Conservative pundit and radio host Mark Steyn has been ordered by a jury to pay a former Penn State professor and “climate scientist” $1 million in damages in a defamation lawsuit about blog posts, published in 2012, criticizing the professor’s work.
The jury in Superior Court of the District of Columbia found that [think tank fellow Rand] Simberg and Steyn made false statements, awarding Mann $1 in compensatory damages from each writer. It awarded punitive damages of $1,000 from Simberg and $1 million from Steyn, after finding that the pair made their statements with “maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance or deliberate intent to harm.”[…]
Mann, a professor of climate science at the University of Pennsylvania, rose to fame for a graph first published in 1998 in the journal Nature that was dubbed the “hockey stick” for its dramatic illustration of a warming planet.
The work brought Mann wide exposure but also many skeptics, including the two writers Mann took to court for comments that he said affected his career and reputation in the U.S. and internationally.[…]
In 2012, a libertarian think tank named the Competitive Enterprise Institute published a blog post by Rand Simberg, then a fellow at the organization, that compared investigations into Mann’s work to the case of Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State University who was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple children. At the time, Mann also worked at Penn State University.
Mann’s research was investigated after his and other scientists’ emails were leaked in 2009 in an incident that brought further scrutiny of the “hockey stick” graph, with skeptics claiming Mann manipulated data. Investigations by Penn State and others found no misuse of data by Mann, but his work continued to draw attacks, particularly from conservatives.
Here are the exact words from the two writers that formed the crux of Mann’s suit:
“Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data,” Simberg wrote. Another writer, Mark Steyn, later referenced Simberg’s article in his own piece in National Review, calling Mann’s research “fraudulent.”
It’s worth noting that the judge cautioned the jury before releasing the members to deliberate, that the case wasn’t about the veracity of climate change (which is correct, unbiased instruction from the bench).
But the jury’s decision here does not mean this isn’t over, Mann stated, mentioning Thursday that he will appeal another decision by the same Court, made in 2021. In that case, based on the same writings, the jurists did not find either defendant, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and conservative outlet National Review, responsible for the defamation.
Mann remarked, “We think it was wrongly decided. They’re next.”
Here are more details on Mann’s case, and the argument from Steyn and Simberg’s legal team:
Mann argued that he had lost grant funding as a result of the blog posts — an assertion for which both defendants said Mann had not provided sufficient evidence. The writers countered during the trial that Mann instead became one of the world’s most well-known climate scientists in the years after their comments.
Both writers argued that they were merely stating opinions.
Steyn, who the Associated Press reported represented himself, released a statement via Melissa Howes, his manager, “that he would be appealing the $1 million award in punitive damages, saying it would have to face ‘due process scrutiny.’”
His statement continued:
We always said that Mann never suffered any actual injury from the statement at issue,.And today, after twelve years, the jury awarded him one dollar in compensatory damages.
Amy K. Mitchell, a writer on Steyn’s site, wrote about the decision on the “Steyn Online” website:
A Bad Day for America https://t.co/AosRHq5oyw
— Mark Steyn (@MarkSteynOnline) February 9, 2024
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