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Policy: Environment & Energy

ACLU, news organizations back National Review, think tank in climate libel case

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,National Review,Climate Change,First Amendment,Energy and Environment,ACLU

A who's who of news organizations, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, have sided with the conservative National Review and the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute in a libel lawsuit brought against them by climate scientist Michael Mann.

Mann contends that the magazine and the think tank both libeled him by publishing articles alleging that he has intentionally manipulated climate data. Both defendants are seeking to have the case dismissed under a statute that prevents nuisance lawsuits intended to silence critics. The matter is currently before the D.C. Superior Court.

In an amicus brief filed Monday, the ACLU and news organizations urged the court to reverse a lower court ruling that the statute didn't apply in this case. They argued that it would be a blow to freedom of the press should Mann prevail:

While Mann essentially claims that he can silence critics because he is "right," the judicial system should not be the arbiter of either scientific truth or correct public policy. While amici may not necessarily agree with the content of defendants’ speech, they believe that, if left to stand, the decision below will chill the expression of opinion on a wide range of important scientific and public policy issues, and therefore urge that it be reversed.

The ACLU was joined in the brief by the Washington Post, Fox News, NBC Universal, USA Today publisher Gannett Co., Bloomberg, Time, the Tribune Publishing Co., the Seattle Times and various professional organizations including the American Society of News Editors, the National Press Club, and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others.

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