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Lies, Conservatives and Statistics: Marc Morano's Fantasy

The former CNS reporter, now flacking for a conservative senator, peddles transparently bogus numbers about funding of global warming -- and the ConWeb eats 'em up.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/23/2007

The ConWeb has a weakness for falling in love with numbers that conform to its agenda, no matter how dubious or demonstrably false they are. ConWebWatch noted this back in 2000, with its promotion of a survey claiming that that 89 percent of respondents voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Never mind that the figure comes from a survey sample so small and unrepresentative of the Washington press corps that it's unreliable; the Media Research Center has made it a cornerstone of its purported evidence of liberal media bias and conservatives still cite it to this day (most recently NewsBusters' Mark Finkelstein in an Aug. 20 post).

Now, the ConWeb has a whole new set of dubious numbers to peddle, courtesy of a former ConWeb writer.

Marc Morano has become one of the leading conservative figures speaking out against the idea of global warming -- at least, the idea that oil companies, mining firms, etc., should not be held accountable for making products that contribute to global warming. Morano is a former reporter for, where he most notoriously co-authored an attack on Democratic Rep. John Murtha -- rehashing old scandals and suggesting that he didn't earn his Vietnam War medals -- that relied almost exclusively on sources who were dead, incapacitated or defeated political opponents of Murtha. (For such efforts, ConWebWatch awarded Morano a Slantie Award for career achievement in conservative media bias.)

While at CNS, Morano served as a willing amplifer of attacks on NASA global warming scientist James Hansen by George Deutsch, a former NASA press aide accused of censoring Hansen. (Deutsch was forced out of his job after it was revealed that he had not, as he had claimed on his resumé, graduated from college.) In an April 2006 article, Morano allowed Deutsch to spin away his dismissal and erroneous resumé claim ("I had more credits than are required to graduate, but I needed one math class"), as well as repeating "agency internal documents and e-mails" supplied by Deutsch purportedly "detailing the frustration among NASA public affairs officials over Hansen's refusal to follow protocol when it came to granting media interviews," Morano reported. Nowhere in the article did Morano explain under what authority an ex-NASA employee has to release internal NASA documents for the sole purpose of attacking a current NASA employee.

Morano also unquestioningly repeated Deutsch's claim regarding his instistence while at NASA that the word "theory" be attached to "big bang": "Deutsch said he was simply making recommendations to comply with Associated Press style." But as Deutsch himself wrote in a memo (unmentioned by Morano), it was about a lot more than style. As the New York Times reported, Deutsch claimed that the Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."

This article, apparently, was a tryout for Morano's next gig. Shortly after it was published, he left CNS to join the press office of Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, then-chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee (with the loss of Senate control to the Democrats, Inhofe is now ranking minority member). Inhofe claimed in 2003 that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

Morano thus had his marching papers, and once of his first acts under Inhofe's employ was to attack an Associated Press article that quoted scientists' opinions about the Al Gore movie "An Inconvenient Truth." But as Think Progress and blogger Tim Lambert have pointed out, Morano relied on thinly sourced, flawed and/or discredited anti-global warming claims to counter the article.

Such attacks have served as Morano's main method of communication. And so, when it came time to respond to a Newsweek article (in the Aug. 13 edition of the magazine) on the strategy and funding behind global warming "deniers," he was ready to pounce with his bag o' misleading claims. In an Aug. 5 entry on the Senate committee's blog, Morano insisted that the Newsweek article "contains very little that could actually be considered balanced, objective or fair by journalistic standards," called it a "screed" and a "one-sided editorial," then delivered his coup de grace:

The only problem is -- Newsweek knew better. Reporter Eve Conant, who interviewed Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, was given all the latest data proving conclusively that it is the proponents of man-made global warming fears that enjoy a monumental funding advantage over the skeptics.  (A whopping $50 BILLION to a paltry $19 MILLION and some change for skeptics – Yes, that is BILLION to MILLION - see below )

Problem is, one of those numbers is unsubstantiated, and both are obviously manipulated for maximum effect.

First, Morano's $19 million statistic for for "skeptics" is not an analysis of all expenditures by "those skeptical of the man-made global warming theory." He cites just a single statistic in support of the claim: that $19 million is the amount ExxonMobil has given to conservative organizations over the past two decades.

That means Morano is obvioiusly lowballing the money spent by "skeptics." For instance, a single conservative "skeptic" organization, the Heartland Institute, recently declared that it has "run more than $500,000 of ads in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Times promoting a debate" over global warming featuring skeptics against Gore. That number -- spent by a single group on newspaper ads alone -- is more than 5 percent of Morano's claimed total for all "skeptic" funding. Imagine what the gamut of conservative groups are spending.

Morano's source for the $50 billion number, meanwhile, is Australian "skeptic" Robert Carter. The article that Morano cites in which Carter asserts that $50 billion has been spent "on research into global warming since 1990" offers no documentation to support the claim. 

Morano offered an link to a similar claim -- an article by denier Steven Milloy, a peddler of dubious claims who asserts that "The Bush administration, after all, is by far the largest funder of global warming alarmism, pouring about $30 billion of federal dollars into climate- and alternative energy-related research over the last six years." Note that Milloy lumps "alternative energy-related research" into the category of "global warming alarmism" without any explanation or justification for doing so. (Like the article featuring Carter, Milloy offers no evidence to substantiate his claim.)

Morano plays the same game as Milloy. As part of the "money ... the climate alarmists have at their disposal," Morano cited "a $3 billion donation to the global warming cause from Virgin Air’s Richard Branson." In fact, Branson said that money is going toward developing clean technologies, such as wind turbines and cleaner-burning aviation fuel, with a heavy emphasis on developing "cellulosic" ethanol. Morano, like Milloy, offered no justification for asserting that development of alternative fuels equals a donation to "climate alarmists."

In a similar fit of game-playing, Morano stated that "The Sierra Club Foundation 2004 budget was $91 million and the Natural Resources Defense Council had a $57 million budget for the same year," but he offers no evidence to support his assumption that all $148 million -- let alone any of it -- went toward fighting global warming.

The fact that Morano's numbers fail to stand up to even the basest standard of scrutiny, however, hasn't stopped the ConWeb from repeating them like a mantra:

  • NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard -- who has his own record of making misleading and deceptive claims about global warming -- in an Aug. 6 post: "Unlike Newsweek, Morano presented actual hard dollar numbers contributed by various groups to fund global warming research and the advancement of climate change hysteria. How was this information ignored by Newsweek which presents itself as a member of the media, and not a political action group?"
  • Sheppard, in an Aug. 8 post, asserted that Morano "carefully detailed" his evidence, adding that "Gore talks about $10 million possibly coming from ExxonMobil, which the oil giant has denied as 'completely false' " -- even though Morano used ExxonMobil funding as his only evidence of "skeptics" receiving money.
  • Brent Baker, in an Aug. 8 Media Research Center CyberAlert, referenced Morano's numbers, though he doesn't note that Morano is a former MRC employee.
  • Roger Aronoff, in an Aug. 10 Accuracy in Media special report, cited Morano's numbers as evidence that "[t]he Newsweek story is misleading, even false, in another key aspect."
  • Joseph Farah, in an Aug. 16 WorldNetDaily screed against the Newsweek article, cited Morano's numbers (though not naming him) to prove that "[o]ne thing I've noticed about socialists and tyrants and those who do their bidding is that they always accuse others of doing what they do."

Nowhere do Sheppard, Baker, Aronoff or Farah dare to question Morano's numbers, even though a cursory examination shows them to be bogus.

But that's the ConWeb (and Morano) -- the truth doesn't matter; the numbers do.

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