A FoxNews.com article questioned whether 2012 was actually the hottest year on record, quoting "skeptics" who suggest a government office is manipulating data to fabricate proof of rising temperatures. In fact, statistical adjustments made by the agency are required, publicly-documented changes to correct for errors and known sources of bias in the raw data.
In January, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S. - an announcement that Fox News ignored until one of Fox News' few liberal commentators, Bob Beckel, tried to bring it up on The Five. Soon after, FoxNews.com reporter Maxim Lott solicited the views of a few professional climate "skeptics" to claim that scientists made unjustified data adjustments to exaggerate 2012's heat.
Under the headline "Hottest year ever? Skeptics question revisions to climate data," Lott quoted Roy Spencer, a rare climate contrarian scientist who considers it his job to "minimize the role of government," and Steve Goddard, a climate denier-cum-birther writing under a pseudonym, to cast doubt on the temperature record. According to Goddard, the U.S. only "appears" to have warmed as a result of the agency's adjustments, making the data "meaningless garbage." Lott gave the final word to former television weatherman and blogger Anthony Watts, who said, "In the business and trading world, people go to jail for such manipulations of data."
But the NCDC has publicly explained that it needs to make adjustments to the raw temperature data to account for flaws that can result, for example, when stations are moved, are measuring temperatures at different times of day, or are measuring temperature with different instruments. The NCDC carefully applies these adjustments after publishing their methods in multiple peer-reviewed papers. As several scientists tried to explain to FoxNews.com, these adjustments make the temperature data more accurate:
Government climate scientist Peter Thorne, speaking in his personal capacity, said that there was consensus for the adjustments.
"These have been shown through at least three papers that have appeared in the past 12 months to be an improvement," he said.
NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen agreed.
"These kinds of improvements get us even closer to the true climate signal, and help our nation even more accurately understand its climate history," he said.
With the fake "Climategate" scandal thoroughly and incontrovertibly debunked, the right-wing media are pushing a new round of bogus climate science accusations, and the familiar Fox Cycle pattern is again revving up. Right-wing activists and Fox News are working to push climate misinformation into the mainstream press, and the mainstream press have a responsibility not to repeat the failures of the "Climategate" fiasco.
On June 17, FoxNews.com published an article asking whether climate scientists are "doctoring the data" showing rising sea levels. The reporter, Maxim Lott, based his story on a May 11 Forbes.com blog post by the Heartland Institute's James Taylor, who accused the University of Colorado's Sea Level Research Group of "doctor[ing] sea level data." Taylor came to this conclusion after Professor Steve Nerem of the research group posted a blog entry a few days earlier explaining that they added a correction to their sea level data to account for expanding ocean basins. The correction, as Media Matters documented, is a standard scientific procedure about which there is "nothing controversial," to borrow the words of one leading climate scientist. Taylor, however, seemed to think that he caught a climate scientist announcing via the internet how he was tampering with his data.
As the story made the subtle transformation from overt right-wing activism to Fox News "journalism," important details were left by the wayside. Fox News' Lott contacted Nerem, who told Lott that "this is a scientifically well-understood correction" that is used by other groups, but that key bit of information never made it into the final story. The article quoted a climate scientist appearing to bolster Taylor's claim of "doctoring," but that same scientist told Media Matters that he "would object to making that accusation."
Following the lead of the Heartland Institute, Fox News trumpeted the utterly baseless claim that scientists at the University of Colorado are "doctoring" sea level data to "exaggerate the effects of global warming." In reality, the scientists used a standard and transparent procedure performed by other research groups around the world, and even the climate skeptic cited by Fox News objects to the implication that the group engaged in scientific wrongdoing.
Yesterday, we pointed out that Fox News' unofficial gay-baiter Maxim Lott had followed up on his false allegations against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings - which resulted in a humiliating retraction - with a new smear piece.
In an article headlined "Obama's Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders," Lott reported that Jennings "is under fresh attack after it was revealed that the pro-gay group he formerly headed recommends books his critics say are pornographic." Lott buried the group's disclaimer that those books recommended for grades 7-12 "contain mature themes" and the recommendation that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability," grossly distorted the contents of those books, and at least two of the "critics" he cited are anti-gay bigots.
In short, he did an atrocious job. But hey, if there's anything we've learned over the past months, it's that there's a market for smears of Jennings; no matter how dubious, the right-wing fever swamp will run with it.
And so, Gateway Pundit - who's been channeling Jennings smears from the anti-gay "hate group" MassResistance for the past few weeks -- quickly picked it up:
And, of course, it's currently the top story on Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com:
Oh, by the way, neither Hoft nor BigGovernment are acknowledging that Lott actually debunks one of the false smears they pushed - that "fisting kits" were distributed at a 2001 GLSEN event. According to Lott, "The kit was actually for making a "dental dam" -- designed to prevent STD transmission during oral sex." Which, of course, was pretty obvious, given that the kit reportedly consisted of "a single plastic glove, a package of K-Y lubricant," and instructions titled "How to Make a Dental Dam From a Latex Glove."
Three months ago, Fox News was forced to issue a humiliating retraction of the false allegations it had leveled against Department of Education official Kevin Jennings. Now, Maxim Lott, the FoxNews.com reporter at the center of those falsehoods, has re-emerged with more smears of Jennings.
This time, in an article headlined "Obama's Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders," Lott reported that Jennings "is under fresh attack after it was revealed that the pro-gay group he formerly headed recommends books his critics say are pornographic." In the article, Lott grossly distorts the contents of books recommended by GLSEN for grades 7-12 and waits until the 13th paragraph to disclose that the list of books included the disclaimer that they "contain mature themes" and the recommendation that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability."
And just who are the "critics" who apparently inspired Lott's article? In short: anti-gay bigots.
There's Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who last year announced his desire "to export homosexuals from the United States" -- a comment for which he later apologized (sort of). FRC's website states: "Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects."
Lott also quoted Peter LaBarbera of American for Truth about Homosexuality. LaBarbera has explained that his attacks on Jennings are "all about homosexuality and the 'gay' activist agenda whose singular goal is to normalize homosexuality as a 'civil right.' "
The fact that Fox continues to allow Lott to report on Jennings is some of the strongest evidence yet that the network isn't a news outlet at all but is actually a right-wing political organization whose mission is to concoct dishonest, bigoted attacks with which to damage progressives and the Obama administration.
Let's revisit some of Lott's past work on the Jennings beat.
On September 30, Lott reported as fact that more 21 years ago, as a young teacher in Massachusetts, Jennings "didn't report that a 15-year-old boy told him that he was having sex with an older man."
At the time, there was substantial evidence available that Lott's claim was false. As Media Matters pointed out, a publicly available 2004 letter from Jennings' lawyer stated that the student was actually 16 years old when the conversation took place. The Massachusetts age of consent is -- and was at the time -- 16; Jennings was under no obligation to report anything. (The student later said that he "had no sexual contact with anybody at the time.")
On October 1, after reporting as fact that the student was "15," Lott apparently decided to check whether this claim was true. As Media Matters exclusively revealed, Lott sent a Facebook message to the student, asking if the "rumor" that he was 15 at the time was "accurate."
Normally, this is the sort of thing journalists ask before leveling allegations at public servants. But Lott and Fox News are apparently so obsessed with gay-baiting that accuracy has become a secondary matter that can wait until after they've run with their charges.
On October 2, two days after Lott's story ran, Media Matters published a statement from the student and a copy of his driver's license, definitively proving that he was 16 at the time of his conversation with Jennings. That same day, the student wrote to Lott and demanded a correction. Eventually, Fox added the following editor's note to the top of Lott's article: "Since this story was originally published, the former student referred to as 'Brewster' has stepped forward to reveal that he was 16 years old, not 15, at the time of the incident described in this report."
Three months later, Lott's back. And he's got a new smear.
In an article headlined "Obama's Safe Schools Czar Tied to Lewd Readings for 7th Graders," FoxNews.com's Maxim Lott reported that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings "is under fresh attack after it was revealed that the pro-gay group he formerly headed recommends books his critics say are pornographic." But Lott did not note until the 13th paragraph of his article that the list of books recommended by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) for grades 7-12 included the disclaimer that they "contain mature themes" and the recommendation that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability"; moreover, at least two of the "critics" cited by Lott have a history of anti-gay bigotry.
The following Facebook exchange, obtained exclusively by Media Matters for America, between a FoxNews.com writer Maxim Lott and the student at the center of Fox fueled Jennings controversy can easily be paraphrased as follows:
Now that we've reported your age incorrectly as if it was fact and suggested crimes were committed without a shred of evidence in an effort to smear yet another Obama administration official, we'd like to confirm your age.
For his part, the former student asks Lott for a correction from Fox News stating, "hopefully my birthday should clear up any misunderstandings you and your employers have about my age and I look forward to seeing the correction made."
On September 30, Lott reported as fact – despite significant evidence to the contrary – that the former student was a "15-year-old boy" at the time of the incident in question. On October 1, he finally got around to asking if his report was accurate.
Turns out it wasn't.
So, when will Fox News allocate as much air-time for the correction as they did for the smear?
P.S. Isn't funny how Lott even describes his own reporting as "rumors"?
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