Climate Change Misinformer of the Year: Marc Morano
By Jill Fitzsimmons and Shauna Theel
founder Marc Morano has been called "the Matt Drudge of climate denial," the "king of the skeptics," and "a central cell of the climate-denial machine," and he revels in these descriptions. Although he has no scientific expertise, he is adamant that manmade global warming is a "con job" based on "subprime science." Morano gained prominence working for two of the most vocal climate deniers in the U.S.: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who notoriously called climate change "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," and Rush Limbaugh, who we named Climate Change Misinformer of the Year in 2011 for his steadfast denial of climate science and wild conspiracy theories about the climate change "hoax."
These days Morano is paid by an industry-funded group to run the climate denial website ClimateDepot.com. At Climate Depot, Morano serves as the de facto research department for the right-wing media's attacks on climate science, and mobilizes his readers to target individual scientists and reporters for telling the public about climate change threats. The site was instrumental in manufacturing the 2009 "Climategate" controversy, which Morano incorrectly claimed exposed "deliberate manipulation of facts and data" by climate scientists. Morano is a darling of the organization most committed to climate denial, the Heartland Institute. He regularly speaks at their conferences and defended their controversial billboard comparing those who accept climate science to "murderers, tyrants, and madmen" including the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
Due to his history of smears and lies, Morano's media influence is usually confined to Rush Limbaugh, FoxNews, and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. But in December, CNN invited him to "debate" Bill Nye on climate science, and in doing so elevated his marginal views to the mainstream press for the first time all year. For all this, Marc Morano has earned the distinction of 2012 Climate Change Misinformer of the Year.
Morano: A Professional Climate Denier
Morano Worked in Communications for Climate Deniers Rush Limbaugh and Sen. James Inhofe. Marc Morano is not a scientist and has no scientific background. Prior to starting Climate Depot, he worked as a producer for Rush Limbaugh in the 1990s where he was known as Limbaugh's "Man in Washington." Limbaugh continues to use Morano's material on his radio show to misinform his millions of listeners.
Morano went on to work for Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who has called climate change the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." As Inhofe's communication director, Morano fed misleading talking points on global warming to climate contrarians, conservative bloggers, and right-wing think tanks like the Heartland Institute. [Esquire, 3/20/10] [Climate Depot, 9/18/11] [Media Matters, 12/19/11] [Think Progress, 2/17/09]
Morano Relished When His Blog Was Called "Toxic And Divisive" by a NY Times Reporter. Morano now runs the climate denial website ClimateDepot.com, which distorts climate science and often attacks individual scientists. New York Times science reporter Andrew Revkin called Morano's blog "divisive and toxic," to which Morano responded: "If by 'divisive and toxic' you mean Climate Depot is serving to derail the man-made global warming agenda and its sub-prime science and politics, I happily plead guilty!" [ClimateDepot.com, 5/8/12]
Morano Said Climate Scientists "Deserve to Be Publicly Flogged." Morano seized on the 2009 "Climategate" controversy to call climate change a "con job" and accuse scientists of "ginning up a crisis." He told The Daily Climate that he saw the controversy as an opportunity to sow doubt about climate science, saying: "I seriously believe we should kick them while they're down. They deserve to be publicly flogged." [Scientific American, 3/1/10]
Morano Defended Billboard Comparing Those Who Accept Climate Science to the Unabomber. Morano has close ties to the Heartland Institute, an industry-funded organization that hosts regular conferences and dispatches "experts" to deny that manmade global warming is a serious problem. To promote a recent conference, Heartland sponsored a billboard that associated acceptance of climate science with Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. When Heartland faced backlash from corporate donors and even some of its own staff, Morano defended the billboard, calling it "edgy":
This is so silly. Every day now, skeptics are compared to Holocaust deniers and the media yawns. But Heartland does an edgy billboard accurately reflecting the views of those featured in it and the media acts as though they are offended?
Heartland has received funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, ExxonMobil and other corporations with a financial interest in confusing the public on climate science. Morano has spoken at five Heartland Institute conferences, and is featured on Heartland's list of global warming "experts." He received an award from Heartland in 2011. [Media Matters, 11/28/12] [Heartland Institute, accessed 12/12/12] [Heartland Institute, 5/15/12] [Heartland Institute, 6/30/11]
Morano Gloated That More Americans Believed in Haunted Houses Than Global Warming, Saying "Science Wins." In 2010, Morano received an award from Accuracy in Media, a group that has defended legislation in Uganda that threatened the death penalty for the "offense of homosexuality" and promoted conspiracy theories including that President Obama was not born in the U.S. In his acceptance speech, Morano touted that in "the fall of 2009, more Americans believed in haunted houses than manmade global warming, and I'm not making that up. Science wins in the end." Morano also said that he didn't "understand" why Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, is "taken seriously." [Media Matters, 2/7/12] [Accuracy in Media, 2/16/10]
Morano Uses Any Media Platform He Is Given to Distort Climate Science
Fox News Hosted Morano to Discuss Climate Change at Least five Times in 2012. A search of Nexis and Media Matters' internal TV archive reveals that Morano appeared on Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto at least five times in 2012 to spew misinformation on climate change. Here are a few highlights:
- Climate Change Is a "Primitive Form of Science." In November, Morano dismissed the link between climate change and extreme weather, saying "every time there's a bad weather event the global warming activists think we need more taxes and regulations to somehow stop bad weather. This is a primitive form of science." He went on to compare climate models to doomsday predictions, saying: "This has now reached the level of the Mayan calendar and Nostradamus when it comes to science." [Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 11/26/12, via Nexis]
- Global Warming Predictions Are "Akin to Medieval Witchcraft." In August, Morano claimed climate change predictions are "failing" and compared them to "medieval witchcraft, where we used to blame witches for controlling the weather." [Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 8/2/12, via Nexis]
- The Public Increasingly Doesn't Believe in Climate Change "As the Science Crumbles." In August, Morano declared that climate change has proven to be based on "subprime science," and that the "whole movement has collapsed." He added that "the public continues to believe less and less, as they should, as the science crumbles." [Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 8/2/12, via Nexis]
- UN Climate Treaties Are "Very Orwellian." Morano claimed in July that the goal of UN climate negotiations is "global governance" and wealth redistribution, adding: "It's very Orwellian... This is stuff Orwell couldn`t conceive of, your home energy use, your travel, your train travel, airline travel all monitored by international agencies. It`s not the stuff of science fiction." [Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 7/6/12, via Nexis]
- The "Global Warming Apocalypse... Isn't Happening." In April, Morano claimed that renewable energy is unnecessary because the "global warming apocalypse... isn't happening." He added that "even the big green gurus are reconsidering ... the reason we have the wind mandates which is fear of manmade global warming." [Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 4/30/12]
Morano Often Appears On Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones' Show. Alex Jones is a radio host who thinks that a "New World Order" of secretive elites is trying to take over the world, impose an authoritarian government and "exterminate 80% of the world's population." Jones, who was one of the most prominent 9/11 truthers, has made outlandish claims, including that the government is trying to "encourage homosexuality with chemicals" in items like juiceboxes, and that Bill Gates is promoting vaccines because he is a eugenicist trying to sterilize people. Morano often appears on Jones' show to promote conspiracy theories of his own:
- Morano Agreed Obama "Might Start A War" to Win Re-Election. After Morano predicted that Romney would win the election, Jones said that Obama might "start a war" to win re-election. Morano responded, "they could try to do that, yes, that's always possible."
- Morano Fearmongered About UN Establishing a "Global EPA." Morano claimed that the UN climate summit in Rio was pushing a "global EPA" that is "going to be able to police the world." He added, "Think of our own EPA that speaks French. If that doesn't send chills up your spine, I don't know what will." Morano's fearmongering played into Jones' New World Order conspiracy theory.
- Morano Denied That July Was the Hottest Month on Record. Morano claimed scientists used "data that had been monkeyed around with" to state that July 2012 was the hottest month on record in the continental U.S.
- Morano Accused Scientists of "Cover[ing] up" "Dropping" Sea Levels. Morano claimed that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a leading body of thousands of scientists assessing climate change, is a "small group of scientists" that was "blocking studies that disagreed, blocking data that disagreed, and then essentially, sometimes, generating studies that did." He later added that scientists are trying to "cover up the fact that sea level not only isn't accelerating, it's dropping." In fact, sea levels have been rising for decades and have studies indicate this rise is accelerating. [Columbia University, accessed 12/17/12]
- Morano: UN Climate Panel Trying to "Contro[l] the World." Morano said that those concerned about global warming are attempting to exert "a level of control that George Orwell didn't contemplate," adding: "He who controls carbon, and controls land use policy, and even the oceans, controls the world. And that's what they're going for. And this isn't conspiracy talk, this is in their documents."
[Media Matters, 2/25/11]
CNN Hosted Morano to "Debate" Bill Nye on Climate Science. In December CNN's Piers Morgan hosted a "debate" on climate change between Marc Morano and Bill Nye "The Science Guy" without disclosing that Morano has no scientific background and is paid by an industry-funded organization. During the segment, Morano misleadingly claimed that "we've gone 16 years without global warming according to UN data," adding:
MORANO: On my Web site there's literally—it demolishes the idea of a hockey stick, new peer-reviewed study, so the idea that Bill Nye is just going around saying CO2 is up, therefore global warming is dangerous, we should be concerned, it's not. It's not dangerous.
In a blog highlighting the segment, CNN identified Morano as an "expert" on the issue and said he "presented an alternate theory regarding the impact, and concern, associated with carbon dioxide." The blog did not clarify that the vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is a problem and is driven by human activity. [Media Matters, 12/5/12]
Morano Helped Enforce Climate Denial Litmus Test for 2012 Election
Morano's Advice to GOP Candidates Who Accept Climate Science: "Keep Your Mouth Shut." During the Republican primary season, Morano told E&E News: "You can believe in the science of global warming if you're a GOP presidential contender if you keep your mouth shut about it and you advocate no quote-unquote solution to the problem." [E&E News, 5/23/11]
Morano Blasted Gingrich for "Accepting the Science." Morano has repeatedly criticized Newt Gingrich for appearing in a 2008 Alliance for Climate Protection ad with Rep. Nancy Pelosi in which he said "our country must take action to address climate change." Morano called the ad "toxic" to Gingrich's presidential campaign, and complained that Gingrich was "accepting the science":
He's acknowledging the problem. He's accepting the science. He hasn't backed away from endorsing Al Gore's approach to man-made global warming. That's why he's going to have a problem. Newt Gingrich was not just giving aid and comfort to the opposition. He was the opposition to the global warming skeptics. [E&E News, 5/23/11]
Morano Pressured Gingrich to Cut Climate Chapter from His Book. When atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe was identified as a contributor to Newt Gingrich's book of environmental essays, for which she was asked to write an introductory chapter on climate change, Morano went on the attack. He dismissed her work as "trash science" and encouraged readers to contact her directly by repeatedly posting her email address on his blog. Morano also blasted Gingrich as a "long-time warmist" who shows "no signs of recanting," adding: "This is how Newt uses his intelligence?" Ranting on ClimateDepot.com, Morano wrote:
Gingrich has revealed beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is, & always has been—a committed believer in man-made climate fears! The fact that Hayhoe was chosen to write a chapter in his new book is all we need to know. Will Hayhoe be his potential pick for climate advisor?! Gingrich has never left Pelosi's couch! If the GOP can only come up with Newt or Mitt—is an Obama 2nd term all that scary when it comes to climate? Just asking ...
Gingrich later scrapped Hayhoe's chapter after Rush Limbaugh—Morano's former boss—highlighted the story on his radio show. Morano celebrated the news with the following headline:
Morano Raised "Concerns" About Romney's Stance on Climate Change. At the Heartland Institute's 7th climate change conference, Morano raised "concerns" that some of Mitt Romney's advisors accept the science of climate change, saying "it's a little bit scary who he's surrounding himself with." He added, "It's very frustrating for global warming skeptics when you realize who is the Republican standard bearer right now and how far we've come... We need a president who actually can stand up to this whole global warming brigade." [ClimateCrocks.com, 5/30/12]
Morano Falsely Suggested That Former Romney Global Warming Advisor Favored Forced Sterilization. Last year on Alex Jones' show, Morano expressed concern that Romney would accept manmade global warming if he were elected President, noting that he was advised by John Holdren -- now President Obama's senior science advisor—while he was governor of Massachusetts. Morano went on to suggest that Holdren supported forced sterilization, when in fact he had merely co-authored a book 32 years prior that catalogued such methods among many others but did not endorse them. From The Alex Jones Show:
MORANO: [Romney] had John Holdren as one of his advisors in Massachusetts when Romney was on his global warming kick.
AARON DYKES, ALEX JONES GUEST HOST: So just for the viewers who may not be following the name game here. You're talking about John P. Holdren, Obama's global warming and white house czar, who calls for a $4 billion 4 billion person genocide over overpopulation and is experimenting with this geoengineering in the atmosphere—
DYKES: —over global warming.
MORANO: Romney is getting a free ride in these [Republican primary] debates. John Holdren was partnered up with Paul Ehrlich. Paul Ehrlich proposed forced sterilization agents in our drinking water in the 1960's and 70's. [Media Matters, 9/17/09]
Morano Urged Romney to Pick VP Who Denied Climate Science. Responding to rumors that Mitt Romney was considering Condoleezza Rice as his running mate in 2012, Morano told Politico:
Why, oh why would Romney choose a V.P. who is smitten with the U.N. climate process[?] The stench of the carcass of the U.N. global climate treaty process is overwhelming, and despite this, Rice in 2011 regretted that Pres. Bush rejected it. Romney could do so much better than to pick Sec. Rice. [Politico, 7/13/12]
He later cheered Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, saying, "It will be so refreshing to have a VP candidate who actually understands how warmists... have perverted science and turned it into pure politics." [ClimateDepot.com, 8/11/12]
Morano Has a Sordid History of Spreading Smears
At CNS News, Morano Uncritically Broke "Swift Boat" Story Smearing Sen. John Kerry. Before working for Sen. Inhofe, Morano worked as a reporter for Cybercast News Service (CNS), which is owned by the right-wing Media Research Center. In 2004, Morano broke the story about the attacks coming from the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, uncritically repeating unfounded accusations that Sen. John Kerry did not deserve the Purple Heart award he earned in Vietnam. But FactCheck.org noted that "the veterans who accuse Kerry [of lying to receive his war medals] are contradicted by Kerry's former crewmen, and by Navy records." Morano also repeated claims that Kerry accused soldiers of war crimes "knowing that was a lie." But Kerry simply relayed the stories of other Vietnam veterans, and he intended them as an indictment of military leadership rather than a condemnation of soldiers. [CNSNews.com, 5/3/04, via Newsmax] [FactCheck.org, 8/6/04] [Media Matters, 8/23/04] [CNSNews.com, uploaded 7/7/08] [CNSNews.com, uploaded 7/7/08]
Morano Led "Swift Boat" Effort on Vietnam Veteran Murtha. In early 2006, Morano co-authored a story for CNS accusing Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), a critic of the war in Iraq, of exaggerating injuries suffered in Vietnam and lobbying for undeserved service awards. The article was seen by many as an ad hominem political attack meant to obscure legitimate policy discussion. Morano's story was also criticized for relying on convoluted sources, many of them potentially tinged by political bias, and recycling years-old uncorroborated charges. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), former Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, pointed out that Murtha's service awards had actually been subject to extensive and well-documented Marine Corps approval decades earlier, and blasted "extremist Republican operatives" and others for "denigrating the service of those with whom they disagree." [CNS News, 1/13/06] [Washington Post, 1/17/2006, via Nexis] [Media Matters, 1/17/06] [Huffington Post, 1/15/06] [ConWebWatch, 1/18/06] [New York Times, 1/18/06] [Boston Globe, 8/5/06]
Morano Used "Climategate" to "Swift Boat" Climate Scientists. Morano played a key role in fueling the "Climategate" controversy, seizing on hacked emails to accuse scientists of "corruption" and "fraud" and to declare that global warming is nothing more than a "con job." Even after multiple investigations cleared scientists of these charges, Morano continues to claim that Climategate exposed "collusion" and "deliberate manipulation of facts and data" by UN scientists. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, who has been relentlessly attacked by Climate Depot, recently said that Morano is paid by "vested interests to 'swiftboat' climate scientists, to try to distort our work, to try to undermine the public's credibility in the science." [ClimateDepot.com, 11/20/09] [ClimateDepot.com, 2/17/12] [Scientific American, 3/1/10] [Conservative Roundtable, 5/7/10] [ClimateDepot.com, 11/23/11] [ClimateDepot.com, 12/3/12]
Morano Smeared Gay Attendees of AIDS Fundraiser. In 1996, Morano attended a fundraiser for AIDS victims on behalf of the Family Research Council, an organization that has been labeled a "hate group" for its factually-challenged attacks on LGBT people. In a column for Human Events, Morano claimed that during the dance party there was "evidence of illegal drugs" because "Snorting could be heard" through the bathroom stalls. But then-Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-WI), who sponsored but did not attend the event, testified that no complaints were lodged with security. Morano also claimed to have witnessed "illegal sexual activity" in the main auditorium, which was used by conservative columnist Armstrong Williams to say that the event was an "orgy" and a "homosexual free-for-all." But as Rep. Gunderson stated, "Absolutely no one but Mr. Morano claims to have seen this incident. But one must wonder why he did not film it. One must wonder why he did not report it to security." Morano later claimed that he tried to capture it on camera but was unsuccessful. The Washington Times reported that "no participant contacted by The Washington Times confirmed" Morano's claim that he "saw men engaged in sexual relations." Morano's column, which was identified as an example of "the journalism of bigotry and prejudice" by Rep. Gunderson, further promoted stereotypes about gay people:
The image of young active health conscious men, drinking bottled water and consuming fruit [at the fundraiser] is a study in contrast. The reckless lifestyle inherent in the gay experience results in a notably reduced life span. The life expectancy of a homosexual male is estimated to be no more than about 41 years old, regardless of AIDS. The homosexual community's credo seems to be "Die young and leave a pretty corpse.'' [Congressional Testimony, 5/14/96] [Congressional Record, 5/15/96] [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 12/12/12] [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/2/96, via Nexis] [The Washington Times, 5/5/96, via Nexis] [The Advocate, 6/25/96]
Morano is Paid by an Industry-Funded Advocacy Group
Morano is Paid more than $150,000 a Year by an Oil-Funded Organization. Climate Depot is sponsored by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a conservative policy and lobbying organization that has received funding from ExxonMobil and Chevron. CFACT also received more than $300,000 in 2011 from Donor's Trust, an anonymously funded group that PBS called the "number one supporter of the groups" that deny climate change. CFACT's 2011 financial disclosure form lists Morano as its highest paid employee at more than $150,000 a year. [Media Matters, 11/28/12]
CFACT Claims "Global Warming Claims Are Failing." CFACT denies that there is a scientific consensus on manmade climate change and claims that "real world evidence" shows that "global warming claims are failing." [CFACT.org, accessed 12/11/12]
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Max Greenberg contributed to this post.