of climate change?

Graham Readfearn is an independent journalist based in Queensland, Australia, with 15 years experience as a reporter and writer on newspapers, magazines, radio and online. This piece was originally published at DeSmogBlog and was reprinted with permission.

13 Responses to Australian Press Council Criticizes Climate Denier Columnists For ‘Highly Offensive’ Comments

  1. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Fact free journalism. What else would you expect from the Murdoch press.

    Only the facts that support the approved narrative are allowed.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Delingpole belongs in the nuthouse, but the real fault lies with Rupert Murdoch, one of the most evil men in history.

    There should be a daily fact check of his newspapers in Australia, and in the US, for that matter. To say that the right wing press is acting against the public interest is one of the biggest understatements of all time. They need to be called out, humiliated, and subject to advertiser boycotts. Nothing else will stop them.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Nobody reads the Australian Press Council reports. It’s about like expecting the public to be educated by text footnotes.

    Part of our media failure has been to show professional courtesy to right wing outlets that habitually disseminate lies. Since these lies are couched in extensive psychological and public opinion research, they are successful. Stuffy trade papers and academic outlets won’t stop them, and their competitors, often little better, fear them. The task will be up to the people, as always.

  4. Joan Savage says:

    The Australian Press Council link from Delingpole’s articles reminds me of the small print warning on cigarette packages, something that doesn’t immediately prompt a change in consumer behavior, but may have a cumulative effect over time. The US press is so unlikely to have a similar process for identifying misleading writers that it almost seems like science fiction to imagine it.

  5. Michelle M says:

    When you don’t have facts, make outrageous emotionally-laden statements. Many people turn off their logical thinking processes when certain charged words are fed to them…this is something those writers are counting on.

  6. NJP1 says:

    time somebody nailed Delingpole

  7. Wes Rolley says:

    Most of the climate deniers that I have run across would only take criticism, such as from the Australian Press Council, as further evidence that even these institutions are part of a leftie / socialist conspiracy to use climate change as a ruse to do other dastardly things. In the right wing echo chamber that passes for a free press in America, such “facts” are commonly known and often repeated.

    Case in point: Joe and others have repeated slammed George Will for years ( and yet he still writes drivel for the Washington Post and has an honored position at ABC.

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    You’re right about Will, Wes. Why isn’t this man just watching baseball, instead of opening his mouth and getting into trouble?

    As Cheney once said, facts don’t matter. My Republican contemporaries who refused to do any drugs seem to have manufactured them internally. These endorphins and frayed circuits seem to have done a number on their brains.

    People who can lie with authority make for good ratings, so Will will always have an audience.

  9. Ozonator says:

    Extremist Republican and Christian media outlets all use the same playbook to accuse their victims of the crimes they are doing as soon as possible with a louder voice.
    Dillygenepool is just trying to help the 1% get into their version of heaven. For example, also denies global warming, “AUSTRALIA’S most senior Catholic showed a “sociopathic lack of empathy” in dealing with victims raped by clergy, an inquiry heard yesterday. Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, had tried to compel victims into silence when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing by parish priests … the detective whose claims of a church cover-up of child sex abuse led to the announcement of the federal royal commission is seeking special whistleblower legislation protection from threats” (“Cardinal George Pell ‘showed little empathy for victims, inquiry hears”; From: The Daily Telegraph;, 11/24/12).

  10. Shadeburst says:

    As far as I can make out from this article, the APC didn’t rebuke Delingpole for being factually incorrect. Delingpole (rightly) got a sharp smack in the chops for offensive derogatory defamatory ad hom remarks.

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Is 24 hours long enough to be banged up for this comment? ME

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Delingpole belongs, in my opinion, in the ‘sh…house’ along with the other extruded denizens therein. ‘The Australian’ runs every single insane denialist truth violator going around, while nauseatingly proclaiming itself ‘The Heart of the Nation’. It is more accurately, I would say, likened to that other organ, the ‘orifice of the fundament’ in testimony to its fundamentalist Rightwing fanaticism and the true nature of its product. Moreover Press Council adjudications like this are simply treated with contempt, and new travesties against the truth appear daily.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Republicans are like Clinton, who claimed to have smoked the wacky-tobaccky, but not inhaled (he was a caution, no doubt about it!). The Republicans indulged but once, also, but forgot to exhale.