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DC jury orders conservative commentator to pay $1 million for defaming climate scientist

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A Washington, D.C., jury this week found conservative commentator Mark Stein guilty of defaming a prominent climate scientist and ordered him to pay $1 million in punitive damages this week.

In a wide-ranging verdict handed down Thursday afternoon after a weeks-long trial, a jury in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia found that Stein and fellow commentator Rand Shinberg created the famous “hockey stick” graph. The judge ruled that he defamed scientist Michael Mann over a period of more than 10 years. Before. The jury also ordered Shinberg to pay Mann $1,000 in punitive damages and ordered both Shinberg and Stein to each pay Mann $1 in restitution.

“I hope this decision sends a message that falsely attacking climate scientists is not protected speech,” Mann said in a statement after the verdict was handed down late Thursday.

“We believe this is a victory for truthful reporting of climate science issues,” Mann’s attorney John Williams added in an email to Fox News Digital.

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Michael Mann is seen outside the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse in Washington, D.C., on February 5th. (Pete Keihart of The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The lawsuit dates back to 2012, when Mann first filed suit against Schinberg and Stein. He claimed that two commentators defamed him in separate posts by comparing him to Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State assistant football coach who was recently convicted of child molestation.

Years earlier, in 1998, Mann, who is still a professor of climate change at the University of Pennsylvania, published a study in Nature that provided a “hockey stick” understanding of how rapidly global warming was progressing. Announced. This graph was then used around the world, including in subsequent United Nations climate reports, to prove that global warming is an increasing threat to humanity.

But critics like Stein and Simberg have repeatedly questioned Mann’s graphs and the underlying data.

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Then, in July 2012, Mr. Simberg, then a researcher at the free market think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, published a blog post in which he made his own comparisons between Mr. Mann and Mr. Sandusky.

“Mann could be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except instead of sexually abusing children, he sexually abused and tortured Data,” Shinberg wrote in the post.

Mark Stein is seen outside the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse on February 5, 2024 in Washington, DC. Mann v. National Review et al. continues in the District of Columbia Superior Court.

Mark Stein is seen outside the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse in Washington, DC, on February 5th. (Pete Keihart of The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Three days later, Mr. Stein published his own blog post in National Review, referencing Mr. Shinberg’s article. However, Stein appears to have retracted Simberg’s original comparison in his article.

“I’m not sure I could have extended that analogy to locker room showers as enthusiastically as Mr. Simberg, but he has a point,” Stein wrote at the time.

He also identified Mann as “the man behind the fraudulent ‘hockey stick’ graph of climate change, the very mastermind behind the tree-ring circus” in relation to climate science, which uses tree-ring analysis to measure past temperatures. did.

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The jury on Thursday ultimately found that the two commenters’ posts were defamatory, clearly asserted or implied false facts, showed reckless disregard for whether their statements were false, and that As a result, it was determined that Mr. Mann had been harmed.

Photo of the COP28 logo ahead of the latest United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on November 30, 2023. The United Nations relies heavily on Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph in its report on climate change. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“I have no difficulty in standing on the truth,” Stein said in his opening remarks at the trial last month. “The truth of what I wrote, the truth of what happened at America’s famous facility, the truth of this man.”

“In my world, I can write something, Mr. Simberg can write something, Mr. Mann can write something, and I can either read it all or nothing. You are free to decide to read everything or nothing. But in Mr. Mann’s world there is Mr. Mann’s view, and everyone else must adhere to obedience and silence.” continued. “He’s a classic example of a guy who can get away with it, but can’t hold back.”

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Stein’s manager, Melissa Howes, told Fox New Digital that any punitive damages would “require due process scrutiny based on U.S. Supreme Court precedent.” She also mentioned the minimum amount of damages awarded to Mann.

During his trial, Stein (right) argued that his blog posts constituted speech protected by the First Amendment.

Mark Stein (right) argued during his trial that his blog post about Michael Mann (left) constituted speech protected by the First Amendment. (Pete Keihart of The Washington Post via Getty Images)

After the ruling, Amy Mitchell, a contributor to Stein’s online blog, said it was a loss for the First Amendment.

“Money damages aside, the real harm caused by this lawsuit is to all Americans who still believe in the First Amendment,” Mitchell wrote. “The precedent set today is that, as Justice Alito suggested when this case was filed before the U.S. Supreme Court, disagreement and criticism on issues of public policy that are a founding principle of this country are now suspect. And if you choose to express a dissenting opinion, you can be brought before a jury, held accountable, and potentially fined.”

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However, Mr. Shinberg said in a statement that the “data manipulation” defamation charge against Mr. Mann was ultimately cleared, and emphasized that the amount of damages ordered to be paid was low.

“The jury found in my favor on half of the statements at issue in this case, including finding that my statements that Dr. Mann was involved in data manipulation were not defamatory,” Shinberg said. I’m happy about that.” “The sanctions imposed against Dr. Mann over a decade of litigation dwarf the sentence against me.”

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