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.”