Energy

This Media Narrative Didn’t Get A ‘Fake News Award,’ But It Should Have

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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President Donald Trump presented his “Fake News Awards” on Wednesday night for eleven news stories that proved to be less than accurate, but there is one media narrative the White House left out.

For months, the media perpetuated a rumor the Trump administration would delete or take offline climate science data that was inconvenient to its agenda. That didn’t happen.

The narrative gained steam in late 2017. For example, Michael Halpern with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Mashable in December that people “should take steps to ensure that they download what they need before the new administration steps in.”

Mashable had obtained a leaked Department of Energy transition team memo asking for “a list of all websites “maintained by or contributed to by laboratory staff during work hours for the past three years.” The website suggested national lab data “could be taken offline.”

Of course, the author of the Mashable article admitted his reporting was based on “inference” and not any steps the administration or transition team had taken. But it was too little too late.

The coverage sparked mass hysteria among climate activists and scientists. News outlets amplified fears Trump officials could take publicly-owned scientific data offline, and the coming months were filled with reports of government scientists being “muzzled” and references to “climate change” disappearing from websites.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson even asked Wilbur Ross, then nominee to head the Department of Commerce, if he would preserve science data and allow government scientists to publicly state their opinions.

Ross, who was eventually confirmed, said he supported the “dissemination of valid information to the public.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is housed in the Commerce Department.

NOW WATCH:

Despite the assurances, some scientists were still concerned the White House would, for some reason, step in and suppress their findings, so in August, some of them leaked a draft of an upcoming National Climate Assessment report to The New York Times.

That story was actually given a “Fake News Award” by the White House.

NYT published what they called an exclusive copy of the draft report online at the behest of scientists who feared “the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.”

But that turned out to be false. The draft report had actually been publicly available online for months, undercutting suggestions its findings could be suppressed by the White House.

NYT was forced to issue a correction, and the National Climate Assessment report was finalized and released to the public with no interference by the Trump administration. In fact, many scientists interviewed by other outlets pushed back against suggestions the White House was trying to suppress or alter their findings.

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