Slimed by Naomi Oreskes – In Defense of Dr. Fred Singer

The excerpt is found in Chapter 5, “Radicals” in the middle of page 183 forward for about 3 pages.

-Ron Arnold

On February 24, 1994, ABC News Nightline with Ted Koppel ran a report titled, “Environmental Science For Sale,” produced by Jay Weiss. It was an investigation of the wise use movement, probing my activities and those of scientist Fred Singer of the Washington, D.C.-based Science and Environmental Policy Project, among others.[1]

Koppel opened this edition of Nightline with a stunning revelation: Vice President Al Gore had given him the story. Koppel explained that he and Gore had met by chance waiting for an airplane, and, over coffee, Gore urged him to investigate connections between the wise use movement and such elements as big industry, Lyndon LaRouche and the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Koppel had first covered the wise use movement almost exactly two years earlier, on February 4, 1992.[2] On that date, after a five-minute introductory segment interviewing me and a number of other wise use advocates, the program switched back to the studio and a face-off between conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and then-Senator Al Gore. Koppel was the first broadcaster to note that environmentalism was no longer a motherhood and apple pie issue, but now had serious challengers for the moral high ground.

Gore was deeply upset by the rise of wise use. By 1994 he was Vice President of the United States, and the time had come to strike back.

So, on the night of February 24, Koppel told Gore’s story—but notified his viewers exactly where it had come from, a highly unusual move in a medium that normally goes to extremes protecting sources. And he sounded annoyed.

While Koppel explained that Gore’s office had sent him a stack of documents, an image of fanned-out papers filled the TV screen. If you’ve seen such graphics, you know that the top document is always totally illegible so that a certain amount of anonymity is preserved for the source. However, peeking out from behind the first sheet was a letterhead just beyond legibility—unless you knew what it said to begin with. I did. It said, MacWilliams Cosgrove Snider.

So—Vice President Al Gore was keeping a dossier on us, courtesy the Green Cartel: MacWilliams Cosgrove Snider, a political strategy firm, hired by The Wilderness Society, using a grant from the W. Alton Jones Foundation (the CitGo oil money) authorized by Director John Peterson “Pete” Meyers, who has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to smear the wise use movement. Knowing that Al Gore has been secretly keeping tabs on me, do I need to call Psychic Hotline to know why the Winthrop Foundation gave money so that Sheila O’Donnell of Ace Investigations could gather intelligence on me? Could it be because Wren Winthrop Wirth is the wife of Clinton administration official Tim Wirth who was given his State Department slot with the help of Vice President Al Gore?

Vice President Gore, Koppel told his viewers, was particularly concerned about Dr. Fred Singer of the Washington, D.C.-based Science and Environmental Policy Project, well known for debunking the ozone depletion and global warming scares.

Laws have been passed against important industrial chemicals because computer models predict them to deplete ozone or cause global warming. Dr. Singer points out flaws in computer models, noting that realistic risk assessments rather than computerized guesswork or emotional scare tactics are needed for sound public policy.

Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund told Koppel he was so worried about the wise use movement because, “If they can get the public to believe that ozone wasn’t worth acting on, that they were led in the wrong direction by scientists, then there’s no reason for the public to believe anything about any environmental issue.”

What about those Moonie ties and big industry money? When asked by Nightline, Dr. Singer acknowledged having accepting free office space and science conference travel expenses in the past from the Unification Church, as well as funding from large industries. The Moon support lasted only a short time, but the industry funding continued. “Every environmental organization I know of gets funding from Exxon, Shell, Arco, Dow Chemical, and so on,” said Singer. “If it doesn’t taint their science, it doesn’t taint my science.”

Koppel evidently felt used by Gore, saying, “In fairness, though, you should know that Fred Singer taught environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, that he was the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Nixon Administration, and from 1987 to 1989 was chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Transportation. You can see where this is going. If you agree with Fred Singer’s views on the environment, you point to his more impressive credentials. If you don’t, it’s Fred Singer and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.”

Koppel noted that Dr. Singer’s predictions about the low atmospheric impact of the Kuwait oil fires was accurate and the environmentalists’ forecast of doom, as voiced by the late astronomer Carl Sagan, was wrong.

Koppel handled the segment about me much the same way, saying that I had once served on a local board of the American Freedom Coalition, “a political organization, which, in the past, has received substantial funding from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.” There were no allegations that my Center had received Moonie money, or that I was a follower of Moon or his church, or that some nefarious Moon-influenced plot was afoot, unlike the Green Cartel’s version of the story. Somebody at ABC News had actually done some fact checking.

Then I remembered. Three months earlier, on Tuesday, November 9, 1993, ABC News producer Bob Aglow had called me on behalf of correspondent Bettina Gregory, asking for an interview for the “American Agenda” segment of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. I had previously appeared in that segment and was treated fairly. I agreed. That Friday, November 12, Aglow and Gregory taped the interview in my office. Among other things, I gave them a stack of my Center’s financial statements showing where our budget really came from: small donations from members, book sales and conferences, with less than 5% coming from foundations and corporate grants.

However, the segment never aired. But the film that Koppel used in his Nightline broadcast was the footage taken by Bob Aglow with correspondent Bettina Gregory. Someone on the Nightline staff had obtained it from the World News Tonight staff—evidently along with my financial data.

At the end of the Nightline feature, Koppel pointedly rebuked Gore’s recruitment to a hatchet job, concluding, “The measure of good science is neither the politics of the scientist nor the people with whom the scientist associates. It is the immersion of hypotheses into the acid of truth. That’s the hard way to do it, but it’s the only way that works.”

There was something odd about this edition of Nightline. Why did Koppel reveal the source of his story? And why did he take such pains at fairness that it repudiated Gore’s premise? I contacted the network to see what they knew about their source. Neither Koppel nor ABC News Nightline producer Jay Weiss knew that the Search and Destroy Strategy Guide existed because Gore did not provide it, only a stack of anti-wise use articles and news releases provided by MacWilliams Cosgrove Snider. So I sent them a copy.

A little poking around also led to an interesting discovery: Al Gore himself took $1,000 from the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church to address their American Leadership Conference just before accepting the vice presidential nomination. Two high ranking environmentalists had also taken $1,000 from Moon’s Unification Church for speeches at a media conference: Marion Clawson of Resources for the Future and Donella Meadows, lead author of The Limits to Growth. What, if anything, did that mean?[3]

A little more poking around revealed that Jay Weiss was not the producer originally assigned to investigate Gore’s allegations. The original producer of the “Environmental Science for Sale” segment had been 12-year ABC News veteran Tara Sonenshine. Sonenshine had started her career as a booker, the person who finds newsmakers and makes appointments for interviews. She had a Rolodex® to kill for by the time she became an assistant producer. She knew just about every newsmaker in the world when she received the promotion to full producer, including Al Gore and Tim Wirth and his rich wife Wren.

Sonenshine took Gore’s story and ran with it as if she were Gore’s advocate. She scripted it as a truly vicious hit piece. Her original version had painted Lyndon LaRouche operative Rogelio Maduro as a crackpot with ties to the wise use movement, the culprit who allegedly sank the Biodiversity Treaty.[4] It also crucified University of Virginia Professor Patrick Michaels—who, like Fred Singer, challenged global warming computer models—for accepting research funding from industry.[5] It took every cheap shot in the book: sinister lighting to make Professor Michaels look unsavory, industry-sponsored film footage with no context, a one-sided slam against everyone it didn’t like. It was the perfect Green Cartel reprisal.

Sonenshine’s show was scheduled to air early in February, but a Nightline assistant producer told me Koppel didn’t like its tone and demanded changes. Sonenshine was chagrined. My source said that during an acrimonious staff meeting, she departed. Whether she was fired or resigned depends on who you ask.

The February 8 edition of The Washington Post carried “Rumour du jour: Tara Sonenshine, editorial producer at ABC News’s ‘Nightline,’ is headed for a policy job with national security adviser Anthony Lake. She has been with ‘Nightline’ for 12 years.”[6]

The Washington Post reported on February 14 that Tara Sonenshine had been appointed special assistant to the president and deputy director for communications at the National Security Council, “working on longer-term projects, which some uncharitably call an effort to make NSC chief Anthony Lake more TV-genic.”[7]

Did Al Gore give her that job as a weenie for doing a hatchet job on the wise use movement? Or as a getaway route when the hatchet broke?

Ten days later, “Environmental Science For Sale” was broadcast, much changed, a combination of clips from Sonenshine’s hit piece and the Weiss remake.

Sonenshine lasted less than a year at NSC before going to work covering national security for Newsweek.[8]

[1] “Environmental Science For Sale,” ABC News Nightline, Ted Koppel, Transcript No. 3329, February 24, 1994.

[2] “The Environmental Movement’s Latest Enemy,” ABC News Nightline, Ted Koppel, Transcript No. 2792, February 4, 1992..

[3] Telephone interview with Tom Ward of the Unification Church, New York, March 10, 1994.

[4] Telephone interview with Rogelio “Roger” Maduro, Leesburg, Virginia, February 25, 1994. The actual individuals behind the anti-treaty call-in campaign were Tom McDonnell, consultant Michael Coffman, Ph.D. and Kathleen Marquardt of Putting People First.

[5] Telephone interview with Prof. Patrick Michaels, Charlottesville, Virginia, February 25, 1994.

[6] “The TV Column,” The Washington Post, February 8, 1994, by John Carmody, p. C4.

[7] “The Federal Page – In The Loop,” The Washington Post, February 14, 1994, by Al Kamen, p. A13.

[8] “Media Notes,” The Washington Post, June 21, 1995, by Howard Kurtz, p. D1.