Jim covered Congress and The White House during the George W. Bush administration for The Washington Times, and worked as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California. He has appeared on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and many local and national talk radio shows to talk politics and policy.
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A week or so ago, The Washington Post ran an err0r-filled, old-news hit piece against The Heartland Institute titled, “Climate skeptic group works to reverse renewable energy mandates.” Reporter Juliet Eilperin and I exchanged a few emails several days before the story ran, yet she somehow managed to print this lie:
The Heartland Institute received more than $7.3 million from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2010, and nearly $14.4 million between 1986 and 2010 from foundations affiliated with Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch.
Eilperin was only off by a factor of 10 regarding Exxon (putting aside Heartland hasn’t received a dime from Exxon since 2006), and off by a factor of at 400 regarding the Kochs. (Our first gift from them in a decade was $25,000 for health care work, not climate).
I say “somehow,” but I know where she got it: from the lies printed at DeSmog Blog. In fact, it was at least a double fail on Eilperin’s part. She grabbed a lie wrapped in a mistake, and printed that as fact — without even calling or emailing me to ask if, say, it’s true that Heartland has been the beneficiary of some $21 million from Exxon and the Kochs in the last decade or so.
That’s a pretty significant sum of money, no? Perhaps something a reporter might check — or an editor might insist be checked. Alas, for The Washington Post — as it is for all of the corrupt mainstream media — the idea that Heartland is lighting cigars with endless hundred dollar bills from “Big Oil” is a “fact” too good to check.
The Post did correct its story, but it was too late for the purpose of truth and responsible reporting. The lies and errors are now permanent online, and were repeated in papers around the world. (The Boston Globe ran the uncorrected story on December 2, one week after a “correction” moved over the Post’s wire service. Funny how that happened.)
The unbearable embarrassment of The Washington Post publishing a correction and rebuttal written by The Heartland Institute could have all been avoided with a simple email, phone call, or text from Eilperin to me — a contact within an organization that has never gotten a fair shake from the MSM, but a contact who will freely and honestly communicate with any reporter.
It’s not easy to resist the temptation to tell the MSM to pound sand, but I used to work among them. So I still deal with the MSM on honest terms: I don’t lie, so I expect the same — not sympathetic coverage, but honest reporting. Sadly (for our republic), that is not the standard of today’s MSM. (Full disclosure: Juliet Eilperin expressed her deepest apologies to me for screwing up, for what that’s worth.)
That’s enough background. Here’s the unedited letter from Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast, submitted to The Washington Post and published (almost in its entirety) in their newspaper on December 1. Any references to Al Gore, I was told by The Post, were removed for “space reasons”:
They say truth is the first casualty of war. In the war of words over global warming (aka “climate change”) that is plainly the case.
Last week the Washington Post ran a news article that falsely claimed my organization, The Heartland Institute, received millions of dollars from Exxon Mobil and foundations affiliated with Charles G. and David H. Koch [“Climate skeptic group works to reverse renewable energy mandates,” by Juliet Eilperin, Nov. 24].
Not true. ExxonMobil over the course of a decade gave less than a tenth of the amount reported, never amounting to even 5 percent of our annual receipts. The reported level of support from the Kochs was even more egregiously wrong: Except for a gift of $25,000 last year for our work on health care reform, the Kochs hadn’t donated a dime since 1998.
The Washington Post ran a correction on its web site, but the damage was done. The article has been reprinted without correction in scores and perhaps hundreds of newspapers throughout the country. It adds to the false narrative that the only persons and organizations that question the dogma of man-made global warming are shills for the oil industry.
We aren’t. We have more than 5,000 donors, receive only a small fraction of our support from the fossil fuel industry (and always have), and we work with hundreds of highly qualified scientists to simply speak the truth about climate change.
Where do we go to get our reputation back?
The article misrepresented our work as well as our funding. The Heartland Institute is not “critical of climate change science.” We are one of its leading supporters, having hosted seven international conferences (with an eighth one taking place in Munich this week) and published a comprehensive survey of the scientific literature in two volumes, with a third volume on its way.
We spend more supporting climate science than all but a handful of public policy think tanks.
Eilperin reports we ran a billboard “comparing those who believe in global warming to domestic terrorist Theodore J. Kaczynski.” Also untrue. The billboard simply reported the fact that the infamous Unabomber still believes in man-made global warming, despite the mounting scientific case against it, and asked viewers if they do, too. If you doubt the veracity of the billboard, just Google “Al Gore and the Unabomber” and take a quiz to see if you can tell their positions on global warming apart.
It’s been a long time since the Washington Post ran an article that was anything other than dismissive or worse on the efforts of sincere and hard-working scientists and organizations that say the case hasn’t been made that man-made global warming is a threat to either public health or the environment. That’s a disservice to the newspaper’s readers, and because of the paper’s stature, to the nation.
Joseph L. Bast is president of The Heartland Institute, a national nonprofit organization based in Chicago, Illinois.