Right-Wing Media Rush To Defend Industry-Funded Climate Denier Willie Soon

Willie Soon

Conservative media have been quick to rush to the defense of climate science denier Willie Soon, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who has recently come under fire for accepting over $1.2 million from the fossil fuel industry without disclosing this conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. Among the most impassioned defenses of Soon was an article penned by a writer at the Daily Caller with connections to some of the organizations that funded Soon's research.

Documents obtained by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center detail the extensive and problematic relationship between the fossil fuel industry and Soon, one of the contrarian scientists often cited by prominent climate science deniers like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). The documents reveal that Soon described many of his scientific papers, which largely focus on the claim that the sun is primarily responsible for recent global warming, as "deliverables" produced in exchange for money from fossil fuel interests. The revelations, which were recently covered by several media outlets, reveal a potentially serious breach of scientific ethics in at least eight of the papers Soon has published since 2008, and the Smithsonian Institution has directed the organization's Inspector General to investigate Soon's ethical conduct.  

Several right-wing media outlets are already aggressively defending Soon. Shortly after the initial reports, the Daily Caller published an article criticizing the “attack campaign” against Soon by “firm believers in global warming.” The article's author, PG Veer, dismissed the criticisms of Soon, claiming that opponents “are looking for conflicts of interest” rather than challenging Soon on “the facts.”

Yet Veer himself is a former fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, which was created from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation -- one of the organizations that provided money for Soon's research. Veer currently works for the Franklin Center, which has received significant funding from Donors Trust, another organization that bankrolled Soon.

Breitbart has also carried Soon's water, defending him in at least five different articles so far. Columnist James Delingpole defended Soon for “telling the truth” about climate change, writing that the latest news is a “continuation of a vendetta which has been waged for years against an honest, decent, hardworking -- and incredibly brave -- scientist who refuses to toe the official (and increasingly discredited) line on man-made global warming.”

The site also published two op-eds from co-authors of Soon's latest study -- one asserting that the left is “panic[king]” over their paper's “threat to global warming alarmism,” and another claiming that “attacks on independent researchers” like Soon and the “misrepresentation of climate research results” are “an evil every bit as pernicious as direct scientific fraud.” Breitbart also published letters from Soon's colleagues “defending his professional integrity,” and a column criticizing Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak for tweeting a link to the New York Times story on Soon, which the Breitbart author dubbed a “hit piece.”

While Breitbart would have readers believe that Soon has produced "impeccable science," Soon's research has been thoroughly panned by climate scientists for its flaws. His argument that solar activities are primarily responsible for climate change is widely rejected and conflicts with the overwhelming scientific consensus than human activities are to blame. As the head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Gavin Schmidt noted, the sun likely accounts for at most 10 percent of recent global warming, meaning that "[t]he science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless."

It has become increasingly clear that the only point of Soon's research is to “deliver” on climate science denial for his fossil fuel benefactors.