by Jocelyn Fong, cross-posted from Media Matters
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has canceled the climate change chapter in his upcoming book of environmental essays after Rush Limbaugh and other commentators targeted its author, atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe.
At a recent campaign event, Gingrich told a woman he had cut the climate change section after she expressed concerns about it, citing what she heard from “Rush.” “That’s not going to be in the book. We didn’t know that they were doing that and we told them to kill it,” Gingrich says in the video provided by National Journal. The woman replies, “That sounds like a good idea because I thought, why would you want to have somebody like that in there.”
By “somebody like that,” she was referring to a scientist who, like the vast majority of climatologists, will tell you that human activities are driving climate change. Gingrich’s comments came as a surprise to Hayhoe, who said on Twitter that she spent “100+ unpaid hrs” on the project. According to emails reported by the Los Angeles Times, Hayhoe was asked in 2007 to write “a good opening chapter that lays out the facts on global climate change,” including “a sense of what needs to happen.” She said via email that her chapter did not include specific policy prescriptions. Gingrich’s collaborator Terry Maple told the Times that the book will probably be released in 2013.
Hayhoe, an Evangelical Christian who often speaks about climate change to faith-based communities, has noted in the past that “there is a very intelligent, well-planned effort to deliberately try to muddy the waters on this issue.” This month, she became the target of that very cohort of activists and commentators.
Following the December 8 L.A. Times article identifying Hayhoe as a contributor to Gingrich’s book, Marc Morano, former spokesman for Senator Inhofe, spent the past month attacking her on his blog, Climate Depot. Morano also encouraged his readers to contact Hayhoe directly by repeatedly posting her email address.
Chris Horner’s American Tradition Institute also filed a request with Hayhoe’s employer, Texas Tech University, requesting any emails she sent or received about the book. ATI’s tactics of targeting individual scientists previously prompted a formal condemnation from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the country’s leading scientific associations. The AAAS resolution criticizing the intimidation of scientists was introduced by Raymond Orbach, who served as a top Energy Department official under George W. Bush.
Morano got a boost from his former boss Rush Limbaugh on December 19, when Limbaugh told his radio audience that “Newt’s new book has a chapter written by a babe named Hayhoe,” who “believes in man-made global warming.” (Limbaugh also uses the word “babe” to undermine women who work in government and media.)
Morano later celebrated the news that Gingrich had scrapped Hayhoe’s chapter on climate change with the following headline:
The fiasco attests to the influence wielded over the Republican Party by right-wing media and others who reject the scientific consensus that manmade climate change demands our attention. Morano previously said Republican candidates “can believe in the science of global warming … if you keep your mouth shut about it and you advocate no quote-unquote solution to the problem.”
Limbaugh, who we selected as the 2011 Climate Change Misinformer of the Year, has also established a climate denial litmus test, saying “bye, bye, nomination” after Mitt Romney acknowledged the human contribution to climate change. Romney subsequently tweaked his position.
Limbaugh also criticized Gingrich in November for saying, “I actually don’t know whether global warming is occurring. The vast majority of the National Academy of Science says it is.” Even though Gingrich quickly added, “Science is not actually voted on,” Limbaugh responded “Newt, Newt, Newt, Newt. No! … There isn’t any global warming.” The news that Gingrich will avoid the topic of climate change in his book is particularly clarifying in light of where he stood a few years ago. Consider these comments from a November 2007 interview with the New York Times:
GINGRICH: I’m trying to say to the Right the environment’s too important to neglect. The issues are too serious to walk away from and therefore you’ve got to drop just screaming “No” and you got to show us what the right solutions are from your standpoint.
For her part, Hayhoe says via email that despite “a marked upswing in the quantity and virulence of the hate mail and other forms of attack” since the summer, she continues to speak publicly about climate science because “there is important information people need to know, in order to make informed decisions.” Otherwise, she said, she’d be a bit like a doctor who withheld bad news from a patient for fear of their reaction.
Jocelyn Fong is a researcher with Media Matters for America. This piece was originally published at Media Matters.