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ThinkProgress Claims It Didn’t Try To Torpedo Climate Scientist’s Career

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ThinkProgress’s editor in chief pushed back against claims he coordinated efforts to take down a climate scientist who had previously written pieces critical of global warming.

“There was no organized campaign to damage his career,” Judd Legum said Thursday about Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., who was the subject of an email released Oct. 20 by WikiLeaks. The memo comes from a trove of hacked emails from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account.

Legum’s environmental website, ClimateProgress, took issue with pollster Nate Silver’s 538 website hiring Pielke to write about global warming issues. The academic challenged in one article a Democratic talking point that global warming was making extreme weather more severe.

ClimateProgress immediately embarked on a crusade to discredit him, the emails indicate, “[p]rior to Pielke writing anything” for 538 — based solely on the fact they didn’t like his research on extreme weather.

“Pielke basically has made a career of ‘accepting’ climate change but disputing that we can really do anything about it or that it has much of an impact,” Legum wrote in a July 2014 email to hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer thanking him for his “support.”

“I think it’s fair say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538. He would be providing important cover for climate deniers backed by Silver’s very respected brand. But because of our work, he is not,” Legum wrote in the memo.

The email described an “organized, politically motivated campaign to damage my career and reputation,” Pielke told reporters Wednesday.

“(Center for American Progress) wrote 160+ articles about me, many misrepresenting my views and calling me a climate skeptic and denier,” Pielke said. “With their megaphone, propaganda worked… I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did.”

Legum now claims the memo was meant to point out inaccurate information in Pielke’s writing.

“There was inaccurate information being presented in his writing … We called a number of climate scientists and asked them about the claims he was making in this piece,” he explained. “They said that there were a lot of really inaccurate or misleading things, and we reported on that.”

Podesta condemned the hacked emails, telling reporters Oct. 10 that he doesn’t know where the “unauthentic” emails originated. Legum’s decision to explain the reasoning behind the memo suggests that the email is in fact authentic.

ThinkProgress is part of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), which was founded by Podesta in 2003. Steyer served on CAP’s board alongside Podesta for several years.

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