Climate Scientist Can Sue National Review For Defamation, Judge Rules

This past Friday, a DC Superior Court judge handed down yet another decision that climate scientist Michael Mann’s defamation case against the conservative magazine National Review should move forward.

The kick-off for the lawsuit was actually a piece written by Rand Simberg at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which referred to Mann as “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science” because he “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.” The editors eventually removed the offending sentences, but not before Mark Steyn picked them up at National Review’s online blog. Steyn said he wasn’t sure he’d have “extended that metaphor all the way into the locker-room showers with quite the zeal Mr Simberg does, but he has a point.” He then went on to call Mann’s work on the famous “hockey stick” graph “fraudulent.”

So Mann sued Simberg, Steyn, CEI and National Review for defamation. A previous DC Superior Court decision already concluded in July that there was sufficient evidence of “actual malice” for the lawsuit to proceed, and slapped down the defendants’ claim that their statements were protected under the First Amendment. National Review then tried to distance itself from CEI by claiming the latter’s long history of attacks on Mann is what sparked an investigation into the scientist’s work by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), leading to the latest ruling:

The Court finds that there is sufficient evidence in the record to demonstrate that Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits. As the Court stated in its previous Order, NR Defendants’ reference to Plaintiff as “the man behind the fraudulent climate change ‘hockey stick’ graph” was essentially an allegation of fraud by Plaintiff. Plaintiff is a member of the scholarly academy and it is obvious that allegations of fraud could lead to the demise of his profession and tarnish his character and standing in the community. […]

Accusations of fraud, especially where such accusations are made frequently through the continuous usage of such words as “whitewashed,” “intellectually bogus,” “ringmaster of the tree-ring circus,” and “cover-up” amount to more than rhetorical hyperbole. In addition, whether the NR Defendants induced the EPA to investigate Plaintiff is not critical to this analysis because it is not disputed that the NR Defendants knew that the EPA and several reputable bodies had investigated Plaintiff and concluded that his work was sound. The evidence before the Court indicates the likelihood that “actual malice” is present in the NR Defendants’ conduct.

This does not, of course, mean Mann will ultimately win his lawsuit. Just that, at this juncture, the court finds his case has enough credibility to proceed.


For what it’s worth, Simberg and Steyn’s claim that Pennsylvania State University’s investigation into Mann’s work is no more credible than its investigation in the Jerry Sandusky affair doesn’t hold water either. The gist of the charge is that the hacked emails from the “Climategate” pseudo-scandal showed Mann manipulated data to produce the “hockey stick” graph. But beside Penn State, Mann has also been exonerated by a veritable avalanche of other bodies, including the EPA, the National Science Foundation Inspector General, the U.K. House of Commons, the University of East Anglia, and the Department of Commerce Inspector General.

Unfortunately, that avalanche didn’t give Mann’s critics pause. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who’s now running for governor of the state, devoted two years and forced Penn State to spend over half a million dollars by trying to subpoena Mann’s research, claiming Mann was “misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining [research] funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia.”