Hill Report: Administration Censored Media Access to Climate Science

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Bush Administration Acted as if American Petroleum Institute Action Plan to Create Doubt About Global Warming Was Its ‘Mission Statement’

Saying that the Bush administration acted as if an American Petroleum Institute action plan to create doubt about global warming was its "mission statement," a new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said the administration censored climate scientists' access to the media, while Repbulicans on the committee said the majority had distorted information to reach a foregone conclusion.

That report said the administration had tried to shape the message for scientists appearing on PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CNBC's On the Money and NBC’s Today, or denying those appearances if a scientist was not available who could argue that intensified hurricanes were the result of natural causes.

"The White House exerted unusual control over the public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues," the report concluded. "It was standard practice for media requests to speak with federal scientists on climate change matters to be sent to CEQ [the White House Council on Environmental Quality] for White House approval. By controlling which government scientists could respond to media inquiries, the White House suppressed dissemination of scientific views that could conflict with administration policies."

Citing one e-mail in response to a request by Today for a scientist to discuss "if there is a link between hurricanes and global warming," Katie Levinson, director of White House television operations, responded, according to the report: “Not sure this is a good idea. Gets into Al Gore statement/politics of global warming.”

The report was released even as news operations were airing former Vice President Gore's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize for his global-warming warnings dating back decades.

The committee, headed by Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), has been investigating the allegations for months that the administration has been "censored climate-change scientists, edited climate-change reports and misled policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming."

The White House had not returned a request for comment at press time, but the Republican minority on the committee put out its own report on the report, saying that the report was a partisan attack.

"An investigation that began as a bipartisan inquiry into the role of the Council on Environmental Quality in climate change policy has veered into a partisan diatribe against the Bush Administration," said the minority report. "

The Republicans said the report was "seriously flawed," arguing that it had based its findings on "selective passages from two hearings, one deposition, and one transcribed interview to make grossly exaggerated claims of political interference with climate change science."

"Democrats assert their report leads to one “inescapable conclusion” about alleged political interference with climate change science under the Bush Administration," said Republican staff communications director Brian McNicoll in an e-mail to B&C. "We believe, and the attached views demonstrate, the only inescapable fact is that Democrats were interested only in presenting distorted information that supported their preconceived conclusions."