Feb 9, 2024 - Energy & Environment

Climate scientist wins defamation case against conservative writers

 Scientist Michael Mann attends the New York screening of the HBO Documentary "How To Let Go Of The World And All The Things Climate Can't Change" on June 21, 2016 in New York City.

Scientist Michael Mann. Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for HBO

Leading climate scientist Michael Mann was awarded $1 million in damages after winning his defamation lawsuit against two conservative writers over their response to his pivotal work on global warming.

The big picture: The University of Pennsylvania professor sued Rand Simberg, a former adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Mark Steyn, a contributor to National Review over their online posts from more than a decade ago about a key graph Mann helped author that illustrated rising global temperatures.

  • The writers maintained during the defamation trial they were expressing their opinions and indicated after the jury reached its verdict in D.C. Superior Court that they would appeal.

Driving the news: "Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data," wrote Simberg in reference to the former Penn State football coach who was convicted of child sexual abuse the same year the Competitive Enterprise Institute published his piece.

  • Steyn referred to Simberg's post in a National Review article, writing: "Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change 'hockeystick' graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus."

What they found: The jury unanimously found both writers defamed Mann with "multiple false statements and awarded the scientist $1 in compensatory damages from each writer," per the New York Times.

  • It also determined that the writers' statements were written with "maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance or deliberate intent to harm," and added punitive damages of $1 million against Steyn and $1,000 against Simberg, according to the NYT.

What they're saying: Mann said in a statement posted to X: "I hope this verdict sends a message that falsely attacking climate scientists is not protected speech."

  • Peter Fontaine, one of Mann's lawyers, said in a statement the verdict "vindicates Mr Mann's good name and reputation."
  • He added: "It is also a victory for truth and scientists everywhere who dedicate their lives answering vital scientific questions impacting human health and the planet."

The other side: Simberg's attorney Mark DeLaquil told AP his client was "disappointed" with the jury's decision and would appeal.

  • Steyn's manager said in a statement to media that they had "always said that Mann never suffered any actual injury from the statement at issue" and "today, after twelve years, the jury awarded him one dollar in compensatory damages."

What we're watching: Mann said Thursday he intended to appeal a 2021 D.C. Superior Court ruling that found the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute were not liable for defamation over the articles.

Go deeper: Distrust in scientists rises among both Republicans and Democrats: poll

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