Monday, May 20

Michael Mann was awarded $1 million in a defamation lawsuit

Climate scientist Michael Mann on Thursday won his defamation lawsuit against Rand Simberg, a former adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Mark Steyn, a contributor to National Review.

The process transported observers back in time to 2012, the heyday of the blogosphere and an era of bitter controversy over the existence of global warming, what psychology researcher and climate misinformation blogger John Cook called “ a wild time.”

The six-member jury announced its unanimous verdict after a four-week trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and a full day of deliberation. They found both Mr Simberg and Mr Steyn guilty of defaming Dr Mann with multiple false statements and awarded the scientist $1 in damages from each writer.

The jury also found that the perpetrators made their statements with “malice, spite, ill will, vindictiveness, or deliberate intent to harm,” and imposed punitive damages of $1,000 against Mr. Simberg and $1 million against Mr. Steyn in order to dissuade others from doing so. doing the same.

“This is a win for science and it’s a win for scientists,” Dr. Mann said.

In 2012, Simberg and Steyn drew parallels between the controversy over Dr. Mann’s research and the scandal surrounding Jerry Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State University football coach who was convicted of sexually assaulting children. Dr. Mann was a professor at Penn State at the time.

“It is constitutionally deliberately difficult to win defamation suits in cases involving matters of public interest and prominent public figures,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor at the University of Utah.

The two sides argued for days over the truth or falsity of the posts, presenting evidence that included unflattering emails between Dr. Mann and colleagues, excerpts from investigations by Penn State and the National Science Foundation that cleared Dr. Mann of academic misconduct , other scientists who testified that Dr. Mann had ruined their reputations, and a detailed but controversial critique of his research methods by a statistician.

Mr. Simberg and Mr. Steyn testified that they sincerely believed what they wrote.

In court statements at the start and end of the trial, Mr Steyn said he stood “by the truth of every word I wrote about Michael”.

“Inflammatory is not the same as defamatory,” Mr Simberg’s lawyer, Victoria Weatherford, said in her closing statement. “Rand is just a guy, just a blogger expressing his honest opinions on a topic he thinks is important. This is an inconvenient truth for Michael Mann.”

Dr Mann claimed he lost grant funding as a result of the blog posts and was barred from at least one research collaboration because his reputation suffered. The defendants argued that Dr. Mann’s star has continued to rise and that he is one of the most successful climate scientists working today.

The presiding judge, Alfred Irving, emphasized to the jury that their job is not to decide whether or not global warming is occurring. “I knew we were walking a fine line from a climate change trial to a defamation trial,” he said earlier while debating which witnesses to admit.

The story of this case is not over.

In 2021, Judge Irving, along with another D.C. Superior Court judge, ruled that the Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Review could not be held liable. The publishers failed to meet the “actual malice” bar imposed on public figures who sue for defamation, the judges ruled, meaning that employees of the two organizations did not publish Mr Simberg’s and Mr Steyn’s posts knowing which were false, nor did they. they had “reckless disregard” that the posts were false.

Dr. Mann’s lawyers have indicated that they will appeal this earlier decision. Asked about the Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Review, John Williams, representing Dr. Mann, said, “They’re next.”