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ABC Misleads Viewers on Journalist’s Credentials

“Starting off a week’s worth of “in-depth” reporting on global warming, “World News Tonight” falsely presented a liberal journalist and author as a Pulitzer Prize winner.

“Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ross Gelbspan blames a 15-year misinformation campaign by the oil and coal industry” for the public’s lack of alarm over climate change, ABC’s Geoff Morrell told viewers of his network’s March 26 evening newscast.

“The point of this campaign was not necessarily to persuade the public that global warming wasn’t happening. It was to persuade the public that there is this state of confusion,” Gelbspan told ABC News.

But it was ABC News confusing its viewers over Gelbspan’s credentials as well the scientific debate over climate change. While Gelbspan’s publisher and the group he founded, Climate Crisis Coalition, claim the journalist won a Pulitzer Prize, a search for Gelbspan on the Pulitzer Prize’s official Web site yields no results for the former Boston Globe editor.

Both the Free Market Project and JunkScience.com have previously documented the false claim.

“In 1984, Gelbspan’s newspaper The Boston Globe and seven staff writers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for a series of articles. But not Gelbspan. He was simply an editor who had some (non-award-winning) involvement in the series of articles,” JunkScience.com noted.

Additionally, the seven award-winning Boston Globe reporters with whom Gelbspan worked reported on a social, not scientific issue, race relations in Boston, according to www.Pulitzer.org.

Morrell is not the first ABC correspondent to incorrectly attribute a Pulitzer to Gelbspan. Chris Bury similarly misrepresented the liberal author’s credentials on a Dec. 9, 1997 “Nightline” story about the Kyoto Protocol, which had yet to be signed by President Clinton.

Morrell went on to confuse viewers about the extent of skepticism within the scientific community about global warming. Morrell showed University of Virginia climatologist Pat Michaels as “one of a handful of skeptics still downplaying the danger” of climate change, “a tiny minority,” he insisted narrating over footage of Michaels seated with three other unnamed persons.

Morrell aired only a brief sound bite from Michaels about media hype on global warming, but didn’t allow him to explain the science behind his skepticism.

As the Free Market Project reported recently, more than 7,600 scientists disputed that global warming is caused by manmade “greenhouse gases.” Morrell also excluded scientists who pointed to natural factors — such as increased solar radiation — playing a large role in climate change.

Accelerated glacier melting “could well be due to this increased intensity of sunlight compounding the effect of greenhouse gases,” The Sunday Times of London quoted Professor Martin Wild of the Zurich-based Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Science in the March 26 edition. Additionally, the same Times article blamed the lack of air pollution for part of the warming problem as the sun is brighter now than twenty years ago and a cleaner atmosphere allows more radiation to reach the earth.

Two weeks ago, ABC News similarly presented a one-sided view on another media-hyped potential catastrophe: the scientific debate over avian flu.

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Written By

Mr. Shepherd is a staff writer for the Business & Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.

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