In a stunning journalistic lapse, the NY Times gives credulous coverage to Swift Boat smearer Marc Morano, the Jayson Blair of global warming

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"In a stunning journalistic lapse, the NY Times gives credulous coverage to Swift Boat smearer Marc Morano, the Jayson Blair of global warming"

Please email the NYT at nytnews@nytimes.com about this egregious piece and/or email its public editor at public@nytimes.com to explain you are “concerned about the paper’s journalistic integrity.”

Apparently the NYT felt a Magazine cover story pushing the pseudoscience of Freeman Dyson was not enough free publicity for the dwindling minority desperately trying to persuade humanity not to act in time to save itself from catastrophic climate impacts.

In a second inexplicable lapse in journalistic judgment, the paper of record has decided to promote the new disinformation campaign of the least credible global warming denier in the country — Swift Boat smearer Marc Morano, a man whose record of making stuff up would make disgraced former NYT reporter Jayson Blair cringe.

Yes, I know, I just promised “this blog will be a Morano-free zone” (see “Memo to media, blogosphere: Swift boat smearer Marc Morano has no credibility. He is unquotable and uncitable“).  But I was talking about ignoring his blog, since I assumed no serious reporter would flack Morano and his new disinformation-pushing website.  Who would have guessed that a NYT reporter, Leslie Kaufman, would want to smear her own reputation with a remarkably credulous profile of the Swift Boat smearer, “Dissenter on Warming Expands His Campaign“?

Here is how Kaufman writes of Morano’s background, including the Swift Boat smear:

After college, Mr. Morano worked as a reporter for Rush Limbaugh, where he said he had learned the satisfactions of poking at the “liberal establishment.” He made a documentary on the Amazon rain forest, he said, because it annoyed him that celebrities like Sting could dictate what people think about the issue. They vastly exaggerated the problem of deforestation, he concluded.

Yes, if one problem on the face of the earth has been vastly exaggerated, it is deforestation in the Amazon.  Let’s see.  Morano made the documentary in 2000.  In 2002, the NYT itself wrote a story, “Amazon Forest Still Burning Despite the Good Intentions,” that noted, “the Brazilian jungle is still disappearing at a rate of more than 6,000 square miles a year, an area the size of Connecticut.”  But Morano must be right and the NYT wrong.  [But wait, if the NYT can be wrong, then this profile can be wrong…]

He then jumped to Cyber News Service, where he was the first to publish accusations from Vietnam Swift-boat veterans that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, then the Democratic presidential nominee, had glorified his war record. Many of the accusations later proved unfounded.

Mr. Morano is proud of his work, which he says is not advocacy but truth seeking.

What has become of the paper of record?

“Many of the accusations later proved unfounded.”  Ya think?  And then to follow that up with with “Mr. Morano is proud of his work, which he says is not advocacy but truth seeking.”

Since when did the New York Times become People magazine or Parade or the Washington Times?

Exactly how many world-famous lies and smear campaigns does a purveyor of disinformation have to make before the NYT decides not to give them free publicity and publicize their new disinformation-pushing website?

Morano just makes stuff up and misrepresents scientists’ work, as I (and others) have repeatedly shown (see, for instance, Scientist: “Our conclusions were misinterpreted” by Morano, CO2 “” but not the sun “” “is significantly correlated” with temperature since 1850 and Inhofe and Morano keep making stuff up, this time utterly misquoting Revkin on Hansen).  See also ConWebWatch’s “Lies, Conservatives and Statistics: Marc Morano’s Fantasy.”

The story ends with a classic story from Kevin Grandia, who manages the great blog, Desmogblog.com:

Mr. Grandia also said Mr. Morano’s report misrepresented the work of legitimate scientists. Mr. Grandia pointed to Steve Rayner, a professor at Oxford, who was mentioned for articles criticizing the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international treaty on curbing carbon dioxide emissions.

Dr. Rayner, however, in no way disputes the existence of global warming or that human activity contributes to it, as the report implies. In e-mail messages, he said that he had asked to be removed from the Morano report and that a staff member in Mr. Inhofe’s office had promised that he would be. He called his inclusion on the list “quite outrageous.”

Asked about Dr. Rayner, Mr. Morano was unmoved. He said that he had no record of Dr. Rayner’s asking to be removed from the list and that the doctor must be “not to be remembering this clearly.”

Hmm.  Let’s see.  Who are we going to believe?  An Oxford Professor — or the Swift Boat smearer and former Limbaugh stooge?  If you’re Leslie Kaufman of the New York Times, it’s easy — you give the final word to the smearer:

Many scientists, Mr. Morano said, are afraid that appearing on the list will have political fallout.

And political fallout, for him, is the point.

Seriously.

I’m gonna end with the story Kaufman opens the piece with:

Marc Morano does not think global warming is anything to worry about, and he brags about his confrontations with those who do.

For example, Mr. Morano said he once spotted former Vice President Al Gore on an airplane returning from a climate conference in Bali. Mr. Gore was posing for photos with well-wishers, and Mr. Morano said he had asked if he, too, could have his picture taken with Mr. Gore.

He refused, Mr. Morano said.

“You attack me all the time,” Mr. Gore said, according to Mr. Morano.

“Yes, we do,” Mr. Morano said he had replied.

Mr. Gore’s office said Mr. Gore had no memory of the encounter. Mr. Morano does not care. He tells the story anyway.

Does Kaufman have a verifying source for this?  It doesn’t sound like it.  I happened to be speaking to Gore today and he remarked on this Morano fable and said he just doesn’t remember it happening the way Morano describes.

But who are you going to believe — a Nobel laureate and former Vice President or a guy who compulsively makes stuff up and smears people?  Again, it’s easy for Kaufman —  If she believed Gore, she wouldn’t have such a cutesy personal interest story to open with.  And we already know that the New York Times likes to smear Gore unjustifiably even when it is clear he is telling the truth (see Unstaining Al Gore’s good name 2: He is not “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements” and is owed a correction and apology by the New York Times).

Shame on the New York Times.  Shame on Leslie Kaufman.

Please email the NYT at nytnews@nytimes.com about this egregious piece and/or email its public editor at public@nytimes.com to explain you are “concerned about the paper’s journalistic integrity.”

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27 Responses to In a stunning journalistic lapse, the NY Times gives credulous coverage to Swift Boat smearer Marc Morano, the Jayson Blair of global warming

  1. JOe says:

    Even in the Time: ignorance masked as fairness

  2. Nick says:

    Now the Times is ‘teaching the controversy’ about Morano. Are they now going to post links to anti-vac nutters, young earth creationists and other time wasters? The Times needs a few experienced older researchers ,by the look of it. Newsrooms are revolving doors spinning fast enough for naive journalists to have a slim knowledge of AGWs political and media history. They keep going over old ground.

    Whether or not the Gore anecdote is true, it’s entirely plausible that any conversation between them would run along those terse lines.. Gore is savvy enough not to give bullshitters oxygen, and Morano is brazen enough to be proud of his failed existence!

  3. Al says:

    I think you see “credulous coverage” where none exists. I have since read her article, and think she exposes his true colors quite well. The first third gives a brief description of him and his activities, and the last two-thirds is given over to quoting others criticising him. Given that she was probably tasked with writing an article on him, what more would you expect from her?

    [JR: The publishing of the article is credulous coverage. Journalists typically pick their own stories and can certainly refuse an assignment of this nature in the unlikely event it was the editor who came up with the idea. This is he-said-she-said repetition of his lies is precisely what he wants, including amazing publicity for his new disinformation-pushing website.]

  4. J says:

    One letter written. Shame on them for publishing anything at all about that loser.

  5. Russ says:

    I didn’t bother reading the story, since when I saw the summary at the Science page I could tell what kind of drivel it would be. My first thought was, if the article was about David Irving the blurb would never have such a matter-of-fact teach-the-controversy tone to it.

    I think the comparison to Parade is getting warmer (though hasn’t Parade actually if belatedly been OK on the climate crisis?).

    More like a scurrilous tabloid. I think this retrogression and atavism on the part of the NYT and WaPo is part of the general identity crisis and existential and financial angst the mainstream newspapers are going through. Right now they have no idea what to do with themselves, and may be trying out various tabloid angles.

    If anything, things seem worse at NYT. At least at WaPo there’s a vigorous internal dissent, and the malevolence seems contained to the editorial page, while at the NYT the contagion seems more expansive, and there seems to be no struggle against it, at least none which has shown up in print (nor has the public editor referred to it, so far as I’ve seen).

  6. Jeff R. says:

    I agree with Al. Most readers will conclude that Morano is a complete buffoon if all they know of him is what’s in the article. I think there actually might be an upside to Morano getting increased visibility – the public will have an face to attach to the lies. Nice pants truth seeker. Did you sleep in that suit?

  7. JeandeBegles says:

    Who cares about Morano’s lies?

    Joe, you are a NYT reader, and your main advertiser is Friedman. Why don’t you open a discussion about his VERY interesting article about the carbon tax:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/opinion/08friedman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

    [JR: When the NYT reprints them, I’m afraid we all have to “care” about his lies.” I read Friedman piece — Since Congess and the President aren’t pursuing a tax, I didn’t really see any reason for spending a lot of time on here.]

  8. Juliette says:

    Email sent. Do you know if there’s a blog doing a watchlist of articles like that? I’d be willing to send an email to the public editor of any newspaper that publishes stuff like that…

  9. Elmo says:

    I read that this morning. I saw it as a clear warning to everyone that MM is not credible. The last line pretty much summed up MM’s objective — to score political points. I don’t see it as endorsing him in any way.

    [JR: It is publicity he couldn’t even dream of — to be legitimized by the NYT as a voice for the deniers. Yes, anybody who read this story and knew he was not credible — such as CP readers — would come away still thinking that. But the vast majority of NYT readers have never heard of him and don’t follow this debate closely. For them, this is just a he said she said, and the NYT picks who are the legitimate voices. Geez, there are hundreds of serious climate scientists who never get this kind of treatment.]

  10. JeandeBegles says:

    The climate crisis is a urgent one. We are short of time, and the worst thing would be to take a wrong path.
    Obama is smart and great and surely perfectible. He is not infaillible, unlike pope Benoit XVI (!). So he can change his mind if it appears that a carbon tax is a far better solution than cap and trade.
    The cap and trade basic flaw is that it imagines that the solution is in the business hands, while the majority of CO2 emissions are in the customer hands.
    How can we trust carbon traders for acting against global warming?
    “Our climate, not your business!” was the shout of young activist against a cap and trade conference in Copenhague last mont. It is a perfect blow against this wrong solution.

  11. Gail says:

    We (all the concerned citizens, and scientists) need to organize under one umbrella to counter the deniers and push our political leaders for action. How about this?

    http://www.futurefoundation.org/aca/index.htm

    Can we please call it climate chaos instead of global warming or climate change? Look on the main yahoo page for news stories about wildfires in Texas and tornados across the south.

  12. David Freeman says:

    I think you’re overreacting. The content of your response to Kaufman’s puff piece is absolutely deadon right but the tone is counterproductive. Any reasonably intelligent, open minded reader of the NYTimes article would at the very least come away suspicious that Morano is a crackpot.

    It’s a bit over the top to call the article a “stunning journalistic lapse.” Disappointing, yes but nothing like the lack of integrity of the editors at WaPo over Will’s dishonesty or the incompetence of NYT’s smear of Gore.

    Sometimes less is more and this is one time that less hyperbole would be more effective. A serious response, such as the content of yours without the agitationan, in a calm tone will get more traction … especially with editors.

    [JR: Nah! First, the editors pay no attention to the likes of me (a blogger) no matter what I write. Second, obviously the New York Times pays more attention to people without a calm tone — else why would they profile Morano! Gotcha on that one, I’m afraid. I hear over and over again, oh, but any reasonably intelligent reader would be able to figure out this guy is a crackpot. Well, that was what many people said to me about the Dyson profile (including the NPR guy who does “On the media”) — and yet a reasonably intelligent guy wrote an uber-credulous piece on him for Newsweek that spread his disinformation further.

    You miss the point entirely. If the NYT thought this guy was a crackpot, then he doesn’t deserve a story at all. The mere fact of the story is the stunning journalistic lapse. And after the Dyson profile, the Gore hit-job by Revkin — which was inspired by yet another person who any reasonably intelligent person should know is a non-credible source (Roger Pielke, Jr.) — I’m afraid your analysis has been utterly proven wrong.

    Dyson, Morano, Pielke — these guys should be unquotable and uncitable, but by being featured in the pages of the New York Times, they are elevated to credible articulators of the anti-scientific.]

  13. Modesty says:

    Re: “credulous coverage”.

    The coverage is credulous (at least in the sense of ‘insufficiently suspecting’) even though Kaufman seems pretty unimpressed with Morano.

    Take the photo op part.

    Kaufman probably thinks it’s reasonable to believe Gore yet use the moranian anecdote.

    Kaufman could reasonably have believed that the anecdote is so unflattering of Morano, that including it is akin to critical commentary: even if the reader believes Morano (on this point), Morano just looks like a total jerk harassing Gore in person.

    *The problem* is that the anecdote is designed to set the journalist up to check with Kreider, Gore’s spokesperson, who will then deny it. By that point, the news story contains some “information” alleged by Morano and denied by Gore, a paradigm of the he said/he said situation. And the reader can’t easily, or at all, get much more information about the case (as opposed to re disinformation Morano dispenses on, say, science).

    If you already know Morano lies without any hesitation, this little story should hardly matter much, right? But even for these readers, the story serves to generate a false equivalency between Morano and Gore. Imagine what it does to readers unfamiliar with Morano.

    The news article further contributes to the problem by also reporting on Morano not recalling (actually having “no record of” (woo-hoo)) requests that he take a scientist off his “list” of deniers. Even if Morano looks ridiculous saying this, the *symmetry* with the response from Gore serves to generate false equivalency. (And, for bonus points, Morano suggests the scientist in question is “not…remembering…clearly.”)

    I think this kind of stuff justifies calling what otherwise might look like a pretty skeptical story about Morano “credulous.”

    Not only did Morano get plenty of exposure, he got the satisfaction of seeing some of his sophist’s tricks play out just the way he wanted.

    But a lot of readers will not agree with/be interested in this kind of analysis and will therefore not agree that the news story credulous.

    This means Morano has managed to set up yet another misleading “vs.” moment (roughly, Romm vs. Kaufman/Morano).

    Journalists need to step up their game a bit (if the point is to inform).

    [JR: Yes, precisely. The Times clearly doesn’t like Gore — which is standard among the MSM, a key reason he lost. Equating Morano with Gore is exactly what Morano wants. If the reporter really thought Morano was a liar, then she has no business telling this story, even if she thinks it is unflattering. I mean, in what journalism class are you taught to knowingly print something you don’t believe on the hopes people will deduce it is a lie? If that were the standard for publication, the public would never know whether what they were reading was true — or meant to be taken with a wink.

    My father was a newspaper editor for 30 years and one of the things he used to tell us all the time is that a great many readers simply take everything they read very seriously with no reading between the lines. He said that even for columns of pure humor and satire that he thought could not have been more obvious, he would get deadpan serious angry letters from readers. That’s why I have a humor category and use it.

    Sometimes the media is too clever by half, which is to say, half dumb.]

  14. David Freeman says:

    Once again, you’re generally correct but apparently I did not make my point well since “you miss the point entirely” too.

    Yes, Dyson, Morano, and Pielke should be uncitable in credible newspapers.

    Yes, “obviously the New York Times pays more attention to people without a calm tone”, if you’re trying to get a letter to the editor published. Maybe not if you’re trying to influence the editorial policy of the Times itself.

    If your goal is to get the editors of the Times to realize that Morano et al should not be cited, then calling the editors shockingly incompetent and lacking integrity is not the way to go.

    Every time we write a piece we should keep in mind who our audience is. If we are trying to influence the editors of the Times we need a different tone than if we’re merely entertaining our own choir.

    Perhaps your tone is correct for getting us ginned up to write the Times but I hope many of the letter writers will use different tactics to influence the editors.

    Maybe I’m overly sensitive to my southern heritage where we tend to use polite forms (like “Bless her heart”) to eviscerate our enemies and consider it bad form to show obvious disdain for those we obviously disdain.

    In any case keep up the good work. This is by far my favorite blog (and no, I don’t mean that in a bless your heart kind of way)

    [JR: Please keep reading and commenting! I have many target audiences, but the editors at the NYT are not among them — they are clearly hopeless and judging by the recent media coverage. I see Morano as like Jayson Blair on steroids. Having unfortunately debated (and been smeared by) Morano, I suppose my sensitivity is different for him. But your advice is well taken.]

  15. Dean G. says:

    Let’s lobby the NYT to do a big article about you. They’d have good reason to: You’re smoking hot right now.

  16. Gina Maranto says:

    Actually, Morano is very very happy about the coverage right about now (no publicity is bad publicity: he could care less whether the story paints him as a genius or a crank), if his website is any indication. The like 72-point banner headline reads: “New York Times Profiles Climate Depot’s Morano: Using Science as a ‘Political Battering Ram’ — ‘Dissenter on Warming Expands His Campaign’.” I think, as JR says, the Times did him a big favor.

  17. Gail says:

    Sorry David Freeman, I’m a crass northerner, and this is what I sent to the NYT:

    Dear Sirs/Mesdames,

    What is the matter with you? Do you realize we are on the verge of a global ecosystem collapse and runaway greenhouse warming?

    It’s just like the financial crisis – oops, nobody saw it coming!!

    Except in this case the experts – the climate change scientists at the National Academy of Science and the NOAA among many other prestigious organizations – are predicting catastrophe if we do not institute policies that will take us off of coal and oil towards clean (solar, wind, geothermal) energy, like, yesterday.

    Why don’t you highlight them, or interview Joe Romm, instead of giving space to charlatans like Dyson and Morano? Don’t any of you have children? Don’t any of you care that they will inherit an UNINHABITABLE environment dominated by violent, extreme and chaotic weather?

    Sincerely,

    Gail Zawacki

  18. thingsbreak says:

    I don’t always agree with what Joe finds to be objectionable coverage, and I understand why some of you think that the writer did a good enough job hinting that Morano isn’t credible, but Joe is absolutely right about this: The New York Times just gave an incredible amount of free publicity and legitimacy to Morano. The story is appearing as the lead Science story on their website.

    Morano is a joke to most of us because we’re familiar with his unserious email blasts which often use mutually exclusive talking points.

    The average reader of the NYT does not have the backstory. They will see a person who is upfront about making climate change a political issue get attacked by environmentalists and eggheads. This will be trumpeted across the denialosphere and right wing outlets as legitimizing opposition to climate legislation.

    Media outlets have a responsibility to the public. Giving Dyson, and worse, Morano, such a priceless opportunity to spread their nonsense is nothing short of an abdication of that responsibility.

    This is the same problem Revkin has. There seems to be this journalistic belief that if you sneak in enough qualifiers and the occasional critic, you’ve done due diligence in not misleading the public no matter what the subject. This couldn’t be any further from the truth.

    This is reckless journalism rooted in outdated “ethics” and tradition which will only make it harder to get something meaningful done.

  19. Unintentionally buried at the end of the article is the true statement “political fallout, for him, is the point”

    Fallout – a term coming from the atomic age – is that residual radiation following a violent nuclear explosion. It falls out of the mushroom cloud. Mixing with the atmosphere it is spread widely, possibly killing and injuring more than the original explosion as it spreads through the environment and food chain

    Why the NYTimes would want to enable and assist in spreading fallout?

  20. MarkB says:

    I disagree with Joe Romm on this one.

    JR: “It is publicity he couldn’t even dream of — to be legitimized by the NYT as a voice for the deniers.”

    He is a top voice of the deniers, and I’m glad the voice of global warming denialism is exposed as a political operative, smear merchant, and dishonest hack. For the example, the article says:

    “He then jumped to Cyber News Service, where he was the first to publish accusations from Vietnam Swift-boat veterans that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, then the Democratic presidential nominee, had glorified his war record. Many of the accusations later proved unfounded.”

    JR: “But the vast majority of NYT readers have never heard of him and don’t follow this debate closely. For them, this is just a he said she said, and the NYT picks who are the legitimate voices. Geez, there are hundreds of serious climate scientists who never get this kind of treatment.”

    Many NYT readers have heard the misinformation from the Inhofe press releases, like it or not, regarding the “hundreds of prominent scientists dissenting” or what not. It’s important to know where that’s coming from – a political hack.

    JR: “Geez, there are hundreds of serious climate scientists who never get this kind of treatment.”

    I’ll agree with you there. And contrarian scientists are household names because of the undue press coverage they get.

  21. Anonymous says:

    “Circumvent folly, wherever you meet it.” — Stafford Beer

  22. seven says:

    One years New York Times represents 520 pounds of paper.
    324 pounds of water are consumed to create 1 pound of paper.
    Average paper consumption is 48 killograms per person
    Circulation is still over 1 million per day. It makes me sad to see so many trees killed that produce life giving O2 in order to support the carbon addicted liberals.

  23. David B. Benson says:

    I skipped reading this thread until I had finished reading toay’s TNYT. I found the Kaufman article to be a skillfully done put-down of MM; she certainly painted him as a liar and more.

    I suspect most readers of TNYT are fairly sophisticated. But even if not the tone of the piece is likely to seep in, a warning to ignore MM.

    [JR: I am certain MM would have paid $50,000 to get that article written precisely the way it was. But it was free.]

  24. Apparently the NYT doesn’t allow online comments for its “articles”, so I’ll post it here:
    “How much does the NYT charge to run one of these promotional advertisements and who should I contact about buying one?”

  25. David B. Benson says:

    Somehow my (IMO excellently worded) comment is awaiting moderation, but CapitalClimate, posting 28 minutes later is not.

    Distinctly odd.

  26. David B. Benson says:

    I asked some (politically astute, older) bloggers on another site for their impressions of the Kaufman article. Here are the responses so far:

    (1) “Marc(with a C) Morono is right up there with the ‘Ditto Heads’(Limpbaugh listeners) and would be qualified as a Wally Mart greeter, no more.

    We have dumbed down our country and turned fascist to the point that mis-informationists thrive where 20 years ago they would be laughed out of the room by REAL Academics.

    IMHO :( ”

    (2) “Well, first of all, I give high marks to Leslie Kaufman for cleverly skewering Marc Morano and making him look like the moron he is. And, she did it with her journalistic ethics and professionalism intact! Not an easy task. (Is Kaufman a male or female — Leslie? I’ll say she, since I don’t know.)

    But, aside from the impression that she was able to generate of MM, she also gave ‘ink’ to a guy who needs to be exposed to a larger audience. Why give him this exposure? Because with the deep pockets that fund Morano’s disinformation efforts, we need as many people as possible to know who this guy is, and who his funding sources are. (Richard Mellon Scaife (conservative cause financier extraordinaire), ExxonMobil)

    Morano may be thinking he’s won this round because he got prominent mention in TNYT. But, he’s wrong. I love how Kaufman clearly makes The Top Denier look the buffoon that he is. Kaufman’s readers won this round, with her doing the punching! “

  27. paulm says:

    The paper has to try to make money some how….