Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse wants newspapers to stop publishing “extreme” and “phony” op-eds written by climate-change skeptics, blasting such articles as “industry propaganda.”
The Rhode Island Democrat said he was stunned by the “extraordinary barrage of opinion pieces” that followed his May 2015 op-ed recommending that Attorney General Loretta Lynch investigate fossil-fuel companies and their supporters for possible civil violations of federal racketeering laws.
He blamed the flood of what he described as “error-plagued criticism” on “the climate denial apparatus” and urged newspapers to reject such opinion pieces in the future.
“The breadth of the op-ed assault suggests that a new level of critical scrutiny will be needed at honorable editorial boards to make responsible choices between legitimate and honest opinion and clever, made-to-order, industrial-scale dissemination of industry propaganda,” said Mr. Whitehouse in a Tuesday op-ed in the Columbia Journalism Review.
Among the 100-plus news outlets cited that ran op-eds slamming his proposed federal investigation on First Amendment grounds were The Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Providence [Rhode Island] Journal, the Daily Signal, and the Boulder [Colorado] Daily Camera.
Mr. Whitehouse, who led a two-day Senate floor campaign this week against what he called the “web of denial,” rejected the contention that using prosecutorial authority to investigate those challenging the catastrophic climate-change narrative violates free-speech rights.
“[I]t is actually settled law — even cited in the tobacco case itself — that fraud is not protected speech under the First Amendment,” Mr. Whitehouse said. “This raises the question whether the phony ‘science’ supporting climate denial has a twin in equally phony ‘opinion’ writing.”
Among those who have denounced Mr. Whitehouse’s proposal are nationally syndicated columnist George F. Will and Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky.
“These garden-variety authoritarians are eager to regulate us into conformity with the ‘settled’ consensus du jour, whatever it is,” said Mr. Will in his April 21 op-ed. “But they are progressives, so it is for our own good.”
Three years ago, the Los Angeles Times announced that it would no longer run letters to the editor written by “climate-change deniers.”