Pulitzer-winning Colorado Springs Gazette ignores calls to correct their falsehood-filled global warming editorial

The Pulitzer-winning Colorado Springs Gazette has been informed twice about blatant falsehoods in their April 23, 2015 global warming editorial. The editorial board has failed to even acknowledge their error, never mind correct or retract the editorial, calling into question their journalistic integrity.

August ice extent trend by NSIDC

August ice extent trend by NSIDC

On April 23, the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote an editorial on the subject of global warming that contained four factual errors and several distortions, failed to credit sources, and appeared to be largely based on an 2014 infomercial for a free market group that denies the reality of global warming (aka climate change or industrial climate disruption1). S&R documented the many problems with the editorial in a post published on April 27, and I emailed the Gazette’s editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen with one example error and asked for comment. S&R received no response.

On April 29, I submitted a letter to the editor via email that documented the four factual errors and called for a retraction. It has now been 10 days since I submitted the letter and I have received no response to my call for a correction or retraction of the editorial, nor has my letter been published by the Gazette. At this point I have to conclude that the Gazette’s editorial board has no intention of correcting or retracting their error-filled editorial, and so I have published my letter to the editor below.

Normally I would consider taking this up with the Gazette’s publisher. In this case, however, the publisher – Dan Steever – is a member of the editorial board. Steever was installed at the Gazette in August 2012 by then owner of the Gazette, Freedom Communications Inc. Freedom Communications, owner of the libertarian-leaning Orange County Register, claims to be guided by libertarian philosophy and the “legacy values” of its founders – “Integrity, Self-Responsibility, Respect for Individual Freedom, Community and Life-Long Learning.” When the Gazette was sold in November, 2012, Steever was kept as publisher by the new owners – Clarity Media Group, LLC (which does not appear to be associated with the New York media training organization of the same name).

Clarity Media Group (CMG) is a subsidiary of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the media and entertainment conglomerate owned by conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz. In addition to the Colorado Springs Gazette, CMG owns the conservative weekly magazine The Weekly Standard, the San Francisco Examiner, and the Examiner.com brand of local websites. Two of the Gazette’s editorial board are associated with CMG or AEG – Ryan McKibben, Chairman and CEO of CMG, and Christian Anschutz, son of Philip Anschutz. Given the newspaper’s owners are also on the Gazette’s editorial board, it is unlikely that going above the publisher will have any impact either.

Laugesen himself is a well-known conservative Colorado commentator and one-time publisher of the pro-gun Soldier of Fortune magazine. A couple of Google searches (“wayne laugesen climate change” and “wayne laugesen global warming“) turned up commentaries by Laugesen at the Gazette, the National Catholic Reporter, and the misnamed and climate disruption-denying blog ClimateRealists, among others, where he denies global warming.

The errors documented by S&R are blatant, and the fact that falsehoods were presented as true in an editorial represents a serious failure of fact checking and editorial quality control. That Laugesen and the rest of the editorial board have apparently chosen to ignore their obvious mistakes calls into question their commitment to journalistic integrity and, more importantly, their commitment to accurately presenting the facts to their readers.

Letter to the Editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, submitted via email April 29, 2015

Dear editors,

On April 23, the Gazette published an editorial titled “Stop ‘global warming’ hysteria.” This editorial contained four factual errors.

First, as of 2014 the US government spends about $30 billion on border security when ICE, border patrol, border interdiction by the Coast Guard. The editorial incorrectly claimed that the $22 billion spent by the federal government spent on climate change represented “twice what it spends on border security.” This calculation assumed that only the border patrol is involved in border security, an assumption that is clearly wrong, and it also failed to take into account the climate change expenses that are useful for wildfire prevention, weather forecasting, and disaster preparedness..

Second, the Small Business Administration estimated in 2010 that US economy spends about $281 billion annually to comply with all environmental regulations. The editorial referenced a Forbes blog that misread the SBA study, titled “The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms,” even though the correct values are clearly identified in Table 6 of the study.

Third, since 1978 the Earth has warmed between between .5 and 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on which of the four surface or two satellite measurement sets you look at. This is significantly more warming than the 0.36 degrees falsely claimed in the editorial.

And fourth, all four surface and one of the two satellite measurement sets agree that the Earth has continued to warm since 1998. Only one of the satellite measurement sets says that the Earth has cooled.

All of these factual errors would have been identified had the editorial been fact-checked. In this case the Gazette did its readers a disservice. Given the seriousness of this failure of editorial quality control, the Gazette should either correct the editorial or retract it entirely.

Brian Angliss

1. “Industrial climate disruption” is defined as the consensus position is that the climate is changing, that the emission of greenhouse gases by human industry is the dominant driver of those changes, and that the changes will almost certainly be disruptive to human society and global ecology.