So if the Gallup organization releases a poll that says that 59 percent of the American public doesn’t buy anything you have to say, and a sizeable chunk of the rest thinks you’re at least partly wrong, what do you do?
If you’re the remarkable Marc Morano, you claim victory, of course.
I’ve mentioned Marc Morano a few times in this column. Improving on an already colorful career, Marc has emerged in the last few years as the guy in the center square of the climate change denial industry. With his boss, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, Morano is the Roy Cohn to Inhofe’s Joe McCarthy of climate change paranoia. Or maybe the Edgar Bergen to Inhofe’s Charlie McCarthy. (If you’re not up on your mid-20th century pop culture, look these two up.)
Marc’s a piece of work. The stops on his career are a pageant of triumphs in making the guilty look innocent, and vice versa. After four years as the “Man in Washington” on Rush Limbaugh’s mid-90s TV show, Morano settled in at the Cybercast News Service (CNS), an outfit that sort of serves as the Tass and Pravda of the far-far right. There, he’s best remembered for penning two political attack pieces. His CNS story was the first salvo in the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry prior to the 2004 election. In early 2006, after another Vietnam vet, Congressman John Murtha, dramatically came out against the Iraq war, Morano co-penned a piece questioning Murtha’s receipt of two Purple Hearts for wounds while serving in Vietnam. Under the headline “Murtha’s War Hero Status Called Into Question,” Morano pegged the story to decades-old allegations made by three former election opponents — one deceased, one too feeble to be interviewed, and the third merely angry.
Morano hooked up with Inhofe while the senator was still the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. But he hung on to the playbook: Like his character attacks on Kerry and Murtha, Morano took off on climate scientists as if he were doing opposition research for a county commissioners’ race. In an exchange at the 2006 annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, Morano was called out by NASA Scientist James Hansen. Hansen’s work on projecting global warming had earned him the Heinz Award, an environmental honor named for the late John Heinz, an eco-minded Republican senator who died in a plane crash three years before Inhofe was elected to the Senate. Like the Nobels, Pulitzers, and other awards, the Heinz Awards offer cash to the winner — a quarter million. Morano consistently suggested that Hansen received $250,000 as a bribe for spun science. Here’s a Senate floor speech where Inhofe makes the same suggestion.
Morano’s latest triumph is the victory lap he took when Gallup said that Americans’ skepticism on climate change had grown. In classic McCarthy style, it’s a half-truth. In the midst of an economic crisis and a continued onslaught of fact-free denial from the likes of Lou Dobbs, George Will and Glenn Beck, Gallup found 41 percent of Americans feel media reporting on climate change is “generally exaggerated.” This was the “highest level of public skepticism” measured by Gallup in a decade. For fear that it would ruin his story line, Morano failed to mention that “Gallup has documented declines in public concern about the environment at times when other issues, such as a major economic downturn or a national crisis like 9/11, absorbed Americans' attention,” and that “Americans generally believe that global warming is real.”
Inhofe took to the Senate floor on Thursday to crow that the global warming verdict was in “freefall.” Morano launched another personal attack on Andrew Revkin, the climate reporter and blogger for the New York Times, for portraying last week’s Climate Deniers’ Conference in New York as an event apart from real science.
It seems that half a truth is just about capacity for these fellas. There’s a time for honest and respectful debate, and a time to move on and call out a dishonest broker for the phony that he is.
Have you no decency?
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Peter Dykstra is the former executive producer of CNN's Science, Tech and Weather Unit. He writes three columns for MNN: Media Mayhem on Mondays, Political Habitat on Wednesdays, and Green States on Fridays. (Yes, he writes a lot.)