Cross-posted from the Wonk Room.
In a memo obtained by Media Matters, Fox News Vice President Bill Sammon ordered his reporters last year to question global warming, citing conspiracy theories about climate scientists based on hacked emails. Weeks before the leaders of the entire world gathered to address global warming pollution in Copenhagen, Denmark, hackers released a selective cache of emails stolen from the servers of the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. Right-wing blogs and global warming deniers scanned through the thousands of messages, attempting to portray the scientists who sent them as conspirators that falsified data and suppressed dissent. Furthermore, they argued that the handful of scientists in the emails controlled the entire enterprise of climate research, throwing the decades of work by thousands of scientists into doubt.
Bill Sammon, the Washington managing editor and vice president of Fox News, dictated to his reporters that the facts of climate change were just “notions,” because of the “debate” over the “Climategate” emails that Fox’s commentators were promoting. “Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data,” he wrote in the email, sent during the Copenhagen climate conference on Dec. 8, 2009, “we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question”:
From: Sammon, Bill
To: 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 036 -FOX.WHU; 054 -FNSunday; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers; 069 -Politics; 005 -Washington
Cc: Clemente, Michael; Stack, John; Wallace, Jay; Smith, Sean
Sent: Tue Dec 08 12:49:51 2009
Subject: Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data …
… we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.
It is, of course, the place of journalists to sift fact from fiction. The assertion of a global scientific conspiracy to falsify the existence of a warming planet — particularly when the physical evidence of declining glaciers, changing seasons, intensifying weather disasters, and rising seas would be rather difficult to concoct — is a fantastic claim.
As Media Matters notes, Sammon sent the email 15 minutes after Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler performed his journalistic duties, debunking the Climategate conspiracy theory. Goler reported from Copenhagen that the World Meteorological Organization found the last decade is “expected to turn out to be the warmest decade on record.” When asked by anchor Jon Scott about the East Anglia temperature records, Goler responded that “the data also comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from NASA. And scientists say the data of course across all three sources is pretty consistent.”
The evening after the memo was sent, Wendell Goler, anchor Bret Baier, and correspondent James Rosen all promoted the Climategate conspiracy theory to question global warming.