Media Double-Standard on Global Warming “Censorship”

If you plug the search terms “James Hansen” and “censored” into Google, you get 37,900 results.

Do the same search substituting “Roy Spencer” for “James Hansen,” and you get 610 results (the third of which is from Newsbusters [here and here]).

The media is highly selective about the censorship it covers. Consider the note climatologist Roy Spencer posted on his website today:


I see that we are once again having to hear how NASA’s James Hansen was dissuaded from talking to the press on a few of the 1,400 media interviews he was involved in over the years.

Well, I had the same pressure as a NASA employee during the Clinton-Gore years, because NASA management and the Clinton/Gore administration knew that I was skeptical that mankind’s CO2 emissions were the main cause of global warming. I was even told not to give my views during congressional testimony, and so I purposely dodged a question, under oath, when it arose.

But I didn’t complain about it like Hansen has. NASA is an executive branch agency and the President was, ultimately, my boss (and is, ultimately, Hansen’s boss). So, because of the restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do or say, I finally just resigned from NASA and went to work for the university here in Huntsville. There were no hard feelings, and I’m still active in a NASA satellite mission and fully supportive of its Earth observation programs.

In stark contrast, Jim Hansen said whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted to the press and congress during that time. He even campaigned for John Kerry, and received a $250,000 award from Theresa Heinz-Kerry’s charitable foundation — two events he maintains are unrelated. If I had done anything like this when I worked at NASA, I would have been crucified under the Hatch Act.

Does anyone besides me see a double standard here?

-Roy W. Spencer
The University of Alabama in Huntsville

Answer: Yes.

Dr. Spencer is right about the double standard, and also right to note that government scientists have bosses who — quite appropriately — get to set the rules. Not NBC News, not the Washington Post, and not each individual government employee (even the ones who think they are smarter than everybody else). No, the bosses who report to, and sometimes are, directly elected by the public get to set the rules, and employees like Hansen are supposed to follow them.

If they don’t want to, they can quit — as Roy Spencer did — or even run for office themselves. (I don’t recall James Hansen ever submitting his name on the ballot for public approval.)

The entire so-called “censorship” controversy is a creation of the media, Hansen himself, and a few other pro-global warming theory activists who are trying to promulgate the absurd notion notion that federal government employees, unlike any other employees anywhere, get to say whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want, while on office time.

Hansen called it censorship when his employer decided to have its employees coordinate work-related media interviews through a designated office, leaving some of us to wonder how we can possibly be expected to accept the results of complicated global warming models promoted by a guy who doesn’t even understand the definition of a commonplace word like “censor.”

Hansen even had the chutzpah to refuse to testify before Congress in 2006 because a so-called “skeptic” scientist, the highly-credentialled and far more polite Dr. John Christy, was also invited to testify. Hansen’s effort to get Christy booted from a Congressional panel’s witness list doesn’t quite fit the formal definition of censorship, but Hansen’s intent — to keep Christy from sharing his views — was substantially closer to it than anything the Bush Administration has ever done to Hansen.

And speaking of ethical violations, government employee Hansen’s refusal to testify to Congress was itself an ethical violation. There may not be a formal rule against it in the rulebook, but Congressmen are the people’s representatives, and Hansen works for the people. When Congress wants information, Hansen should provide it.

Too bad Congress didn’t subpoena him. Let him claim “censorship” while he’s being chased around by U.S. marshalls for his refusal to speak.

Dr. Spencer does valuable work at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, but Alabama’s gain was NASA’s loss — the loss of a true professional that few in our blind-eyed news media even realizes, much less acknowledges.

Hat tip: Marc Morano. Cross-posted on Newsbusters.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.