In a landmark defamation case reported by Axios, leading climate scientist Michael Mann secured a significant legal victory, being awarded $1 million in damages against two conservative writers, Rand Simberg, formerly of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Mark Steyn, a National Review contributor. The lawsuit centered on derogatory online posts made by the defendants over a decade ago, which targeted Mann’s influential work on global warming, including the creation of the “hockey stick” graph depicting a sharp rise in global temperatures over recent centuries.
The dispute reached its climax in the D.C. Superior Court, where the jury found that Simberg and Steyn had defamed Mann through “multiple false statements,” awarding the scientist $1 in compensatory damages from each writer. Furthermore, the jury concluded that the statements were made with “maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance or deliberate intent to harm,” imposing punitive damages of $1 million against Steyn and $1,000 against Simberg.
Mann, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, expressed hope that the verdict would deter future false attacks against climate scientists, emphasizing the importance of protecting the integrity of scientific discourse. His lawyer, Peter Fontaine, heralded the decision as a vindication of Mann’s reputation and a victory for truth and the scientific community at large.
In contrast, the defendants signaled their intent to appeal the verdict, with Simberg’s attorney, Mark DeLaquil, expressing disappointment and Steyn’s manager questioning the premise of actual injury suffered by Mann, highlighted by the nominal $1 compensatory damages awarded.
Mann has also indicated plans to challenge a 2021 ruling that absolved the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute of defamation liability concerning the contentious articles. This ongoing legal saga underscores the fraught intersection of science, politics, and freedom of speech, with broader implications for the discourse surrounding climate change and the accountability of public commentary.