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On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough attempted to help New York Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens rehabilitate his climate denialism by presenting him as a climate pragmatist.
The Times hired Stephens, a former Wall Street Journal columnist, to “bring a new perspective to bear on the news,” despite his long-standing record promoting conservative misinformation on foreign policy, sexual assault and climate change. On April 29, the Times published Stephens’ first column, “Climate of Complete Certainty,” which was criticized for containing multiple errors, “unfair comparisons,” “straw men,” “logical fallacies,” and “lazy” and “disingenuous arguments.” Climate experts published an open letter calling for the Times to issue a substantial correction to the many fallacies in Stephens’ column and urged people to petition the paper to stop publishing misinformation about climate science.
On the May 8 edition of Morning Joe, Scarborough described the criticism Stephens’ column received as an “uproar,” claiming that Stephens was merely arguing “that there still is a debate on the best way forward and how extreme [climate change] is.” But as Slate’s Susan Matthews argued, “the goal of [Stephens’] column is not to help readers learn how to reason with people who are skeptical about climate change. Instead, the column reinforces the idea that those people might have a point. … [I]t is a dog whistle to people who feel confused about climate change. It’s nothing more than textbook denialism.”
Stephens also defended his column by claiming that he represents a view “that goes beyond the Cambridge, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., corridor.” But recent polls have found that a majority of Americans are concerned about global warming and believe action should be taken to address it.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): Joining us now, columnist for The New York Times Bret Stephens.
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): He’s a troublemaker.
BRZEZINSKI: Yes he is. I’m reading his latest piece.
SCARBOROUGH: Bret, what’s your problem? You got to the Times and you’re making trouble. What's going on?
BRET STEPHENS: They love me.
SCARBOROUGH: The kids love you in the streets. Serious question, though. Obviously a lot of controversy because you said you believe in climate change, you believe it's man-made, in fact, but we need to figure out the best way forward. That there still is a debate on the best way forward and how extreme it is. Caused a huge uproar, obviously, for people that don't know, caused a huge uproar. How have the Times editors been? How’s the management been towards you?
STEPHENS: The Times has been terrific. Everyone on the masthead, all of the senior editors have been supportive. Look, they brought me in because I offer a different view, and I think they brought me in also because they know that the Twitter-verse is not -- doesn't represent the entire range of opinion among Times readers.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank God.
STEPHENS: So there was a lot of anger on Twitter and in social media and maybe among a certain demographic, but I think there's also a view that you need a representative sample that goes beyond the Cambridge, Manhattan, Washington, D.C., corridor.
SCARBOROUGH: Because, after all, it's a national newspaper. It is the national newspaper, along with The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and if we’ve let anybody out -- and The Washington Post of course. But I'm curious, you had said before that your concerns, you said this to the editors, was that you were going to be the conservative flavor of the month. And you were worried they got you simply because you were a never-Trumper.
STEPHENS: Yeah, and in fact they were very reassuring on that point. I think they wanted -- they were clear that that’s -- and I said to them, look, I don't want to be just the conservative you like because of my Trump views. And they were clear that that’s not what they were -- that they wanted me on board for that.
SCARBOROUGH: They hired you in spite of that.