Alarmist Mann Sues over Humorous Insult

Alarmist Mann Sues over Humorous Insult
April 11, 2011

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

Controversial global warming alarmist Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University professor and one of the central figures in the Climategate scandal, is suing prominent skeptic Timothy Ball for making a joke about Mann’s alleged misconduct.

Emails uncovered during the Climategate scandal show University of East Anglia researcher Phil Jones, apparently fearing that a Freedom of Information Act request might force the release of embarrassing data or questionable procedures, sent Mann an email asking him to delete any emails Mann may have exchanged with alarmist researcher Keith Briffa regarding the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Jones also asked Mann to “email Gene [Wahl] and get him to do the same.”

In an ensuing investigation into misconduct, Penn State investigators asked Mann, “Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?” Penn State records indicate Mann half-answered the question, claiming he did not delete emails at the behest of any other scientist, but Mann did not say whether or not he followed Jones’ request to ask Wahl to delete emails. Wahl later acknowledged that Mann had indeed forwarded Jones’ request to delete emails.

Referring to Mann’s participation in these questionable email exchanges, Canadian scientist Tim Ball told the Freedom Centre for Public Policy that Mann “should be in the State Pen rather than Penn State.” Mann responded by suing Ball for defamation.

‘It Is Intimidating’
According to Mann’s lawsuit, Ball’s comments convey the “natural and ordinary” meaning to “the average, ordinary reader” that Mann “is guilty of criminal fraud in matters relating to Climategate.” Alternatively, the lawsuit claims, Ball’s comments would lead the average, ordinary reader to believe,“there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe the plaintiff is guilty of criminal fraud in matters relating to Climategate.”
 
“Each of those meanings is false, malicious and defamatory of and concerning the plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.

Ball must now raise funds to hire an attorney and defend himself from Mann’s lawsuit, which he believes may be financed by wealthy global warming alarmists.

“Personally it is intimidating because of the costs involved if nothing else. Legally it is a threat to free speech and, in my opinion, a misuse of the law to silence open debate,” Ball told Live Journal’s John O’Sullivan.

“I have paid out about $10,000 so far and am rapidly depleting my savings; these are meager because the only research funding I received during my career was from the National Museum of Canada,” Ball explained.

“Alarmists have a long history calling for the silencing of people who oppose their speculative theories,” said Jay Lehr, science director for the Heartland Institute. “Mann’s lawsuit is unfortunate but not terribly surprising.”

A page on Ball’s Web site, http://drtimball.com/2011/tim-balls-libel-case-and-legal-defense-fund/, explains why Ball is confident he will prevail in the lawsuit, provided he doesn’t run out of defense funds first. The Web page provides information on how supporters can donate money to his legal defense fund.

James M. Taylor (jtaylor@heartland.org) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)