Newsmax’s coverage of the Global Warming Petition Project is consistently biased and inaccurate.
For other posts in this series: click here for data and debunking, here for GWPP mentions by US politicians, and here for conservative/libertarian media references.
Newsmax Logo (credit: Newsmax.com)
On May 19, 2008, the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
published their latest version of the Global Warming Petition Project (GWPP)
. The GWPP has collected 31,487 signatures from people whom the organizers claim are each qualified to have an informed opinion on the subject of industrial climate disruption1
(aka global warming or climate change). S&R demonstrated that this was not the case back in 2010
and we’ve been running updates to the original investigation
since October, 2015.
Since the GWPP was updated in May 2008, libertarian and conservative media outlets have been spreading the GWPP’s false narrative – that there are more so-called “scientists” who reject industrial climate disruption than there are scientists convinced by nearly 200 years of science and overwhelming data that climate disruption is real.
S&R recently identified the following as the top 15 conservative and libertarian news outlets.
- Fox News (foxnews.com)
- Drudge Report (drudgereport.com)
- Independent Journal Review (ijreview.com)
- The Blaze (theblaze.com)
- Wall Street Journal (wsj.com)
- Breitbart (breitbart.com)
- New York Post (nypost.com)
- Newsmax (newsmax.com)
- The Daily Caller (dailycaller.com)
- Pajamas Media/Instapundit (pjmedia.com)
- WND/World Net Daily (wnd.com)
- The Washington Times (washingtontimes.com)
- Western Journalism (westernjournalism.com)
- Hot Air (hotair.com)
- National Review Online (nationalreview.com)
The sites that have been struck out have been the subject of previous S&R reports. Newsmax reporters and columnists referenced the GWPP 16 times between May 2008 and December 2014. In addition, two native advertisements masquerading as Newsmax articles ran from November 2014 until late 2015 or Early 2016. These 18 mentions make Newsmax the second most prolific purveyor of GWPP misinformation.
Early mentions by Phil Brennan
On the day that the OISM published the GWPP, May 19, 2008, only two of the top 15 conservative media sites ran with the story – Newsmax and WND (formerly WorldNetDaily). Phil Brennan a Newsmax commentator who died in 2014 at the age of 87, wrote that first column, as well as three more in the following months.
In his first column, Brennan incorrectly identified “31,072 Americans with university degrees in science” as scientists. As S&R detailed previously, a math teacher isn’t a scientist even if she has a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics. Similarly, a stay-at-home dad with a veterinary degree isn’t a scientist either. Furthermore, Arthur Robinson, president of the OISM and primary organizer of the GWPP, has never publicly disclosed his criteria for deciding which university degrees are qualified to have an informed opinion on climate science vs. those that do not, even when explicitly asked to do so.
In this early article we see the genesis of the GWPP’s false, anti-consensus narrative that has come to dominate conservative and libertarian media sites. Brennan writes that Robinson’s goal with the GWPP is “to demonstrate that the claim of ‘settled science’ and an overwhelming ‘consensus’ in favor of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming and consequent climate damage is wrong.” And Brennan incorrectly claims that the GWPP “shows that no such consensus or settled science exists.” S&R has shown that the GWPP’s counter-consensus claims are false regardless of how the signatures are analyzed – by comparison to the total number of degrees conferred, by comparison to the total employment in the GWPP’s selected fields, and by comparison to the total membership in professional organizations.
Finally, Brennan wrote that the precursor to the GWPP, the Oregon Petition, was distributed in 2001, when in actuality the signatures were gathered in 1997 and 1998. The most likely explanation for this mistake is laziness or faulty memory on the part of an octogenarian, but when easily verifiedfacts like this are missed or go uncorrected, it does raise concerns about whether or not Brennan’s “facts” can be trusted.
About a month later, Brennan published his second column on the subject of the GWPP. In this case, Brennan spent most of his column creating straw men, engaging in an illogical ad hominem argument against Al Gore, and spouting climate change “facts” that are actually wrong (and that were widely known to be wrong in 2008 when Brennan wrote them). In this commentary, Brennan writes that Gore is only “allegedly credible” and goes on to say that Gore “insists that the [climate] science is settled,” supposedly flying “in the face of the 31,000 plus scientists who have signed statements that declared his theory humbug.”
S. Fred Singer, tobacco scientist-for-hire (credit: guardian.com)
Brennan’s last two columns on the subject of the GWPP were on July 3rd
and July 7th
, 2009, and they present two slightly different versions of a single interview with climate disruption denier
and former scientist-for-hire for the tobacco industry
, S. Fred Singer
. In both cases, Brennan repeats Singer’s comments about the GWPP:
‘When you have 31,000 scientists signing the Oregon petition saying they disagree with the current wisdom that humans are producing increased warming, it speaks for itself. It’s true that the 31,000 are not all climate scientists. There are not that many [climate scientists] in the world.
However, it does show you that the science is not settled.’
By July 2009, climate realists2 knew that the GWPP’s counter-consensus narrative was false. Given Singer has spent the last ten to twenty years focused on denying the reality of industrial climate disruption, it’s very unlikely that he was unaware of the many serious criticisms of the GWPP.
Furthermore, Singer is not a trustworthy source. He has made a career of denying science on behalf of U.S. corporations and industry groups. For example, he was paid $20,000 by the Alexis de Toqueville Institution for the production of a pro-tobacco research paper that he then promoted with members of Congress. And Singer claimed in 2001 that he hadn’t been supported by an oil company in 20 years, yet ExxonMobil donated $10,000 to the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) that Singer founded in 1990 and ran until January, 2015. There are many more examples of Singer’s dishonesty in the exhaustively researched “Merchants of Doubt,” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.
GWPP in Climategate and Deepwater Horizon commentaries
In late 2009, a several thousand cherry-picked private emails sent between climate scientists were illegally published by a hacker. This event came to be known as “Climategate,” and even though seven different investigations performed by multiple universities and government organizations in two different countries cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing, Climategate continues to be a thorn in the sides of climate scientists.
Muir-Russel panel review of the “Climategate” emails.
Shortly after the publication of the emails, David Limbaugh wrote a commentary
that took the Obama administration to task, specifically Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs. While the commentary falsely accuses climate scientists of fraud
and spins conspiracy theories
about the scientists’ motives, Limbaugh manages to indirectly mention the GWPP too. Limbaugh wrote
The intellectually honest can’t deny there is widespread debate over the existence of man-made catastrophic global warming. More than 31,000 scientists, 9,000 of whom have Ph.D.s, signed a petition urging our government to reject the Kyoto Protocol….
As mentioned above, S&R published our initial debunking of the GWPP in August, 2009, and S&R was not the first site to describe the GWPP’s many fatal flaws. The fact that the GWPP signers are not all scientists and that the GWPP presents a false narrative are easily found and understood by anyone who bothers to look, and Limbaugh should have. It is difficult to say whether Limbaugh’s “intellectually honest” insult is a result of personal bias, lack of experience reporting on climate, or hypocrisy. What is certain is that he presented factually inaccurate information, and as a result he did his readers a disservice.
Newsmax published another Climategate-focused commentary on January 3, 2010. While there is no byline for the commentary, it focuses on an interview with the former director of the National Hurricane Center, 84-year old retired meteorologist Neil Frank. Frank is quoted as saying that
Several years ago two scientists at the University of Oregon became so concerned about the overemphasis on man-made global warming that they put a statement on their Web site and asked for people’s endorsement; 32,000 have signed the petition, including more than 9,000 Ph.Ds.
Photo of OISM facility in Cave Junction, Oregon (credit: OISM.org)
Frank is referring to the GWPP, but he got his facts wrong. S&R investigated the associations of OISM’s faculty (several of whom are deceased) and of the GWPP’s primary organizer, Arthur Robinson. We found no association with the University of Oregon. The OISM itself is based in Cave Junction, Oregon (photo at right), so it’s possible that Frank was merely confused about their association.
Another commentator for Newsmax, David A. Patten, mentioned the GWPP and Robinson directly in a August 21, 2010 commentary on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Patten’s entire commentary is an example of sloppy and illogical thinking (specifically the non-sequitor logical fallacy, since it doesn’t follow that the Earth’s response to industrial emissions of greenhouse gasses will have any relationship to the Gulf of Mexico’s response to an oil spill), including fact that Patten interviewed Robinson, who has no identifiable expertise in either oil spills or the biology of the Gulf of Mexico. The only apparent reason to interview Robinson is because he’s a “tireless promotor” of the GWPP’s false anti-consensus narrative, and Patten was repeating that narrative in his commentary.
Four years and a United Nations climate conference later…
Following Paten’s commentary, there are no mentions of the GWPP outside of reader comments until Cheryl K. Chumley writes about it on May 20, 2014, over four years later. In an article titled “Climate Change Remains Unsettled, Say 31,072 Scientists,” Chumley presents a litany of debunked myths, biased information, and logical fallacies as fact, yet she wasn’t even able to get the number of signatures correct – 31,487 as of August 2008, nearly six years earlier. And as with nearly every mention of the GWPP, Chumley misrepresents the signers as “31,072 U.S. scientists” and claims that more than “9,000 of the petition’s signatories have a Ph.D. in a scientific field.”
As S&R has pointed out repeatedly, just because someone has a minimum Bachelors of Science degree in a field doesn’t mean that a) that person is a scientist or b) that the field has anything to do with climate. And while the GWPP’s organizers claims that 9,029 PhDs signed the petition, they don’t provide a breakdown of how many signers in each field had PhDs. Given that the vast majority of GWPP signers are not climate experts, it’s very likely that the vast majority of PhD signers are not climate experts.
There is often a spike in articles casting doubts on the reality of industrial climate disruption in the weeks leading up to a major United Nations climate conference. Mentions of the GWPP spiked in late October, 2010, about a month before a UN climate conference took place in Cancun, Mexico. The first of these was a short October 26, 2014 article titled “Global Warming is Fake? These 7 Scientists Think Humans Are Not to Blame.” In this article Karen Ridder mentions the GWPP before naming the seven scientists. But in a break from previous Newsmax articles and commentaries, Ridder wrote that the signatures represented “people self-identifying as ‘scientists’ who opposed the idea of energy rationing proposed by the Kyoto Treaty….” In addition, Ridder pointed out that the GWPP has faced criticism because “some say the people who signed the petition were not qualified to make such a statement.”
The next day, Newsmax ran another short article pointing readers at seven websites that deny the reality of industrial climate disruption. Number 6 is the GWPP, and the Newsmax summary repeats the common misconception that the GWPP signers are all scientists. And on the next day, October 28, Greg Richter pointed Newsmax readers to a Fox News interview of John Coleman by Megyn Kelly. S&R has already addressed this interview in our investigation of Fox’s mentions of the GWPP.
Finally, Newsmax published an article by Jerry Shaw during the UN conference. Shaw’s article not only led with a screenshot from the GWPP’s website but also claimed that the GWPP’s false anti-consensus narrative was the top key argument against global warming. And again, Shaw misidentified the signers of the GWPP as “scientists.”
Alana Marie Burke’s GWPP series
On December 18 and 22, 2014, Alana Marie Burke published a series of four articles that investigated the GWPP. They are titled:
Each of Burke’s articles repeats the incorrect claim that the GWPP signers are all scientists, and each article has many examples of subtly misleading language. But each of her articles also points out that the GWPP has its critics.
In her first article, Burke asks what the purpose of the GWPP is and then quotes Robinson repeating his usual, false anti-consensus narrative. She also writes that the signatures represent “qualified Americans,” a statement that is questionable at best. And she writes that the signatures “seem to demonstrate that there is a lack of consensus on the issue.” Yet she again points out that the GWPP has been widely criticized.
In her second article, Burke writes that the purpose of the petition was to show that “there is not a true consensus on the science of global warming,” repeating the GWPP’s false narrative. Yet the bulk of the article is devoted to criticisms of the GWPP by organizations such as the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Bill Moyers’ company. She accurately points out that the GWPP “has been declared flawed, fake, and full of misleading claims” by its critics.
Burke’s third article is largely a set of Tweets both supporting and criticizing the GWPP. In her introduction to the list of Tweets, however, Burke sets up the reader with a “on the one hand, on the other hand” style that favors the GWPP’s false narrative by giving it the benefit of the doubt. She also mistakenly identifies the signers of the GWPP as all having “advanced degrees related to science.” The term “advanced degree” only applies to those signers who have Master’s degrees or PhDs. Slightly more than a third of signers actually have Bachelors degrees in a scientific field.
In her last article, however, she went the farthest and wrote that “the petition does seem to have achieved one of its main goals: to refute claims that there is a 97 percent scientific consensus on the science of global warming.” Given that most of the signers are not climate experts and that the total number of signatures represent a tiny minority of the people who could have signed the GWPP, Burke’s claim is false. Yet again she spent most of the article on petitions that supposedly counter the GWPP’s.
All in all, her articles are overwhelmingly favorable to the GWPP. In every case she repeats the false, anti-consensus narrative that Robinson and his allies have been spreading since 2008, and in every case she structures her article to give the GWPP or its supporters the first and last word. Yet as inaccurate and biased as her articles are, they also represent the closest thing to fair and accurate journalism published by Newsmax to date.
Deceptive sponsored content by Tom Luongo
Tom Luongo’s “native advertising” masquerading as a Newsmax investigative report.
Burke’s articles were the last ones published by
Newsmax to mention the GWPP. But they weren’t the last articles published on
Newsmax. That dubious honor belongs to three related “articles” written by former University of Florida chemist turned investment advisor, trader, and Newsmax editor Tom Luongo
. The problem with the articles is that none of them is an example of journalism – each is an example of “native advertising” (aka “promoted posts” or “sponsored content”). The headlines are written to imply that what follows is the result of investigative journalism: “Banned ‘White Paper’ Proves Global Warming is a Dirty Scam,” “Scientist Confesses: “Global Warming a $22 Billion Scam,”
and an alternative version of the second advertisement that is subtitled “A Breaking Report from Newsmax Media
” (see image) In this case, Luongo was selling discounted memberships to his “Cold Truth Initiative,” and he even wanted to send you a copy of John Casey’s
Dark Winter “(a $29 value)”, a book that supposedly exposes the grand climate conspiracy and predicts the end of the civilization for any nation that is unprepared. In fact, one of the promoted posts written by Luongo is nearly 7600 words long, 6000 of which are the usual half-truths, deceptions, misinformation, and logical fallacies used to deny the reality of industrial climate disruption. The last 1600 words are nothing more than a long winded advertisement.
These native advertisements showed up online for the first time in November, 2014. When S&R originally discovered them in April 2015 (while researching a post criticizing the editorial board of the Colorado Springs Gazette for misinforming their readers), the advertisements appeared to have been published the prior day. S&R later discovered that Google searches always indicated that the advertisements had been published the day before the Google search was conducted. However, this deceptive dating of the advertisements stopped sometime between early November, 2015 and February 2016.
Luongo refers to the GWPP without mentioning it by name in both advertisements. In both cases he falsely implies that the petition was signed in response to the Tweet by President Obama that said “97% of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Luongo went so far in one as to write that the petition was signed “in outrage.”
The GWPP was published in May, 2008. President Obama’s “97%” Tweet was sent on May 16, 2013, five years after the GWPP was published. Barring time travel, it is not possible for the signatures to have been gathered in response to an event that hadn’t happened yet. Luongo has either made a gross error or he’s lying. Combined with the deceptive way that the advertisements were disguised as authentic Newsmax articles, it’s clear that no-one can trust the so-called facts that pepper Luongo’s three Newsmax advertisements.
Since May 2008, Newsmax has published 18 articles, commentaries, and sponsored content (aka advertising masquerading as original Newsmax reporting) that mention or reference the Global Warming Petition Project. Each time, Newsmax repeated one or both of the false claims that underlie the GWPP – that everyone who signed the petition is qualified to have an expert opinion on the subject of climate science, and that the number of signatures demonstrates that there isn’t actually a consensus on the reality of industrial climate disruption. In only a few cases were critics of the GWPP’s narrative even mentioned.
As we’ve seen, most of the articles have errors of fact that could have been corrected with a quick Google search, by either the authors or the Newsmax editors responsible for publishing the articles. And in every case, Newsmax’s publications are clearly biased in favor of the GWPP’s false claims and false narrative. That Newsmax has published such biased and inaccurate misinformation 18 times makes it the second most prolific spreader of the GWPP’s false narrative among the top 15 conservative/libertarian media sites.
- Industrial climate disruption, aka global warming or anthropogenic climate change, is a scientific theory that climate change is occurring, that industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of those changes, and that the changes will be disruptive to global ecosystems and human societies.
- Climate realists are individuals who accept the scientific theory, backed by 180 years of discover and overwhelming data, that industrial climate disruption is real. Individuals who deny the evidence often claim the term “realist,” but it is a misnomer.