Michael Mann Defamation Case Rolls On

January 23, 2014

Damn this is getting good.

Climate Science Watch:

Briefly, on how this case got started, from a post at Climate Progress:

The kick-off for the lawsuit was actually a piece written by Rand Simberg at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which referred to Mann as “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science” because he “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.” The editors eventually removed the offending sentences, but not before Mark Steyn picked them up at National Review’s online blog. Steyn said he wasn’t sure he’d have “extended that metaphor all the way into the locker-room showers with quite the zeal Mr Simberg does, but he has a point.” He then went on to call Mann’s work on the famous “hockey stick” graph “fraudulent.” So Mann sued Simberg, Steyn, CEI and National Review for defamation.

Also see Rabett Run: Mann vs Steyn Lurches Forward.

Accusing a scientist of conducting his research fraudulently is a factual allegation that can be proven true or false, not mere hyperbolic opinionating. If it is false it is defamatory, and if it is made with actual malice it is actionable. So said DC Superior Court Frederick Weisberg in tossing out motions by defendants National Review et al. to dismiss Prof. Michael Mann’s defamation complaint — thus moving the case a step toward discovery proceedings and a jury trial.

The matter before the court in this latest step of the thus-far procedurally rather tangled case was on the separate special motions of defendants Mark Steyn and National Review, Inc. and of defendants Competitive Enterprise Institute and Rand Simberg to dismiss Michael Mann’s amended defamation complaint. On January 22 DC Superior Court Judge Weisberg denied defendants’ motions to dismiss under the DC Anti-SLAPP Act and on one other ground.


The judge’s ruling, and specifically what he says in his order, looks good for Prof. Mann’s position. Here’s a bit of what Judge Weisberg said:

Opinions and rhetorical hyperbole are protected speech under the First Amendment. Arguably, several of defendants’ statements fall into these protected categories. Some of defendants’ statements, however, contain what could reasonably be understood as assertions of fact. Accusing a scientist of conducting his research fraudulently, manipulating his data to achieve a predetermined or political outcome, or purposefully distorting the scientific truth are factual allegations. They go to the heart of scientific integrity. They can be proven true or false. If false, they are defamatory. If made with actual malice, they are actionable. Viewing the allegations of the amended complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a reasonable finder of fact is likely to find in favor of the plaintiff on each of Counts I-VI, including the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress alleged in Count VI as to both sets of defendants.

So much for the argument that what Simberg and Steyn were doing was mere opinionating, mere rhetorical flourishes. Judge Weisberg appears to slam dunk that position. It’s against the law to accuse someone, with malice, of scientific fraud, if the accusation won’t stand up in court (and not just to the satisfaction of the defendants and their support subculture).

Weisberg continued –

In Count VII, plaintiff alleges that CEI published, and National Review republished, the following defamatory statement: “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.” The allegedly defamatory aspect of this sentence is the statement that plaintiff “molested and tortured data,” not the rhetorically hyperbolic comparison to convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. …

The statement “he has molested and tortured data” could easily be interpreted to mean that the plaintiff distorted, manipulated, or misrepresented his data. Certainly the statement is capable of a defamatory meaning, which means the questions of whether it was false and made with “actual malice” are questions of fact for the jury. … [T]o state as a fact that a scientist dishonestly molests or tortures data to serve a political agenda would have a strong likelihood of damaging his reputation within his profession, which is the very essence of defamation….

Well that’s interesting. Commenters on the case have focused on the rhetoric of the Jerry Sandusky analogy, while perhaps not keeping their eye on the “molested and tortured data” part. The defendants and their support subculture have been throwing around this sort of casually malicious and intellectually sloppy defamation of climate scientists so much, for so long, that perhaps they’re surprised to learn they can be busted for it.


Viewing the alleged facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, as the court must on a motion to dismiss, a reasonable jury is likely to find the statement that Dr. Mann “molested and tortured data” was false, was published with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, and is actionable as a matter of law irrespective of special harm. …

Turning to the special motion of defendants National Review and Steyn to dismiss Count VII, when Mr. Steyn republished Mr. Simberg’s words, he stopped short of wholeheartedly endorsing the offensive Sandusky metaphor. Nevertheless, Mr. Steyn did not disavow the assertion of fact that Dr. Mann had “molested and tortured data,” and he added insult to injury by describing Dr. Mann as “the man behind the fraudulent climate-change ‘hockey-stick’ graph.” …  In context, calling Dr. Mann’s work “fraudulent” is itself defamatory

Supporters of the defendants made a point of accusing the previous judge in the case of incompetence and other bad things. It will be interesting to see if they continue to play that card by slamming Judge Weisberg as well. They seemed to think the previous judge’s rulings would be trashed and re-done, but as it turns out they got essentially the same thing from Judge Weisberg in this new ruling.

We hope this ends the roadblocks to moving on to the discovery phase. The defendants may appeal Judge Weisberg’s ruling, but the opportunities for delay seem to be running out. We have the impression that National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute aren’t particularly eager to be opened up to discovery. On the other hand, Prof. Mann apparently isn’t too worried about it as he pushes his case forward — contrary to what his attackers always seem to assume.

Exactly. Deniers always talk about some kind of nefarious plot that Mann and others are part of – which presumably would be laid bare in any court proceeding.  But instead of welcoming those purported revelations,  it’s the deniers who are scurrying for cover in this case.

Lay in popcorn and stay tuned.


73 Responses to “Michael Mann Defamation Case Rolls On”

  1. […] Damn this is getting good. Climate Science Watch: Briefly, on how this case got started, from a post at Climate Progress: The kick-off for the lawsuit was actually a piece written by Rand Simberg a…  […]

  2. Judge Weisberg appears a lucid thinker. Let’s hope he is to Mann in this case what Judge Jones was to Kitzmiller in the Dover Creationism case. “I know that my Redeemer liveth!”

  3. I reeeeeeeeally hope this goes to discovery and CEI has to offer a peek into its rather dirty laundry hamper.

  4. Rick Spung Says:

    mann cannot win this case. the statistics experts will rip him apart. the hockey stick graph is an obvious fraud.

    • deminthon Says:

      You have just defamed Dr. Mann with that lie.

    • Don’t count on that: The “statistics experts” who led the attack on Mann’s hockey-stick committed some embarrassing blunders of their own.

      See the discussion thread at http://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/debunking-the-hockey-stick/ for details about where Mann’s attackers went wrong.

      The bottom line is, the arguments against Mann’s hockey-stick contain blunders egregious enough that they can be explained in plain English (without too much techno-speak) that judges or jurors should be able to comprehend.

      • fortranprog Says:

        Like most things scientific there is some debate but 12 completely independent studies have broadly confirmed the original 1998 Hockey Stick (by Michael Mann, Ray Bradbury and Malcolm Hughs), so I cannot see how you can label it as a fraud unless you think there is a giant conspiracy amongst universities and other scientific institutions around the world.

        I’m afraid to disillusion you but the greenhouse effect is real and affecting our climate as shown by the various hockey stick, and if we do not heed the advise of good climate scientists and palaeoclimatologists like Mann, Bradbury, Hughs, Alley, Francis, Rahmstorf, Hansen etc. then we are on a steady course for disaster later on in this very century.

        Here is the Oregon state University’s 2013 hockey stick – look familiar to you ????


        There are at least 10 other independent but similar graphs if you care to discover them.

        • fortranprog Says:

          Above is in reply to Rick Sprung’s posting – misaligned unfortunately

          • Don’t feel bad. You are not the only one who gets tripped up by this reply scheme. I never know where my replies will wind up. I feel like I should know, but I don’t feel confident. Sometimes I have to apologize and say my comment was intended for someone else. Lets see how this one turns out.

      • adelady Says:

        It’s worse than your link shows. The “arguments” by those statistics experts against Mann’s work are not simply “embarrassing blunders”. The problem was written directly into the lines of code.

        “… Even worse, though, is the astonishing fact that this special collection of “hockey sticks” is not even a random sample of the 10,000 pseudo-proxy PC1s originally produced in the GRL study. Rather it expressly contains the very top 100 – one percent – having the most pronounced upward blade. Thus, McIntyre and McKitrick’s original Fig 1-1, … , shows a carefully selected “sample” from the top 1% of simulated “hockey sticks”. … ” (My bolding)

        The post at http://deepclimate.org/2010/11/16/replication-and-due-diligence-wegman-style/ is really about someone else’s oblivious repeating of the original code and results. In order to show clearly that Wegman didn’t do the work he’d claimed to do, when you carefully analyse M&M’s 2005 GRL paper you find the details of how they constructed this anomalous non-random result. But those of you with more coding knowledge than I have (that’s exactly Nil) can see the problem readily if you just read the whole post. If I can understand it, most people can understand it.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          WOW! It certainly does look worse than the first link indicates. Does anyone know if Wegman has been properly raked over the coals for his egregious errors in supporting M&M?

        • greenman3610 Says:

          See Wegman in action here.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yes, it does look as if Wegman got raked over the coals for hie errors, not only for his sloppy statistical analysis, but for PLAGIARISM (of a book written by one of Mann’s hockey stick collaborators, no less?). Sounds like a movie script (or rather a comic book).

            And his comments on CO2 in front of a congressional committee are simply beyond belief. Most high school students could do better (or would at least admit they didn’t know the answer). He certainly seems like the kind of “expert” that idiot Barton would rely on.

            Maybe I’m just cranky from freezing my butt off here in the sunny upper South, but I’m getting an urge to meet Wegman an hour before closing time in a bar, and engage him in discussion and perhaps a followup “attitude adjustment session” in the parking lot.

    • That’s just a bit difficult, given that the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (not involving Mann) did a de-novo analysis of available temperature data and still found the “hockey stick”.

      I wish there was a way to get people to put up bets on these here Intarwebz, the denialists would be great pickings at even $20 a pop.

      • andrewfez Says:

        You weren’t around for the last Climate Crocks update of the Mann case, but i believe I recall Rick Sprung did mention something about a bet then, though you had to live near him in Texas and what was at stake was the dinner tab at a nice restaurant.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          the problem is, no matter how many times the hockey stick is replicated, the denialist position is that any corroborating evidence comes from other scientists who are “in on the plot”.

          • andrewfez Says:

            Incidentally, I saw a hockey stick chart of the number of rail related oil spills over time the other day. 2013 was a large uptick year. (See Ray Duray’s posting under your Michigan Tar Sand Spill article). Between 1975 and 2012 792,000 gallons of oil were spilled, and in 2013 alone there was 1.1 million gallons spilled.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            BUT-BUT……it was such a small percentage of the amount of oil transported by rail, AND-AND…..a graph of the amount of oil transported over that time period looks like a hockey stick too!

            If you want to see a whole bunch of VERY interesting hockey sticks, go here:


            And if that URL doesn’t take, google “blog2009: The Graph: A picture of the present and future”

            Try not to get depressed as you see all the other things that are “hockey-sticking”. It’s not just CO2 we need to worry about.

          • Everyone who agrees with AGW is in on the plot. That is the plot. What an evil conspiracy. They are all liberals. And they want to take away everyones right to use incandescent bulbs. What a threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of prosperity.

    • Interesting. The legal case against Other people who accused Mann of fraudulence is the subject of this blog. Those folks are currently losing their battle, and here you are doing the exact same thing, accusing Mann of fraud. That’s not very smart of you….

    • Thanks for stopping by, troll, to deposit your diseased feces.

    • David Maher Says:

      This case will not revolve around the accuracy of Mann’s scientific conclusions. Even if Mann’s conclusions are wrong (and there is plenty of confirmation that they are very likely right, of course), that is irrelevant to this case. People have the right to make mistakes. What will be debated in this trial is whether the defendants had any evidence that Mann presented his research or his conclusions fraudulently, as the defendants so viciously claim. Mann seems very comfortable in his position having brought this suit, and the defendants are squirming, as are the other deniers and confusers who want to be free to perpetrate naked lies. Once these creeps are disposed of, it will be important to go after others who make these fraud accusations. Mann deserves the support of everyone who believes in the integrity of scientific investigation whether or not you believe in Mann’s conclusions, and whether or not he is ultimately correct. The kind of intimidation launched by the defendants in this case (and by many politicians) needs to be vigorously resisted. Since very few in the Republican party have the courage to defend the scientists who carry out climate research, I and others I know won’t be voting for any republicans for any office. This single issue is that important.

      • greenman3610 Says:

        anyone that wishes to help can click the “Climate Science Legal Defense Fund” icon on the right side of this page.

      • I and others I know won’t be voting for any republicans for any office.

        Rick Huntsman was on the right side of this issue.  If you wouldn’t vote for him on that basis, you are a partisan and not a rationalist.

        • David Maher Says:

          I know of plenty of Republicans who are on the right side of this issue. But voting for Republicans enable the likes of Senator Imhofe (who, for the moment is out of ultimate power on this issue). I will change my position once a significant enough percentage of Republicans start to vehemently decry the anti-science agenda of the Republican party. I once worked with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment back in the late eighties and early nineties. It was a bipartisan body that truly advised congress on complicated scientific issues, but it was killed by the Republican house (actually by Newt Gingrich) because they literally couldn’t handle the truth. Now Congress people (both Dems and Republicans) just get to hear the wisdom of the lobbyists. I believe that Republicans in congress have done so much damage here that if you are a Republican and you really are on the right side of this issue you need to start admonishing your republican colleagues very very strongly. Remember, if you vote for ANY republican Senator or Representative you are helping to put anti-science climate deniers in positions of power, even if your favorite congress person isn’t a denier.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Well said, David, particularly “I will change my position once a significant enough percentage of Republicans start to vehemently decry the anti-science agenda of the Republican party.” and “Remember, if you vote for ANY republican Senator or Representative you are helping to put anti-science climate deniers in positions of power”.

            I have to laugh at E-Pot’s mention of Huntsman. He was perhaps the most electable candidate the Repugnants had, but he was driven from the 2012 primaries “circus” by the biggest collection of clowns this country has ever seen. Many of us never got the chance to “not” vote for him.

          • Gingerbaker Says:

            Why would you change your position? The Republicans are still consistently and fervently wrong on every issue that has real relevance to the lives of non billionaires.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            G-baker asks? “Why would you change your position? The Republicans are still consistently and fervently wrong on every issue that has real relevance to the lives of non billionaires”

            Those of us who are old enough remember the days when not all Republicans were “consistently and fervently wrong on every issue that has real relevance”.

            It’s been a while, but back in the days before the GOP ran screaming into La-La-Land on the extreme right, I voted for some Republicans. Senator John Warner (of Elizabeth Taylor’s husband fame) in the 80’s springs to mind. Of course, Senator Warner would now be labelled a commie-socialist-marxist-fascist, just as I am. It’s amazing how far your political “label” can move if you stand still and hold to your beliefs. Even the beloved Ronnie couldn’t pass today’s Repug litmus tests.

            PS Don’t forget who gave us the EPA and the Clean Air and Water Acts.

          • greenman3610 Says:

            My Father was chairman of the local GOP in the Eisenhower era. No way he would be allowed anywhere near that now, nor would he want to be part of it. He’d be considered a muslim terrorist.

          • I agree. Let me play Devils advocate for a moment and mention the republican governor of Iowa. That by no means contradicts your assertion about the party. Right now, the party is controlled by ideologues that regress farther than even the most staunch republicans from the 80s would recognize. Many long time conservatives have publicly stated their positions against the party platform and it’s current anti science platform. The dilemma for voters is whether the platform will be swept in with the individual. That makes it an iffy proposition for voters. One always must give heed of the fact that pressure is exerted on members to conform to the party line. Given the ideological litmus tests administered to congressman like Arlen Specter, voters are left wondering what choice they really have, and whether they are sending thoughtful people who cooperate on areas of common interest or ideologues who block all progress in an act of obdurate opposition.

    • @Prick Sung HaHaHaHaHa, you trolls are a trip, thanks for the chuckle!

    • Aaaaah! Another incapable (I was about to say “victim”) who is eager to blurt “But…Your Honor…”

    • Rick Spung,

      There are obvious frauds. Emails from random dying people in far away places wanting to give me millions and Facebook friend requests from seductive “horny housewives” wanting me to know that I am very sexy – come to mind.

      How did you reach the less obvious conclusion that Mann, Bradley, Hughes hockey stick paper is an obvious fraud?

  5. uknowispeaksense Says:

    Like cockroaches scurrying under a flashlight, the deniers are scared and they should be. The importance of this case is twofold. The accuracy of the science is on trial and will be shown to be accurate. But more importantly, when the defendents all find themselves seriously out of pocket, it will send a powerful message to other miscreants and will go along way to silencing a great many. Once successful, a few legal letters to every loud mouth denier asking them to explain certain comments, and they’ve ALL made them, and the apologies will roll in.

    • Right. Just as the denailists lodging bogus FOIA requests for emails of climate scientists must have a chilling effect on scentific research and investigation, so a positive verdict for Mann in this case will have a chilling effect on denialist defamation of scientists. Hope so anyway.

  6. climatebob Says:

    This is not a case of who is right or wrong this is the entrenched establishment proving that science that hurts their business profits is wrong. They own the newspapers and the TV and so every step in the progress will be portrayed as wrong and a chance to reinforce their views. By the time this finishes most casual observers will be convinced that the judiciary are incompetent and scientists are part of some global dark conspiracy.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      You may be correct on all that. Look at the way the various “Climategates” ended up—-with the general public more confused about AGW than ever. Let’s hope the jury does the right thing so that this time some significant amount of $$$ changes hands—-that may focus the attention of the deniers and “casual observers” both.

    • andrewfez Says:

      There’s a lot of skepticism about the level of justice in the court system. There’s always a story about how some innocent man went to jail for 20 years, or how some plaintiff was awarded some ridiculous amount of money by suing over something equally ridiculous. To the average media consumer, walking into court is like spinning a casino wheel where the price of your lawyer defines how many individual segments on the wheel are marked ‘win!’.

      If Mann wins, it is Mann alone who wins with regard to public perception. However it may set a precedent and if deniers are regularly shot down in court over several years, then such may begin to sway the TV watcher.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Have spent a lot of time in court, and walking into court is often “like spinning a casino wheel” no matter how much your lawyer is paid. It may be all we have in terms of “seeking justice” but I would recommend that you not go there except as a spectator.

        I myself think Mann has a slam dunk case, but I wouldn’t bet on it making too much of an impact on the “TV watchers” unless he is awarded a huge sum of $$$. It would be good enough at this point if it helped to slow down the idiot deniers and encouraged other scientists to file suit against them.

        • andrewfez Says:

          I think Mann will win.

          But I’m not sure if Mann will get paid. The one fella (Steyn) has lost his lawyers: perhaps it had something to do with him publicly insulting the judge, but I would be inclined to say it may also have something to do with him not having any money. Word is he’s out of a job too – hasn’t written any articles for a while.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Lawyers of the ilk that would take this kind of case do NOT work for nothing. Recall the old jokes re: “How many lawyers does it take to…?”. It doesn’t matter what you want them to do, the answer to that is always “How many lawyers can you afford?”.

            As much as money in hand for the present case, they have to worry about their “rep”—-the more you win, the more you can charge in the future, and I suspect that the insane remarks Steyn made about the judge were a very important factor in the lawyers jumping ship. It’s hard to win a case when your client is a loose cannon on deck and goes around pissing off judges and alienating potential jurors so early in the proceedings.

            Whether Steyn can pay a huge judgment is immaterial. I have seen multi-million dollar judgments against folks who had so little that they are paying them off at $200 per month, and won’t be finished paying for millennia. The key thing is that he and anyone like him be hit with a big enough judgment that they can’t just cash in an IRA, pay, and walk away, and have to spend the rest of their lives paying. THAT prospect will flush a lot of denier toilets!

  7. […] before a media outlet can be held to account. The most notable decision still up in the air is Climate scientist Michael Mann’s suit against the right wing National Review, writer Mark Steyn, and the “think” tank  Competitive Enterprise […]

  8. […] does have much wider implications, notably as a much larger and more significant case is looming between Micheal Mann and the Republican CEI and National […]

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