It’s what we non-alarmists have long wanted: the climate change racket on trial in a court of law. In threatening National Review and its international columnist Mark Steyn with legal action over alleged “defamatory remarks” in his ‘Corner’ column, inventor of the famously debunked “hockey stick” climate graph, Dr Michael Mann, may have finally bitten off way more than he can legally chew.
The current ruckus started when columnist Steyn penned a short piece entitled Football and Hockey on July 25th. In it Steyn referenced Rand Simberg’s ‘Unhappy Valley’s Other Scandal’ article (July 13th) on the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s ‘Open Market’ blog site.
Simberg’s posting was based on former FBI director Louis Freeh’s recently published report setting out the “appalling behaviour” of the Penn State authorities who were found to be complicit in covering up Jerry Sandusky’s serial rape activities. Simberg made the point that the same “rotten and corrupt culture” at Penn State had, two years earlier, conducted an investigation that ultimately “whitewashed” another of their high profile “rock star” staffers, Dr Michael Mann, who was also “bringing in millions in research funding”.
In the wake of the Freeh findings, calling for a “fresh, truly independent enquiry”, Simberg states: “now that we know how bad it was, perhaps it’s time that we revisit the Michael Mann affair, particularly given how much we’ve also learned about his and others’ hockey-stick deceptions since.”
Enter Mark Steyn, a columnist known for non-PC, bullish straight-talking. While Steyn declines to extend Simberg’s “metaphor all the way to the locker-room showers”, he reminds us that “when the East Anglia emails came out, Penn State felt obliged to ‘investigate’ Professor Mann. Graham Spanier, the Penn State president forced to resign over Sandusky, was the same cove who investigated Mann.”
Steyn went on to assert that Michael Mann is “the man behind the fraudulent climate-change ‘hockey-stick’ graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus”. It is this sentence that subsequently attracted the threat of court action from Mann’s lawyer via a letter that NR’s Rich Lowry described as “laughably threatening”. The letter suggests Mann’s legal team means business unless the National Review (NR) “issues a retraction of this article and apologizes to Dr Mann”.
They aren’t going to get either, however, as NR’s letter in response makes abundantly clear.
In essence, NR’s response to the threat of being sued is twofold. First, it cites legal precedent that the “use of the term ‘fraud’ was accurate and appropriate in the context in which it was used”; that is “not in the criminal sense” but “used to call out his conclusions on climate science as intellectually suspect”. This, says the NR letter, is exactly the kind of language used in public debate that the First Amendment seeks to protect.
Further, the allegation that Steyn made an “insidious comparison between Dr Mann and Jerry Sandusky” doesn’t bear close scrutiny.
As someone who worked for 17 years in the law including numerous fraud trials, I can state categorically that the second complaint has ‘no legs’. In his piece, Steyn specifically disassociates himself from Simberg’s locker-room “metaphor”. Believing Simberg “has a point”, Steyn actually poses the highly pertinent question, “If an institution is prepared to cover up systematic rape of minors, what won’t it cover up?”