A climate scientist widely known for his “hockey stick” graph showing a steep climb in global temperature over the last century, can go ahead and sue two right-wing blogs for libel, a judge ruled last week.
The blogs compared the scientist, Michael E. Mann (pictured), to convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. Mann teaches at Penn State University where Sandusky was a top assistant football coach under coaching legend Joe Paterno.
The case stems from two separate blog posts that ran in July of 2012. The first appeared on the web site OpenMarket.org and was then quoted approvingly at length in the online version of the conservative magazine National Review.
Both posts referenced a supposed scandal that conservative media labeled “Climategate.” The scandal involved a series of e-mails stolen by hackers off various university computers that were said to reveal prominent climate scientists discussing how to cover up data that contradicted their theory of global warming.
The “Climategate” scandal was widely discredited and the e-mails were shown to be taken out of context.
In the post quoted on National Review, writer Rand Simberg calls Mann, “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.”
Mann’s lawyers asked National Review to remove the post and apologize to Mann.
The other blog post, by Peter Wood writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, also drew a comparison between the Sandusky case and Mann’s alleged involvement in “Climategate,” albeit less directly.
Mann sued the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute which publishes the Openmarket.org blog. He said that the publications had defamed him and damaged his reputation. The publications filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit, which were heard by Washington D.C. Superior Court Judge Natalia Combs Greene last week.
Greene ruled that Mann’s claims can go forward. She added that Mann’s case was likely to succeed “on the merits.”
“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,” the judge wrote.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Mann had named the Chronicle of Higher Education in his lawsuit. That was not correct. Mann has sued National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
SOURCES: Discovery News, Mother Jones, National Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, OpenMarket.org, FactCheck.org