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An Inconvenient Smear

How did the ConWeb react to Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize? NewsBusters slimed him, while Accuracy in Media dredged up old, discredited attacks.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/25/2007

The New York Times' Paul Krugman wrote an Oct. 15 column headlined "Gore Derangement Syndrome," which detailed how Al Gore " drives right-wingers insane."

"Gore Derangement Syndrome," it turns out, is an apt description of how certain sectors of the ConWeb reacted to Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism in fighting global warming.

One of the leading sufferers of Gore Derangement Syndrome is NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard. As ConWebWatch has documented, Sheppard is a longtime Gore-hater -- he has regularly asserted without evidence that Gore is only advancing global-warming claims to make money -- and he enjoys copying and pasting any scrap of evidence, no matter how dubious, that there is no such thing as human-caused global warming.

Sheppard got a jump start on the ConWeb's Gore-bashing Nobel festivities by selectively reporting (and misreporting) on a ruling in a British lawsuit attacking Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." In an Oct. 9 NewsBusters post, Sheppard claimed that "a British court has determined that Al Gore's schlockumentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' contains at least eleven material falsehoods." Sheppard credited Marc Morano -- the former reporter and current flack for global warming denier Sen. James Inhofe who has his own history of misinformation on the subject -- for this information. But he backpedaled two days later; in a "correction" post, Sheppard wrote that the judge in the case "listed only nine key scientific errors." But rather then get to the bottom of the source of the false information he previously peddled -- even though Morano was the source for his original claim, Sheppard mysteriously chose not to blame Morano for it -- Sheppard let fly with the smears, calling Gore's movie "this piece of detritus that should never have been allowed by the Motion Picture Association of America or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be marketed as a documentary."

But one of those alleged "material falsehoods" is a false claim itself. Sheppard wrote from the ruling: "The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration." In fact, Sheppard is trying to conflate two different calculations: Gore predicted a 20-foot (7m) rise in sea levels if the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets were to melt completely or collapse at an indefinite point in the future. The 40 cm (23 inches) figure comes from a February 2007 United Nations IPCC report, which projected a maximum 23-inch sea-level rise before 2100 as a result of rising temperatures, which apparently did not factor in the complete melting or collapse of the ice sheets.

Sheppard also failed to report what else the judge ruled about "An Inconvenient Truth." As reported by the London Times (via Fox News, so it must be true):

Despite finding nine significant errors the judge said many of the claims made by the film were fully backed up by the weight of science. He identified “four main scientific hypotheses, each of which is very well supported by research published in respected, peer-reviewed journals and accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC.”

In particular, he agreed with the main thrust of Gore’s arguments: “That climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (‘greenhouse gases’).”

The other three main points accepted by the judge were that global temperatures are rising and are likely to continue to rise, that climate change will cause serious damage if left unchecked, and that it is entirely possible for governments and individuals to reduce its impacts.

Ironically, in his Oct. 11 post, Sheppard lectured the press to tell the full story lest they prove they are "abdicting [sic] their solemn responsibility to the public in order to advance an agenda." It seems that it was too, um, inconvenient for Sheppard to apply that standard to himself.

Another Oct. 11 post by Sheppard on a conservative group asking that the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences revoke the Oscars "An Inconvenient Truth" won, he noted that "only Investor's Business Daily and the Washington Times reported the errors in Gore's film to American print readers." But Sheppard again failed to tell his readers that four main hypotheses in the film are "very well supported by research published in respected, peer-reviewed journals and accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC.”

Sheppard wasn't the only member of the ConWeb to misreport the British court ruling: An Oct. 12 WorldNetDaily article stuck with the claim that the court found "11 serious inaccuracies in the documentary"; an Oct. 12 Media Research Center "Media Reality Check" complaining about "adulatory" coverage of Gore's Nobel Prize referenced "the nine inaccuracies a British judge found"; and an Oct. 12 article by Randy Hall reported the "nine material falsehoods" claim as promoted by Steve Milloy, a conservative activist who has his own credibility problems. None of these articles mentioned the hypotheses that were "very well supported."

No ConWeb outlet, by the way, has to date reported on the motivation and funding behind that lawsuit. In his Oct. 9 post, Sheppard described the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Stewart Dimmock, only as "a British truck driver." The UK's Observer has documented what Sheppard and the others won't:

The Observer has established that Dimmock's case was supported by a powerful network of business interests with close links to the fuel and mining lobbies. He was also supported by a Conservative councillor in Hampshire, Derek Tipp.

Dimmock credited the little-known New Party with supporting him in the test case but did not elaborate on its involvement. The obscure Scotland-based party calls itself 'centre right' and campaigns for lower taxes and expanding nuclear power.

Records filed at the Electoral Commission show the New Party has received nearly all of its money - almost £1m between 2004 and 2006 - from Cloburn Quarry Limited, based in Lanarkshire.

The company's owner and chairman of the New Party, Robert Durward, is a long-time critic of environmentalists. With Mark Adams, a former private secretary to Tony Blair, he set up the Scientific Alliance, a not-for-profit body comprising scientists and non-scientists, which aims to challenge many of the claims about global warming.


In 2004 the alliance co-authored a report with the George C Marshall Institute, a US body funded by Exxon Mobil, that attacked climate change claims. 'Climate change science has fallen victim to heated political and media rhetoric ... the result is extensive misunderstanding,' the report's authors said. 

More knives came out upon the actual awarding of the Nobel to Gore. Over the course of three articles published on Oct. 12, CNS made no apparent effort to contact Gore or any supporter of him, quoting only from news articles for quotes from Gore and the Nobel citation, a "statement congratulating Gore" from the Sierra Club, and a full-page ad in the New York Times encouraging Gore to run for president.

The bulk of the articles, meanwhile, consisted of comments from no less than eight "critics of Al Gore" and "skeptics of man-made climate change" -- Steven Milloy, Timothy Ball, Patrick Michaels, Myron Ebell, Iain Murray, Amy Ridenour, Mario Lewis, and the Business & Media Institute, operated by CNS' parent organization, the Media Research Center. Most of these are described as having "told Cybercast News Service" their comments.

Sheppard, for his part, appeared on Dennis Miller's radio show on Oct. 12, where he peddled his usual venom: Gore receiving the Nobel after the British court found "nine material scientific falsehoods" was a "delicious hypocrisy" (though, yet again, Sheppard didn't tell Miller about the court's declaration that the film's hypotheses were "very well supported") and that Gore "realized, 'I can take this hysteria, turn this into a movie, and make millions of dollars.' And now, $100 million later, he's right" (though even Miller had to correct Sheppard by pointing out that Gore had been doing his presentation on global warming for years). Sheppard went on to whine: "I woke up this morning, Dennis, and certainly we expected that he was going to win this, but a part of me when I went to bed last night thought there has to be some sanity in the world, and I wake up this morning and turn on Fox News and there it is, and I thought I was still asleep and having a nightmare. This is shockingly silly." No sillier than getting paid (Sheppard is NewsBusters' associate editor) to run around making false and misleading (not to mention hateful) claims.

Accuracy in Media hopped on the bandwagon with an Oct. 12 column by Roger Aronoff claiming that the Nobel Peace Prize is "a joke, something that should be fodder for late-night comedians" because Gore won it. He then cited that British court ruling that found "11 inaccuracies," apparently not having gotten the most recent marching orders that there were only nine; unlike, say, Sheppard, Aronoff did actually note that the court also found that the film was "substantially founded upon scientific research and fact."

Aronoff also asserted that "Gore's history of lying could also be fair game" should he decide to run for president in 2008. As evidence, Aronoff notes that "AIM previously published the '17 Lies of Al Gore.'" As it turns out, one of ConWebWatch's very first acts upon its founding in 2000 was to debunk a significant portion of that article. In it, Reed Irvine had listed among the "lies":

  • "He uncovered the pollution at Love Canal."
  • "He and Tipper were models for 'Love Story.'"
  • "He took the initiative in creating the Internet."

As ConWebWatch pointed out, Gore never claimed to "uncover the pollution at Love Canal," only to hold the first congressional hearings on it; he was merely repeating what he thought a reporter had written about "Love Story" (and Gore did, in fact, serve as a model for one of the characters); and no less than Vinton Cerf, the guy who arguably did create the Internet, said: "I think it is very fair to say that the Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the vice president [Gore] in his current role and in his earlier role as senator."

Aronoff then tried to downplay AIM's history of promoting these error-filled claims, insisting that a Vanity Fair article noting the inaccuracy of the attacks against Gore boiled down to "nitpicking the media about misquoting Gore on creating or inventing the Internet." But nowhere did Aronoff mention that AIM called Gore's proclaimed involvement in the Internet a lie -- a claim that itself is a lie, and a strange stance for someone working for an organization called Accuracy in Media to take.

An Oct. 16 column by the MRC's Brent Bozell similarly claimed that the Nobel's "prestige has lessened" with Gore's award.

Back at NewsBusters, the Gore Derangement Syndrome level ratcheted up even farther with an Oct. 16 post by Genevieve Ebel. Describing a couple of brief clips of Gore on his Current cable channel, Ebel claimed that Gore was "[l]ooking more like a bored college student making a video in his dorm room or a clip from Saturday Night Live" and that he "droned" and was "languid."

An Oct. 17 NewsBusters post by Sheppard attacked Gore for -- that's right -- getting bad grades in college. Sheppard regurgitated an 7-year-old story about Gore's grades in college to assert that "Gore was a terrible science student, and clearly never excelled at anything relating to what folks in Norway and in the media consider him to be so expert at" and, therefore, that is the reason "why Nobel Laureate Al Gore likely doesn't want to debate any of the myriad of scientists and politicians that have challenged him to such a tête-à-tête regarding his manmade global warming theories." Sheppard then sneered, "this is the man liberals and dolts in the media are willing to bet their very lives on when it comes to complex scientific issues surrounding meteorology and climatology." Sheppard made no mention of his own college grades so he could similarly be judged on his qualifications to write about global warming (though copy-and-pasting is not a program most schools offer a major in).

Sheppard kept up the bile in an Oct. 21 post, calling "An Inconvenient Truth" a "schlockumentary" and an "award-winning abomination," adding: "Gore’s film, though powerfully and convincingly presented, is indeed a work of fiction, and its veracity should be questioned with every conceivable opportunity. Any other conclusion is facile and devoid of logic." In relaying a report by "famed climate change skeptic Christopher Monckton" purporting to find 35 errors in "An Inconvenient Truth," Sheppard fails to mention -- as he has previously refused to do -- that Monckton (aka Lord Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley) has his own credibility problems: One writer has described Monckton's work as "a mixture of cherry-picking, downright misrepresentation and pseudo-scientific gibberish." Monckton has no scientific credentials, holding degrees only in classics and journalism, which by Sheppard's own standards should disqualify him, like Gore and Sheppard himself, from writing about global warming.

Indeed, Monckton's report -- credited as being published by the Science and Public Policy Institute, a right-leaning group whose apparent mission is to attack the idea of global warming and whose president, Robert Ferguson, has received funding from at least one oil company -- gets off to a bad start by accepting as part of those 35 purported errors the nine declared by the British court, including the one that is, in fact, a false conflation.

But Sheppard is too busy ranting to tell this, er, inconvenient truth. He went on to accuse Gore of running an "indoctrination campaign aided and abetted by a green media and calls proponents of global warming "warm-mongers" who are "propagandist forces in our nation seeking to undermine our very way of life."

Sheppard clearly has a full-blown case of Gore Derangement Syndrome, and it seems to be spreading like a drug-resistant staph infection. Somebody stop him before he rants again! 

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