The Michael Mann Lawsuit Against National Review

10 Feb

Something that I think hasn’t gotten much attention is the lawsuit brought by scientist Michael Mann against the conservative journal National Review and one of its reporters, Mark Steyn.

Dr. Mann is one of the best known scientists working in the area of climate science and policy. He received a Ph.D. in geology and geophysics from Yale in 1998, where he did pioneering work in global temperature reconstruction. A year later, he co-authored the 1999 report that described the so-called “hockey stick” effect, in which the earth’s temperature was relatively flat from 1000 to 1900–the shaft of the hockey stick–after which  temperatures underwent a dramatic rise–the blade of the hockey stick. He was a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Third Assessment Report, and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. He continues to be an active presence in the scientific community and climate policy debate.

Mann has seen his share of controversy. In 2009, emails illegally obtained from University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom purported to show climate scientists manipulating data. Many of the emails were to or from Dr. Mann. Several organizations conducted investigations into his work, including the National Science Foundation and his employer, Penn State. All found no indication of fraud on Mann’s part. But that didn’t stop the attacks. Mann has received death threats, and conservative groups have spent considerable time and money attempting to discredit him.

Then in 2012, Nation Review smeared Mann, drawing parallels between Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, who was a coach at the school, and the “climate-gate” email controversy. Quoting from a Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) post, Steyn wrote, “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of political science, except that instead of molesting children he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.” Steyn also said that Mann was “behind the fraudulent climate-change ‘hockey-stick’ graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus” and asked, “if an institution is prepared to cover up systemic statutory rape of minors, what won’t it cover up?”

Lawyers for Mann demanded that National Review remove the post and make a retraction, calling the fraud allegations “defamatory.” But NR editor Rich Lowry refused, stating that Steyn was merely “savagely witty and stung poor Michael” by exposing “intellectually bogus and wrong” research reports. In a post titled “Get Lost,” Lowry concluded that Mann “risks making an ass of himself” should he choose to file suit.

Well, file he did. On October 22, 2012, Mann sued National Review and Mark Steyn, as well as CEI and its analyst Rand Simberg, who wrote the original piece that Steyn quoted. The lawsuit, Mann’s lawyer said, was based upon NR’s and CEI’s “false and defamatory statements” accusing him of academic fraud and comparing him to a convicted child molester. At the time, Mann said the lawsuit was part of “a battle” to assist climate scientists in the fight against those who attack their work. “There is a larger context for this latest development,” he wrote on Facebook, “namely the onslaught of dishonest and libelous attacks that climate scientists have endured for years by dishonest front groups seeking to discredit the case for concern over climate change.”

CEI’s lawyers called Mann’s suit “unfounded” and gave it little chance of succeeding, noting that Mann is a public figure who has played a highly visible role in the climate science debate. Nevertheless, CEI removed the most outrageous sentences from its piece, admitting they were “inappropriate.” But National Review has remained defiant and Steyn’s article remain online at National Review to this day.

Because the suit was filed in Washington DC Superior Court, it was subject to DC’s anti-SLAPP law, which is designed to discourage nuisance defamation suits. Per Wikipedia, strategic lawsuits against public participation are typically intended to intimidate or silence critics by burdening them with legal fees until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Accordingly, National Review et al filed a motion to dismiss the suit on that basis.

But as it turns out, getting the suit dismissed hasn’t been the slam dunk NR’s lawyers thought it would be. In July 2013, DC Superior Court Judge Natalia Combs Greene rejected NR’s motion to dismiss. While Combs Green called it a “close call,” acknowledging that Mann qualifies as a “public figure” in the context of climate science debates, she concluded that despite the “slight” evidence of actual malice “at this stage” of the litigation, “[t]here is however sufficient evidence to demonstrate some malice or the knowledge that the statements were false or made with reckless disregard as to whether the statements were false.” She ruled that the case could go forward.

Combs Green retired shortly after her ruling, and the case was reassigned to DC Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg and legal machinations continued. On Christmas Eve 2013, Steyn took to his blog in a post titled “Mumbo-Jumbo For Beginners,” ridiculing Combs Green’s original ruling, accusing her of “stupidity” and “staggering” incompetence. He hasn’t written a piece for National Review since. By contrast, he was a regular contributor throughout 2013, averaging nearly a post a day.

Now comes news that on January 22, Weisberg affirmed Combs Greene’s original ruling, paving the way to the discovery phase of an eventual trial. Whether the case actually gets to trial, and whether Mann would win, remains to be seen. Libel lawsuits are difficult to win, but in Mann’s favor are the independent investigations that found no basis of “intellectual dishonesty” and NR’s stubborn stance to acknowledge any error. As Mann clears legal hurdles, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that his suit has legal merit.

Continued legal activity could prove expensive for National Review, and some have suggested that the Mann lawsuit now poses an existential threat to the publication. NR’s been appealing to their readership for financial help. In the wake of Weisberg’s ruling, it posted this appeal:

As readers of our website are well aware (from our constant dunning of them for help, if nothing else), National Review is getting sued by climate scientist Michael Mann. He took offense at a Mark Steyn post in our blog The Corner that mocked his famous “hockey stick” graph. When he threatened legal action, our editor, Rich Lowry, wrote an online piece telling him to get lost — which become part of his complaint against us. The case has dragged drearily on, but it looks as though an initial, misbegotten decision siding with Mann against our motion to dismiss has been tossed aside, and our motion to dismiss Mann’s current complaint will now likely be heard by a different judge. This is heartening. Nonetheless, it is all very expensive, and we hope you can see fit to contribute to support our legal defense (215 Lexington Ave, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10016). At stake most narrowly is the question of whether Mann’s work can be vigorously criticized, and more broadly is the fate of free speech in an increasingly politically correct society. When Mann first threatened to sue, we promised to teach him a lesson in the First Amendment, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

National Review was founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley. One might recall that Buckley took on the extreme elements of conservatism by attacking and marginalizing the John Birch Society and others. But now it seems that his publication has been handed over to the crazies and the lightweights. It’s a shame.


Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Current Events, Global Warming


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41 responses to “The Michael Mann Lawsuit Against National Review

  1. Marner

    February 11, 2014 at 5:36 am

    What I find hilarious about this case is the change in tone from when Mann first filed. NRO’s first response was, “Bring it on!” They threatened to make Mann’s life hell and expose climate science by making discovery demands for anything and everything. Now they are reduced to begging in order to save their electronic rag. My, how times change.

    • Raymond DeBrane

      February 17, 2014 at 12:54 pm


      It is kind of funny!
      When the trial gets to the discovery phase, the CEI, the NRO, and Steyn will all be shown to have no science on their side, and also that they knew that Dr. Mann’s work was legit but still said it was fraudulent. That’s malice of forethought and they will be fined heavily for it. Let’s hope that the amount they have to pay is staggeringly huge! All of the people involved will feel like running home to their Mamas and having a good cry.

  2. mitchethekid

    February 11, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I sure miss Wm. F Buckley. I loved Firing Line. When I talk about “traditional” or “conventional” conservatism, he is what I have in mind. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, or in conservative (read intolerable right wing) media there isn’t any one either left or has the presence of mind to tell these what ever they are, to sit down and shut the fuck up. And for the same reasons Wm. ran the Birchers off. He was an extremely bright, articulate intellectual who could be looked up to. One might not agree with his ideas or philosophy or whatever but his ability to express his logic was; well awesome. To me any way.
    He was very much like Christopher Hitchens. Someone else I miss listening to. Right after he died someone pretended they were god and tweeted “After spending 20 minutes with Christopher Hitchens, I am convinced that I do not exist”.
    His son Christopher Buckley has taken up the slack some what. Although he isn’t the public presence his father was, his disdain for what has happened caused him to leave the NR in disgust. Left it to the wood boring Pine Beetles. They to have become a scourge and an infestation as a result of global warming/climate change.
    There are some other famous sons of famous conservative figures who have left, shaking their heads as well. Ronald Reagan jr and Frank Schaeffer. Both of whom are extremely articulate as well. Frank comes from a Dominionist back ground, Dominionism being a very powerful influence in this “conservative” movement.
    This guy is great as well.

  3. meursault1942

    February 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    “All found no indication of fraud on Mann’s part.”

    This needs to be repeated, loudly and often. Sadly, among conservatives, it is Unassaible, totally Proven Truth that the emails proved CLIMATE CHANGE IS A FRAUD!!!!! One wishes they would drop that lie, but one will likely go wanting in that regard.

    • Raymond DeBrane

      February 17, 2014 at 9:57 am

      That lie has been repeated by conspiracy radio talkers like Clyde Lewis and Alex Jones, so it’s not just the conservative talkers we have to worry about. Ditto for conspiracy websites and conspiracy blogs.

      So the National Review is begging for money! Well, the conservative side of me says that they are asking for SOCIALISM!!!!! Please give us money that we haven’t earned!!! Please!!! I wouldn’t give them money any more than I would give a man who’s capable of doing a day’s work but is too lazy to get out there and get a job.

      I hope that when Michael Mann wins his lawsuit that that will shut the climate deniers up. Then I hope that they open their mouths and tell some climate change truth. But with the oil and coal industry funding climate denial, I don’t think the deniers will do either of these things. But they will probably say things that they can’t be sued for. I don’t think that they will call any reputable scientist’s work fraudulent ever again. If they do, I hope Dr. Mann and other climate scientists tie them up in court and bankrupt them all.

      I’m as conservative as they come with such things as cracking down on street crime and making lazy people get out to work, etc, but I aint buying into the B.S. that is climate denial. The oil and coal industry pays well for media climate deniers. It’s proof that the trickle down theory of economics can actually work!

      • mitchethekid

        February 17, 2014 at 10:27 am

        I think the deniers have Bagdad Bob syndrome. (Remember him?) One can still argue over how much or how little human activity is an influence, but it’s getting increasingly more difficult to deny the obvious. I mean, after all there is some limit to cognitive dissonance. A charade masquerading as a fraud might make for a great movie plot, but not when addressing the reality of repeated catascrophic weather “events”. I predicted a while back that when property damage claims threaten the profitability of the insurance industry, they will start to pay attention and go “Hmmmm? There just might be something to this after all.”
        And to those that say this winter, especially in the south is the antithesis of warming therefore it’s a “hoax”; there is this bit of science. Warming has caused the Jet Stream to dip much further south than before. And because the earths axis is currently pointed away from the sun, the Jet Stream brings along with it cold air. Now add to this cold air the amount of moisture in the air caused by warming as well. And viola! Snow. And lot’s of it.

      • Raymond DeBrane

        February 17, 2014 at 10:48 am

        There is really no arguing whether or not man is responsible for our current ‘hockey stick’ warming. Co2 trapping heat has been known since the 19th century. And add to that that Dr. Mann has said that the isotope type contained in fossil fuels is the same as much of the Co2 in our atmosphere. That’s damning proof of AGW right there.

        Dr. Mann’s lawsuit is all about standing up to the right wing press. They will only stop all the attacks and claims of fraud if enough of them are sued out of existence. Hit them in the pocket book! That’s what capitalists understand best.

        I say try the oil company execs, the conservative and conspiracy talkers, and conservative and conspiracy blogger, convict them and then execute them just like Vietnam sentenced a banker and business man to death. Here’s a link:

      • Cluster

        February 17, 2014 at 11:09 am

        Climate change is real indeed. It cools down, it heats up, and every season is different. It’s the perfect cause to build a slush fund around. In fact even Europe is giving up on the joke:

        And in terms of “deniers”, it seems that there is quite a few of them:

      • mitchethekid

        February 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm

        And the deniers prove what exactly? Lots of people deny evolution as well. That doesn’t make it any less valid. I thought I made myself clear. It doesn’t matter if or how much the human activity of burning something to produce energy is a factor. The fact remains that the climate is changing. Whether or not to believe it is up to the individual. But belief won’t change a thing. Nature is deaf. What I have a difficult time understanding, is why take the chance? Why risk being proved being proved wrong? Either way, we all win. Unless it’s more important to be “right” than to do the right thing. The conservative thing which would be to minimize risk. Unless one isn’t really conservative, but rather something else. I suppose that in addition to denying the climate is changing and/or if we have anything to do with it,these deniers are also skeptical of the thermometers which measure heat, the increasing frequency of catastrophically damaging storms, the photos of the melting ice caps, both of them, the unrelenting drought in the south west and northern California, the explosion in the population of the insect that is responsible for pine tree death, (they thrive in heat) and the continuing pattern recently of each year getting progressively hotter than the last.
        Are all of these things the clever deceitfulness of the devil? And since I mention it, there is also a religious factor to the denial as well. Why care about the earth when the rapture is coming? Maybe we can hasten it’s arrival by setting the place on fire! Maybe it will make the Dinar R.E. sooner to!
        And speaking of conservatives, remember Dick Cheney’s 1% doctrine? Eliminate circumstance for a moment. The doctrine is all about managing the potential for risk. Probability and outcome, betting on chances. And the greater the risk, the more the assumption for it occurring increases. In a very real way, assuming the worst is a smart thing to do. Unless, as I said being correct is more important. And what then if the deniers are wrong? I don’t see Roseann Roseannadana around here.

      • Cluster

        February 17, 2014 at 1:40 pm

        The fact remains that the climate is changing

        I don’t deny that, and moving towards a greener energy platform is the smart thing to do, but creating a $1 billion tax paid slush fund is not smart. Incidentally, 2010 was one of the wettest years on record in California, so there would be plenty of water for agriculture in retention basins of California if the state wasn’t releasing that water into the delta to protect the smelt.

      • mitchethekid

        February 17, 2014 at 5:01 pm

        I am relieved that you agree the climate is changing and that green energy is not only smart, but a wave of the future.

      • Cluster

        February 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

        Climate is always changing, it’s like the sun rises in the east – it’s just a given. It’s a natural phenomena, the question is, how extreme will the swings be.

        …..records of past climate changes suggest an altogether different scenario for the 21st century. Rather than drastic global warming at a rate of 0.5 ° C (1° F) per decade, historic records of past natural cycles suggest global cooling for the first several decades of the 21st century to about 2030, followed by global warming from about 2030 to about 2060, and renewed global cooling from 2060 to 2090 (Easterbrook, D.J., 2005, 2006a, b, 2007, 2008a, b); Easterbrook and Kovanen, 2000, 2001). Climatic fluctuations over the past several hundred years suggest ~30 year climatic cycles of global warming and cooling, on a general rising trend from the Little Ice Age.

      • watsonthethird

        February 17, 2014 at 11:14 am

        Welcome Raymond, and thanks for your comments.

        Clearly the oil and coal industries have a vested effort in creating doubt about climate science. I am reminded of the CEOs of the seven tobacco companies testifying before congress in 1994, all of whom swore under oath that smoking was not addictive and did not cause any disease. In 1994! I might have expected this in 1964. This is an example of how the profit motive of corporations doesn’t necessarily align with revealing the truth. There is no reason to think that the oil and coal industries are acting any differently from the tobacco companies. That goes for the Koch brothers as well, whose fortunes are based on oil and coal. In fact, there is a lot of documentation that the Koch brothers fund climate science denialist groups.

        As for talk radio hosts, it is good to remember that they are in the business of entertainment. They get paid based on audience size and advertising revenue. So much like the oil and coal and tobacco industries, their profit motives do not necessarily align with revealing the truth. In fact, I would argue that in many cases it is just the opposite: There are plenty of people in America who are susceptible to conspiracy theories and are easily aroused by emotional arguments, and some radio hosts prey on them for their livelihood.

      • Cluster

        February 17, 2014 at 11:52 am

        Clearly the oil and coal industries have a vested effort in creating doubt about climate science.

        It seems like they’re doing a pretty good job. They have even convinced Australia.

      • Raymond DeBrane

        February 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm

        One day last year, Rush Limbaugh got on the air and said, global warming is a hoax. It’s a political issue, not a science issue. Two or 3 days later he said that he golfs and eats dinner with the Koch Brothers. What do you make of that? I make of that Rush lives on a compound. The rest of us are lucky to have a house, a condo, or an apartment.

      • mitchethekid

        February 17, 2014 at 1:45 pm

        On the Koch Bros foray, did he bring his ED scripts, prescribed to someone other than him? Today he dragged out one of his favorite voodoo dolls, Michelle Obama. He was opining that she was going to run for President because she has a vendetta against Hillary. The sad thing is, his listeners believe him. Personally, I have speculated that he (and other right wing demons of the airwaves) secretly despise their audience because they are easily duped. I don’t know if you’ve read it; or have read of it, but there is sort of a tell-all book out now about Ailes. I understand that it’s not to flattering because it’s so accurate. Frank Rich to has an article in NY Magazine about Fox which is worth the read.
        And speaking of Hillary! Bill Maher was on target Friday past when talking about the psycological damage Rand Paul is still suffering from. All because her husband was caught with is pants down. Maher suggested that Rand was talking as if she was in on it. Arranging the tryst so she could watch.

      • Raymond DeBrane

        February 17, 2014 at 3:01 pm


        Ed scripts! Mr. floppy!!!! (Got Mr. Floppy from one of the ‘Stone Trek’ episodes up on YouTube. Stone Trek: Highly recommended!!!) Rush was returning from the Dominican Republic with those ED meds. I read on the net that there is a lot of underage prostitution going on there. So I ask the question, how old were those girls Rush was with?

      • mitchethekid

        February 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

        I am aware that this event took place several years ago. At the moment, poetic liciense sounds like a good excuse to cover myself.
        Please clarify what Ed (edit?) scripts means. I take it that script means writing, like a movie script or a prescription.

      • watsonthethird

        February 17, 2014 at 1:05 pm

        What do I make of it? That money speaks loudly in pretty much all spheres of life. Rush Limbaugh is himself wealthy. Wealthy people do not like to be told what to do with their money, even if what they are doing is detrimental to themselves or to society as a whole. Wealthy people do not think they should be included in making any sacrifices to benefit society as a whole. But in addition, people like Rush are attracted to other wealthy people.

        The other thing is that, in general, I think people are motivated more by short term interests and selfish interests than in long-term issues. It is hard for people to accept that they might have to compromise or alter their current behavior, even in small ways, in order to avert serious consequences that may occur decades from now.

        I think that part of being an elected representative is to represent the interests of the powerless, and not just the powerful.

      • rustybrown2012

        February 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm


        What does Europe’s or Australia’s energy goals have to do with the factuality of AGW? What do opinion polls have to do with the veracity of the science?

        Months ago you said to stick around so you could gloat when global cooling proves to be true. Well I’m still here, and we’ve just logged 2013 as one of the hottest years on record (after you claimed several months back that it was on pace to be one of the coolest). Maybe next year, eh?

      • watsonthethird

        February 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm

        Incidentally, 2010 was one of the wettest years on record in California, so there would be plenty of water for agriculture in retention basins of California if the state wasn’t releasing that water into the delta to protect the smelt.

        First off, what is it with you that you feel the need to change the subject every chance you get?

        Second, you obviously know nothing about California.

      • watsonthethird

        February 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm

        Rusty, Cluster’s just in yank-their-chains mode. He must not lead a very full life. It’s time to ignore him.

      • mitchethekid

        February 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm

        His life is full. He played golf the other day and got hit with a ball.

      • Cluster

        February 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm

        LOL. I did have a great game for the first nine holes though, but then kind of fell apart after the turn.

        I am happy to see more commentators here too.

      • rustybrown2012

        February 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm


        Oh, I know. I just enjoy watching him make a fool of himself.

      • rustybrown2012

        February 17, 2014 at 3:12 pm


        We’re waiting! Any time now right? In the meantime, if you want to understand AGW and climate science, you might want to read something by an actual climate scientist, not the usual parade of industry funded clowns you trot out.

      • rustybrown2012

        February 17, 2014 at 7:01 pm

        Cluster, if you want to know what’s happening with climate change why don’t you stop reading comic books and start reading academic research?

      • Raymond DeBrane

        February 17, 2014 at 8:37 pm

        To Mitchethekid,
        Ed script= erectile dysfunction prescription bottle of pills

      • mitchethekid

        February 18, 2014 at 7:32 am

        Oh. Mr. Floppy. I get it now. Latter I thought it could be referring to Mr. Ed as well.

      • Raymond DeBrane

        February 18, 2014 at 8:59 am


        Here’s links to Parts 1&2 of the Stone Trek episode where the doctor is referred to as Mr. Floppy.

        Stone Trek is way funny, but you really have to know Star Trek, the original series to get all the humor/jokes.

      • mitchethekid

        February 18, 2014 at 9:09 am

        I grew up with the Flintstones. The modern stone age family. From Bedrock. I think it was the first prime time cartoon for “adults” and without using the google, I think Carl Riener was the producer. I enjoyed Star Trek with Shatner, but not much after that. I used to work with a girl once who was a “Trekkie”. She was always going on about the conventions. I thought she was nuts. I’d rather have my gums scrapped than listen to her pontificate about a TV show cult.

      • Raymond DeBrane

        February 18, 2014 at 9:18 am


        Was the trekkie girl ugly or mentally screwy? If so, you have to understand that she didn’t have much of a life, so try to be more understanding than angry.

        As for the Dr. Mann trial, does anybody know when the next courtroom hearing is going to take place? I would like HLN to cover the rest of the trial, just like they did the Jodi Arias trial. If nobody knows about that, just Google the Travis Alexander autopsy photos and see what cute little Jodi did to him. UUUUU!!! GEEEEZZZ!!!! YUK!!!!!

      • mitchethekid

        February 18, 2014 at 11:01 am

        She would scare a blind dog off of a meat truck. And I guess screwy. It was a very long time ago. I wasn’t angry, it was just that she would corner you like a Jehovah’s Witness.

      • Raymond DeBrane

        February 18, 2014 at 11:57 am


        Now that’s funny! It reminds me of George Carlin’s line, “Gee Marge, your breath is so bad, you’d knock a buzzard off a s**t wagon.”

        Do you mean she would force you into a conversation about Star Trek? If so, that is looney tunes. She really needed to join a local Star Trek club where people with a Trek obsession who would lend a listening ear would be plentiful.

        So does anybody know when a date will be set for all parties in the Mann lawsuit will go into court?

      • mitchethekid

        February 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

        1st answer, no. But when just sitting around commiserating she would always bring it up. Sort of like “have you heard the good news?!” Then I would say something sarcastic that she didn’t get and make a hasty exit.
        2nd, no; I don’t. But I bet you could google it. Or ask the staff of the NRO.

  4. 02casper

    February 12, 2014 at 6:33 am

    If more people like Dr. Mann would stand up to the Right wing press, it might force some accountabliity. I’d love to see Llimbaugh and Fox held accountable for their lies.

  5. rustybrown2012

    February 12, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Very happy Dr. Mann is standing up for himself. I’m for an extremely broad interpretation of free speech, but defamation has it’s limits and it’s about time the right be held accountable for their lies and personal attacks.

    It occurs to me that should this go to trial this could end up being a type of Scopes Monkey Trial for the 21 century with the veracity of climate science taking place of the theory of evolution. It may well be that the trial will have to turn to the question of the integrity of climate science in order to judge whether the NR was lying about it or not. I think this would be a good thing.

  6. Raymond DeBrane

    February 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm


    Any blog that tells the truth about climate change usually has a somebody in here spreading fossil fuel funded disinfo. The Daily Mail is just another source of climate disinfo, just like WSJ and Forbes. They will print the truth occasionally in their news sections, but they are free to lie there asses off in their editorial sections.

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