How The Merchants Of Doubt Push Climate Denial On Your Television

Merchants of Doubt

A new documentary shows how a “professional class of deceivers” has been paid by the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on the science of climate change, in an effort akin to that from the tobacco industry, which for decades used deceitful tactics to deny the scientific evidence that cigarettes are harmful to human health. The film, Merchants of Doubt, explores how many of the same people that once lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry are now employed in the climate denial game.

An infamous 1969 memo from a tobacco executive read: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” Using similar tactics, a very small set of people have had immense influence in sowing doubt on the scientific consensus of manmade climate change in recent years.

Merchants of Doubt features five prominent climate science deniers who have been particularly influential in deceiving the public and blocking climate action. Their financial connections to the fossil fuel industry are not hard to uncover. Yet major U.S. television networks* -- CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, ABC, CBS, and PBS -- have given most of these deniers prominent exposure over the past several years. 

Merchant of Doubt

Number of TV Appearances, 2009-2014

Marc Morano


James Taylor


Fred Singer


Tim Phillips


Now that these Merchants of Doubt have been exposed, the major cable and network news programs need to keep them off the airwaves, a sentiment echoed by Forecast the Facts, which recently launched a petition demanding that news directors do just that.

Marc Morano


Marc Morano rose to prominence working for two of the most vocal climate deniers in the U.S., Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. These days Morano runs the climate science denial blog Climate Depot, for which he is paid by the fossil fuel industry-funded Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). He played a key role  in falsely scandalizing “Climategate,” and once said that climate scientists “deserve to be publicly flogged.”

Whenever there is a big climate-related story, Fox News turns to Morano to sow doubt on climate science, featuring him 11 times in 2014 alone. Most recently, Morano appeared on Fox News' Happening Now to complain that Google's new policy of ranking websites by their accuracy would prevent climate denial sites like Morano's from getting enough attention. Morano has also appeared on CNN several times to debate climate science.

Not counting his recent appearance on Fox News, Morano appeared on major cable and network news shows 30 times between 2009 and 2014 to deny climate science or attack environmental policies. 

James Taylor 

James Taylor

James Taylor is vice president for external relations and senior fellow for environment and energy policy at the Heartland Institute, an organization that has received funding from ExxonMobil and the Charles Koch Foundation and is perhaps best known for running a billboard campaign associating acceptance of climate science with "murderers, tyrants, and madmen" like the Unabomber and Charles Manson. For his part, Taylor dismisses “alarmist propaganda that global warming is a human-caused problem that needs to be addressed,” and suggests that taking action to reduce emissions could cause a return to the “the Little Ice Age and the Black Death.”

In addition to his many TV appearances, Merchants of Doubt highlighted Taylor's multitude of op-eds that have been published in newspapers across the country. Taylor is also a contributor at Forbes, where he writes columns that attack climate science and environmental policies without disclosing his fossil fuel ties. His latest column falsely asserts that the recent winter cold shows that “global warming predictions are proving no more scientifically credible than snake oil.”

Taylor appeared on major cable and network news shows eight times between 2009 and 2014 to cast doubt on climate science or criticize environmental policies.

Fred Singer


Fred Singer is the president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, which has received funding from Exxon Mobil and casts doubt on global warming. Singer has received funding from the Heartland Institute to “regularly and publicly counter the alarmist [anthropogenic global warming] message” and consulted for Shell, Arco, Unocal, Sun Energy and the American Gas Association.

Singer is the founder of the Heartland Institute's “Nongovernmental International Panel On Climate Change” (NIPCC), a collection of climate change deniers who have been criticized by many climate scientists for their attempts sow doubt and confusion about the firmly-established scientific findings of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He's claimed that there was “little if any global warming during 1978-1997” and that “the climate hasn't warmed in the 21st century.”

Between 2009 and 2014, Singer appeared on the cable and network news program to deny climate science or attack environmental policies eight times, including appearances on ABC and CNN. When once asked about the many scientific institutions that accept the consensus of human-caused global warming -- including IPCC, NASA, NOAA, the National Academy of Sciences, and many more -- he responded: “What can I say? They're wrong.” 

Tim Phillips 


Tim Phillips is the president of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative advocacy group that was founded by the oil giant Koch brothers. Under Phillips' leadership, AFP has campaigned against the Environmental Protection Agency's carbon pollution standards and tax incentives for wind energy, while denying the existence of subsidies for the oil and gas industries. The Washington Post has said that Americans for Prosperity “may be America's third-biggest political party” due to its widespread influence in elections.

Phillips appeared on the cable and network news programs to deny climate science or attack environmental policies seven times between 2009 and 2014. 

William O'Keefe 


William O'Keefe is CEO for the George C. Marshall Institute, and previously held leadership positions at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the American Petroleum Institute. The George C. Marshall Institute, which has received at least $350,000 in funding from Koch foundations and over $800,000 from ExxonMobil, has published reports attempting to discredit established climate science. Newsweek called the organization a “central cog in the [climate change] denial machine.”

Fortunately, O'Keefe has not appeared on the networks in recent years, although he did publish an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal casting doubt on whether humans are the primary cause of global warming.

*This post includes appearances by the Merchants of Doubt on Fox Business, which was not originally included in the list of television networks examined.