On February 8, climate scientist Michael Mann won a defamation lawsuit against two conservative writers Rand Simberg and National Review contributor Mark Steyn. Steyn was once a regular presence on Fox News where he appeared more than 300 times between 2017 and 2021, both as a guest and a guest host.
According to The New York Times, in addition to finding them guilty of defaming Mann, “The jury also found the writers had made their statements with ‘maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance or deliberate intent to harm,’ and levied punitive damages of $1,000 against Mr. Simberg and $1 million against Mr. Steyn in order to deter others from doing the same.”
On February 9, Mann appeared on CNN News Central to discuss the outcome of the trial. During his interview Mann explained how these ideological and politically motivated attacks "chill the discourse” and discourage scientists from sharing their findings. Mann said he hoped the verdict will “create some space where scientists feel a little bit more … comfortable in leaving the laboratory, in communicating their findings to the public.”
BRIANNA KEILAR (ANCHOR) Michael, what do you worry is the effect on whether it's public health, or even global health, the health of our planet, which affects us all, when you have people making bogeymen out of scientists like yourself?
MICHAEL MANN: Well, I really worry about that, right? Especially young scientists, who see the attacks on scientists like myself, scientists like Anthony Fauci and my good friend Peter Hotez. They look at that, and that chills the discourse. That potentially leads them to sort of withdraw into their laboratories. They don't want to get involved, get into the fray, and to be part of the effort to communicate their scientific findings to the public, out of fear that they will be attacked, that they will be viciously attacked, again, by those who have vested interest in discrediting science that's inconvenient to their economic interests or their political viewpoints. And so this is a message to my fellow scientists, that, you know, that it is not OK for people to attack you, to make false allegations against you, to defame you.
And hopefully, that will create some space where scientists feel a little bit more, you know, that they're more comfortable in leaving the laboratory, in communicating their findings to the public, because we rely upon the best available science, as you said, both when it comes to our own health and the health of this planet. What could be more important than the health of our -- of us and, and our fellow human beings, and the planet that we live on? That's -- those are really the stakes here.
KEILAR: Yeah. We don't want there to be that chilling effect. Michael, great to have you.
While Mann is certainly one of the most prominent climate scientists to be in the crosshairs of right-wing media, he is far from alone. Attacks against climate scientists have been on the rise the last few years, especially on Elon Musk’s Twitter/X where many scientists have left the platform due to harassment.