Forbes & Conservation Hawks Lay Top Commentary on "Heartland-Gate" & Anthony Watts of WattsUpWithThat

Joe Romm has a wonderful series going on the massive (seriously massive) fallout from the Heartland Institute’s recent (and ongoing) stint equating people who understand climate change is happening to mass murderers. His Day 5 post is, in my humble opinion, a must-read, so I’m reposting it in full here (everything that follows is from this Climate Progress post):

Conservation Hawks: “We condemn the intellectually bankrupt and morally bereft Heartland Institute.”

It is the fifth day of the Heartland Institute’s online offensive comparing people who accept climate science with serial killers and mass murderers. The billboard is down, but the radical climate deniers of Heartland have explicitly refused to apologize for the ad. Worse, they’ve kept the more offensive hate speech on their website.

Unsurprisingly, corporate sponsors have started to flee, senior staff have left, partnerships have started to crumble, and all but the most extreme anti-science deniers have condemned Heartland. But as we’ll see, the origins of this smear go back many years for both Heartland and its long-time partner, Anthony Watts of the blog WattsUpWithThat.

First, Heartland has been quietly dropped from two significant coalitions with top environmental organizations, Climate Progress has learned. Under pressure from Forecast the Facts and Greenpeace, insurers who funded Heartland’s Washington DC vice president, Eli Lehrer, ceased their support and helped to convince Lehrer to leave the organization. With Lehrer’s departure, the Heartland Institute has been excised from the websites of two green coalitions:

The Smarter Safer Coalition, an effort to reform the National Flood Insurance Program by top insurers, environmental organizations including American Rivers, the Sierra ClubNational Wildlife FederationEnvironmental Defense FundDefenders of WildlifeCeres, and theNature Conservancy, alongside conservative groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Conservative Union, and Americans for Tax Reform

The Green Scissors Campaign, an initiative to reduce anti-environmental government spending withFriends of the Earth and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

According to leaked documents, Lehrer brought about $700,000 a year into the Heartland Institute for his Center on Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate, including the majority of Heartland’s corporate funding. The insurers who announced their departure from Heartland include the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, XL Group, Renaissance Re, Allied World Assurance, and State Farm Insurance.

Corporate sponsors of the Heartland Institute who have resisted calls to end their financial support include Microsoft, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Comcast, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Heartland’s seventh climate-denier conference will take place in Chicago in two weeks.  To add your voice to the petition calling on corporations to end support for the Heartland Institute, click here.

I don’t know what is more amazing, truly, that the Heartland organization collectively ever thought this major messaging campaign was a good idea — or that they refuse to apologize or take down any of the absurd attacks on climate scientists and reporters from their website.

Every day, new groups condemn Heartland. Conservation Hawks, Inc., “a group of hunters and anglers working to defend America’s sporting heritage,” released a powerful statement condemning Heartland, which concluded:


If we accept the Heartland Institute’s premise, every single hunter or angler who believes our planet is warming is in league with a serial killer. In Heartland’s own words, “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

This kind of warped, twisted rhetoric is an insult to every American who hopes to pass on a healthy natural world to future generations. When the Heartland Institute ran this ad, it not only took direct aim at our hunting and fishing, it also put our children and grandchildren squarely in the cross-hairs. This dishonest attack must not go unchallenged.

Conservation Hawks is working with America’s hunters and anglers to address the single gravest threat on the horizon – climate change. We condemn the intellectually bankrupt and morally bereft Heartland Institute.

It is worth noting that as beyond-the-pale as Heartland has become, the origins of their smear tactics go way back.

Eli Rabett notes in a post, “Billboards are just repeats of garbage on Heartland’s website“:

They’ve done this before:

July 2006 column by Heartland President and CEO Joseph Bast:

The Inconvenient Truth About Al Gore

….I have difficulty taking Gore seriously on environmental issues ever since it was reported that Ted Kaczynski, the murderous “Unabomber,” kept a heavily marked-up copy of Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, in his tar-paper shack and liberally borrowed from it when writing his anti-humanity treatise. There’s even a Web site ( that offers a quiz to see if you can tell Gore’s words from Kaczynski’s. I bet you can’t.

Was that a cheap shot? Maybe….

The Unabomber also was absolutely sincere in his belief that technological progress was an evil that had to be stopped, with violence if necessary. Fortunately, Kaczynski didn’t have access to the incredible powers of the Presidency of the United States. Unfortunately, Al Gore still aspires to that post.

I’m glad people are taking it seriously, but don’t expect it not to happen again so long as this organization is given the time of day.  There’s a lot at stake, so this repetition of history goes beyond a farce.

And then we have long-time Heartland partner Anthony Watts, who runs the most extreme anti-science, anti-scientist website in the blogosphere, WattsUpWithThat.

Watts has also been pushing precisely this kind of hate speech for a long time (see “Purported eco-terrorist shot and killed by police“). When James J. Lee held people hostage with a gun and bombs strapped to his body at the Discovery Communications way back in 2010, this was Watts’ offensive headline:

And the first line of Watts’ post is “Well, you filthy readers, see what happens when we don’t acquiesce?“  Remember, Watts is a guy who demanded others “dial back the rhetoric.”

And he stands by that headline and text to this day, just as Heartland stands by its hate speech.

Of course, this is standard operating procedure for Watts, who has, for instance, directly questioned the patriotism of both Rabett and Tamino (see “Peak readership for anti-science blogs?“) leading Tamino to write, “This just might be the most loathsome thing Watts has yet done with his blog.”

Watts tried to link Bin Laden with the U.S. environmental movement back back in 2010, also (see here).

Watts also keeps reposting the disinformation of The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, even though TVMOB is the leading purveyor of outright hate speech among the disinformers (see Lord Monckton repeats and expands on his charge that those who embrace climate science are “Hitler youth” and fascists).  Since he reposted TVMOB twice last month alone, one can only assume he fully supports TVMOB’s methods.  Indeed, after Prof. John Abraham eviscerated TVMOB in a must-see video, Watts reposted an effort by TVMOB to “censor” Abraham, as Skeptical Science noted.  Deltoid put it this way: “Monckton, supported by Anthony Watts, is trying to suppress Abraham’s presentation. Over at Watts Up with That? Monckton defames Abraham and asks for help in suppressing Abraham’s speech.”

Perhaps this is why Watts minimized what Heartland has done in the Washington Post, which Forbes couldn’t help but skewer in a column titled, “Unabomber Fiasco Was Tame By Heartland Institute Standards“:

Self-described climate-change “skeptic” Anthony Watts says he knows why the Heartland Institute shamelessly equated more than 97% of all climate scientists with terrorists on Thursday, when that make-believe “think tank” erected a billboard with the Unabomber’s mugshot and the caption, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

I think Heartland is suffering battle fatigue,” Watts told the Washington Post. “When you’re suffering battle fatigue, sometimes you make mistakes.”

Ah…  so that’s it.  They’re victims in all of this.  I’d have thought that if anyone is suffering battle fatigue, it’s the scientists and reporters who receive hate-mail and death threats fueled by Heartland’s campaign of distortion and innuendo.

Precisely. Forbes continues:

Far from being an aberration, this is just the latest in a long string of embarrassing acts that Heartland has carried out in public — and they’ve been at this for more than 25 years.  Before they got into the anti-climate-science racket, they were in the anti-lung-science racket, where they helped the tobacco industry assuage our concerns over second-hand smoke.  (Don’t you love someone who makes you feel good about doing something bad?)

They’ve also been working arduously for years to destroy the reputation of people like Michael Mann.  He’s the climate scientist that Heartland loves to vilify because he had the audacity to publish scientific findings that challenge their fragile ideology.  (I covered this a bit last week as well, and here is another piece from the Guardian.)

… But maybe Watts is onto something.  Maybe Heartland is beginning to suffer something akin to battle fatigue. After all, it can’t be easy regurgitating all that pseudo-science year after year when people like Mann are out there generating solid research.  Then there’s all the psychological dissonance they must be dealing with.  That’s got to take a toll on their fake “think tank” soul.

Think about it: if you were guilty of doing what they are guilty of doing, wouldn’t you feel kind of bad?

Funny stuff, except, of course, that Heartland doesn’t actually feel bad —  they have refused to apologize, andtheir website still asserts, “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

And, of course, Watts doesn’t feel bad, since he’s never taken down any of his offensive posts or  offered anything more than lukewarm criticism of Heartland: “Sometimes you make mistakes.”

A mistake is when you make an error that you correct once it is pointed out — and you apologize if it is a big enough mistake.  If you don’t apologize and you stand by your original words, it’s hard to call that a mistake. That’s more like a strategy.

Climate Progress has no difficulty condemning offensive language from environmentalists who get it wrong. We immediately criticized the offensive and disgusting “No Pressure” video with a post by Bill McKibben (that I added my thoughts on) and then another post by me.

It was also brought to my attention this week that a TP Green post on the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik was put under the Climate Progress banner after TP Green merged with us a few weeks ago. That post had not been on CP post before, and it isn’t any longer (it is now part of TP Security).  I apologize for any confusion caused by this switchover.

Related Post:

NOTE: ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents attributed to the Heartland Institute and sent to us from an anonymous and then unknown source. The source later revealed himself. The AP worked to independently verify the documents and concluded, “The federal consultant working on the classroom curriculum, the former TV weatherman, a Chicago elected official who campaigns against hidden local debt and two corporate donors all confirmed to the AP that the sections in the document that pertained to them were accurate. No one the AP contacted said the budget or fundraising documents mentioning them were incorrect.” Heartland Institute has issued several press releases on the documents. See also “CAPAF General Counsel Responds To Heartland Institute.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top