17 News Companies Support FOIA Lawsuit Against Michael Mann

AP, Reuters, Washington Post and others become unlikely allies in lawsuit over access to climate scientist’s emails.

A group seeking access to climate scientist Michael Mann’s emails through Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) has a surprising new group of news media allies.

From wire agencies to liberal Atlantic Media, Inc., 17 news groups have supported the release of documents, according to Columbia Journalism Review.

“Organized by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 17 news organizations, including National Public Radio, Dow Jones, and The Washington Post, submitted an amicus brief in November, supporting the group’s rights to Mann’s emails,” CJR said. Other groups include Politico, Associated Press and Reuters, Gannett Co. which owns USA Today, and News Corp. Among the missing: broadcast network TV companies, CNN and The New York Times.

The brief criticized the lower court ruling for “broadly defining ‘proprietary information’ in a way that would make almost any university document -- and potentially government documents -- exempt from public release” CJR noted. The ruling was in a case between Mann and the American Traditions Institute (now called Energy & Environment Legal Institute).

There is an irony to the situation, especially when it comes to the Post which used its editorial pages to attack a separate attempt by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to access Mann’s emails. Post editorials called that a “witch hunt” and a “misguided investigation” and argued that the University of Virginia should “push back” against Cuccinelli’s inquiry. The paper also endorsed Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

The editorial page has flattered Mann in the past calling him “prominent” as well as “one of the most famous American climate scientists.”

Politico mentioned on Jan. 9, that the Virginia Supreme Court would hear arguments in the case that day, but did not say anything about the amicus brief that was submitted in November, nor any news outlets’ support for the VFOIA request.

Investor’s Business Daily was one of the only news outlets to mention the amicus brief. In a March 18, editorial IBD called it “remarkable” given that “The press has been a reliable cheerleader for the global warming alarmists, giving them heavy and sympathetic coverage while largely ignoring skeptical scientists.”

Mann is also embroiled in a legal matter of his own making. He sued Mark Steyn, National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for defamation over insulting language in articles critical of his science. 

— Julia A. Seymour is Assistant Managing Editor for MRC Business at the Media Research Center. Follow Julia A. Seymour on Twitter.