My esteemed colleague Norm Leahy has blogged that there really may be some dirt, albeit not all that much, involving Michael Mann, the former University of Virginia climatologist who has been hounded for months by hard-charging Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli.
Two things of note have happened. One is that Mann, whose guilt seems to be that as a scientist he believes humankind has caused recent climate change, has been exonerated yet again of any wrongdoing involving his research while in Charlottesville or elsewhere. And the other is that U-Va. has released under the state Freedom of Information Act more of the supposedly explosive documents involving Mann.
Cuccinelli, a staunch conservative, made national headlines by filing civil investigative demands for thousands of Mann’s e-mails and those of 39 other scientists in an effort to show that his research defrauded Virginia taxpayers.
But even the right-wing editorial page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch says the most recent exoneration of Mann should be enough to make Cuccinelli quit his expensive and wrong-headed quest and apologize. Mann has the support of hundreds of scientists and academic organizations who believe that Cuccinelli’s witch hunt is a serious attack on cherished academic freedom.
Leahy, however, doesn’t see it that way. He points out in his blog that the “American Tradition Institute” actually forced U-Va. to hand over the documents under the FOIA. Leahy suggests that Mann remains tainted because “his behavior toward his peers seeking to check his work raises plenty of red flags.” Actually, his work has now been checked and rechecked, with no problems coming to light. Norm, what would it take to convince you?
As far as hailing the two-year-old American Tradition Institute, let’s look at whom we are dealing with. One of its top executives used to be with The Heartland Institute, which has been funded by right-wing outfits such as the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation, according to Media Transparency. The Heartland Institute’s dabbling with scientific issues had had a clear political edge and hardly involves pure science. Another curiosity is that if Mann’s documents could be so easily had through a routine FOIA request, why did the attorney general attack with far more serious civil investigative demands?
It’s a shame that the conservatives keep beating up on Mann. It is reminiscent of the McCarthy years, when federal officials, movie directors and others remained tarnished and jobless for years even after they were cleared of having communistic inclinations.