It's hard to do justice to the extreme views of the new chairman for Oregon's Republican party. But reports on Art Robinson often didn't even come close, merely mentioning that he is a “skeptic of human-caused global warming,” while leaving out the chairman's anti-scientific statements on evolution, AIDS, and nuclear waste.
Robinson is best known for organizing a petition rejecting climate change that claims to have 31,072 American scientist signatories, with “scientist” defined as anyone who claims to have a bachelor's degree in various fields including computer science, statistics, and metallurgy. Robinson, who is a chemist but has not done any scientific research into climate change, has acknowledged that fake names such as the Spice Girl's Geri Halliwell made it onto the list. The petition says little to rebut the consensus of the vast majority of scientists, as it does not state what percentage of people responded to the survey. Robinson told the conspiracy website WND.com in 2002 that ""[t]here is absolutely not a shred of evidence that humans are causing any change in the climate by generating CO2."
Furthermore, at no point during Robinson's candidacy for GOP chairman did the two largest Oregon papers (The Oregonian and The Eugene Register-Guard)* mention that Robinson has made several other claims that run counter to scientific research:
- Robinson signed an anti-Darwinism statement “skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life,” contrary to peer-reviewed studies repeatedly supporting evolution.
- Robinson questioned whether HIV was leading to AIDS in the 1990s, reportedly writing that “AIDS may be little more than a general classification of deaths resulting from exposure to homosexual behavior.” When MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked Robinson about these and other statements that he has made, he refused to answer, spinning around in his chair as he vaguely accused her of “lies.”
- Robinson reportedly believes in radiation "hormesis," the idea that low-level radiation is good for you, and thus supports disposing of nuclear waste by diluting it and “sprinkl[ing] it over the ocean” or using it to “enhance” drinking water in Oregon. Scientists say that the data on the effects of low-levels of radiation are too weak to base public policy on.
Nor did they mention* the following extreme views and conspiratorial claims from the former Congressional candidate (in fact, The Oregonian published an op-ed suggesting that Robinson has not engaged in “offensive and bizarre comments” ):
- Robinson's homeschool curriculum encourages students to read “all 99” G.A. Henty books, which are reportedly notable for their “undisguised racism,” with a main character stating in one book that the “intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old.” Robinson also encourages parents to teach children from books “written in the 1950's and earlier” to avoid the “overt racism” of “multiculturalism,” supporting his stance with anecdote that starts with him being frightened into “survival” mode by a “tough-looking character whose dark skin perfectly matched his leather jacket” -- who turned out to be a professor.
- After his defeat in a Congressional race, Robinson claimed in a column at WND.com, a conspiracy website that he has written for several times, that Oregon State University had “initiated an attack” on his three children (Bethany, Joshua and Matthew) who were graduate students at the university as “political payback.” He warned that "[i]f these people succeed, a delighted [Democratic Congressional opponent] Peter DeFazio will be able to brag to the voters that the Robinson children were thrown out of Oregon State University" and held a rally around the issue. OSU responded that the claims were “baseless and without merit.” The East Oregonian reported that his daughter Bethany received her master's degree in nuclear engineering in 2011, in a 2013 wedding announcement (via Nexis). OSU told Media Matters that a Joshua Robinson graduated with a PhD in nuclear engineering in 2012, while a Matthew Robinson has been a PhD candidate since 2010. The university added a “caveat” that “there are multiple people in our system with these names, but the dates and the nuclear engineering affiliations make this likely that they are the grads” in question.
- Robinson believes in banning abortion even in cases of rape.
That's not to say that local media have entirely ignored Robinson's extreme statements. In an editorial, The Oregonian wrote that Robinson has “outside-the-mainstream views on global warming and public schools.” As Oregonian columnist David Sarasohn noted when Robinson was running for Congress, Robinson has called for banning public education, saying:
Public education (tax-financed socialism) has become the most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism in the United States. Moreover, people who have been cut off at the knees by public education are so mentally handicapped that they cannot be responsible custodians of the energy technology base or other advanced accomplishments of our civilization ... . Can this problem be corrected? Yes. Can it be corrected by improving the public schools? No -- only by abolishing them.
The third largest paper in Oregon, The Statesman Journal noted this quote and Robinson's position on nuclear waste in its article on his election.
However, these asides did not put Robinson's positions into context: the Republican party at-large is the problem with Washington, according to centrist experts, and is out of the mainstream according to most Americans. The Washington Times captured this extremism well when it touted Robinson as a “unifying” force -- able to bring together the fringes of the Tea Party and Ron Paul acolytes by dismissing any scientific research with government funding -- when he ran for Congress:
Mr. Robinson said he thinks the findings of taxpayer-subsidized experiments too often reflect the prevailing government-liberal-environmental prejudices rather than scientific objectivity.
“I don't believe in doing scientific research with government money,” he said.
Contrarian statements like that are music to the ears of many Paulites and tea partyers alike.
Robinson may well be a unifying force, just not on the side The Washington Times is rooting for.
*Based on a Nexis search for "(arthur w/3 robinson) or (art w/3 robinson)" for The Oregonian, and a search of The Register-Guard website for “Art Robinson” or “Arthur Robinson” for articles after December 16, 2013. A Nexis search for the third largest paper in Oregon, The Statesman Journal, during this time period turned up one article mentioning Robinson's statements about nuclear waste.