Responses from both Davids (I’m Goliath)

David Klinghoffer and David Coppedge have both responded to my post “Lies of omission and straight-up lies.” Klinghoffer did so in a post on Evolution News and Views, “You Already Support Goliath with Your Tax Dollars; Won’t You Consider Balancing the Scales?“. In it, he calls me a bully for pointing out inconsistencies and omissions in his and Coppedge’s accounts. What he doesn’t do is refute anything I said.

Instead, he reveals how deeply the persecution narrative is embedded in his worldview. So deeply, in fact, that mere criticism is perceived as persecution and bullying. I’ve mentioned the persecution complex before (“The Discovery Institute still doesn’t understand free speech“), and I’m sure others have as well. Here’s how Klinghoffer responds to having inconsistencies in his narrative pointed out:

Now why would a biologist employed at a public university, a self-described atheist and “Senior Research Scientist,” care to delve backward into history to attack Coppedge, who lost his job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in 2011 and soon developed cancer, all shortly before retirement age? Why do the strong ever pick on the weak?

First, I’m truly sorry that Coppedge has cancer; that sucks. As to why I would delve backward into history, I was responding to Klinghoffer’s posts from December 15th and 19th. Of this year.

Why do the strong ever pick on the weak?

I had no idea I was so strong! I write a blog that gets a few hundred views in a good week, and that, apparently, makes me Goliath. The whole David versus Goliath narrative gets downright silly when Klinghoffer mentions that he had never heard of me before yesterday. I’m not surprised; I am small potatoes compared to the Discovery Institute.

Now we have a publicly funded professor coming along out of nowhere and, gratuitously, giving Mr. Coppedge another stamp of the boot heel, accusing him of being “deluded” (and me of lying on Coppedge’s behalf), all without having done the elementary research demanded by a sense of fairness.

It’s true that my research is publicly funded, including [full disclosure] by NASA. Fierce Roller, though, is my personal blog, maintained on my own time and not supported by either the government or Georgia Tech.

For pointing out that parts of Klinghoffer’s and Coppedge’s narratives are contradicted by his own notes and testimony, I am “bullying,” “pick[ing] on the weak,” and “giving…another stamp of the bootheel.” To his credit, Klinghoffer never calls me a “fascist apologist.”

The other response, from David Coppedge himself, was left as a comment (which I approved). At the risk of being accused of continued bullying, I’ll address a few of his points.

Linux, for instance, was totally irrelevant to Cassini.

From Van Why’s testimony:

…the needs and skills of Cassini moving forward dealt more with ITL web services, Linux, troubleshooting, good customer skills. And those are areas that David did not rank as high on.

Coppedge’s comment:

The “complaints about interpersonal skills” stemmed from one alpha female (so termed by others) in 2004-2007 who was uniformly disliked by all the team, including my boss.

Coppedge’s notes from 2004:

[Chin] claims [e]very office has complaints about me. Even my own team members were complaining…Office Mgrs thought I was rude, incompetent or uncooperative.

From Coppedge’s comment:

…in short, what happened to me was all tied to the DVD sharing…

Scott Edgington’s testimony about a conversation with Coppedge about Proposition 8:

4/4/12 (Edgington) Tr.9:11-15; 11:1-18:18. Id. atTr.ll:I0-21; 12:24-13:27 (“He said … that well, you must want to harm kids or you must not like kids”); Id. at Tr. 14:3-12 (“His tone was raised. [Y]ou could tell that he was- he couldn’t grasp me not thinking that I, you know, would agree with him on this topic. Q. Did he seem upset? A. Yes. He seemed upset.”); Id. at Tr. 14:13-15 (“Q. How did you feel when he said to you that you must not like kids or be against kids? A. I was shocked .and upset.”); Id. at Tr. 15:19-18:17 (“[A.] I was feeling intimidated, as he was standing on the other side of my desk, you know, making this statement. And so I politely asked him to leave. . . . Q. And what happened next? A. He started repeating the arguments that he had made earlier in the conversation and his tone was raised over what it was previous to that as if repeating it would convince me that he was right. Q. And did he make any gesture as if he was going to leave? A. No. No. Not as he was repeating those arguments. Q. And what happened after that? A. Well, I said to myself, I really need to, you know, get out of this situation. So I asked him to leave again. Q. And how did you say it the second time? A. I said in a higher tone, you know, ‘would you please leave my office,’ and, yes. Q. Did he at that time? A. Yes, he did. Q. How did he leave? A. He had this frustrated look on his face and just stormed out of the office. . . . After he left I was shaken up a bit by the situation.”).

In spite of Klinghoffer’s insinuations to the contrary (“…without having done the elementary research demanded by a sense of fairness”), I have read most of Evolution News and Views‘ coverage of the case. (He did get in a sick burn on Twitter on this point):


It’s not that I haven’t read ENV‘s coverage; it’s that I found it one-sided and entirely unconvincing. There’s nothing there that makes the contradictions in Coppedge’s story magically disappear. Regardless, I was responding to Klinghoffer’s two recent posts, not years-old coverage. Klinghoffer’s “sense of fairness” barely impels him to acknowledge that there even is another side to the story. The only hint in those two posts that anything he says is disputed is this:

Phony allegations of “harassment” and of pushing his “religion” were lodged against [Coppedge].

As I said yesterday, omissions that extreme rise to the level of dishonesty. A reader who had not “done the elementary research” would never know that complaints about Coppedge’s behavior went back five years before his demotion, that everyone on the team knew that two of the five system administrators would be laid off due to budget cuts, or that his supervisor ranked Coppedge dead last in terms of his relevant skills.

I realize that Coppedge disputes each of these points, I just don’t believe his version of events. Neither did the judge.


  1. Siobhan says

    The whole David versus Goliath narrative gets downright silly when Klinghoffer mentions that he had never heard of me before yesterday


  2. says

    Matthew, you are continuing to distort the situation with selective reporting.
    Solomon wisely said, “The first to present his case seems just, until another comes and examines him.”

    Let me tell you about Richard Van Why. He was a lot newer to JPL than I was. He worked in a building miles away from the lab. He never came and observed my work on Cassini. He couldn’t tell Linux from a hot dog, and he knew nothing about the Cassini IT infrastructure. By the time he testified in the quote you selected, he was already under instructions from JPL’s lawyers (this was months AFTER the lawsuit was filed). JPL’s legal team was constructing a narrative that I “did not have the skills Cassini needed for the second extended mission.” That was their narrative, and they met repeatedly with managers to inculcate it. But what I said about Linux is true. Only a small fraction of our systems were Linux based (and I was not without experience on them), and there were no plans to convert our 98% Solaris infrastructure to Linux. I knew that, because I was in on all the planning meetings; Van Why was not. He was spouting the lawyers’ NARRATIVE, because it was essential to them to show that they were not retaliating against me because of the lawsuit (which would have been illegal). His testimony about ITL was also ignorant. I was a key expert on ITL, having done extensive work setting up that lab’s systems, and having worked with the key people in that group. I was also an expert troubleshooter, so that part is a lie. So who are you going to believe? The team lead with hands-on experience for 14 years, or a distant paper-pusher under instructions from lawyers to make me look bad? The “ranking” was a charade to provide a quasi-empirical document for getting rid of me. They had never done that exercise before. It was a joke.

    As for the interpersonal conflicts, you are quoting from my notes from 2004. It’s interesting that I was the ONLY one in court with contemporaneous documentation! All my opponents were coached by JPL lawyers and working from years-old memory. I recorded three confrontations with my boss that year over this alpha female, who was insisting that the IT team do things for her that were against JPL policy. She had the gift of gossip. She bad-mouthed me to her boss, who gossiped to her boss, who gossiped to the program manager. He, then, told my boss I was a problem. That’s why Greg came down hard on me in 2004, and I wrote down what he said (also, the parts that showed he was incorrect, which you did not quote). But by 2005, 2006 and 2007, when he came under her fire too, he defended me, saying the accusations were unfair. Our whole office was mad at this lady (I have lots of documentation to prove this). One of my team members, who had worked for hundreds of customers for years, said she was the worst he had ever dealt with–off the charts! We all felt that way and were relieved when she finally left. Then, everything calmed down, and we all got along great with her replacement. In addition, my boss and line manager said I had gone “above and beyond” what was necessary to work with that alpha female. I had meetings with her, with her boss, and then with her boss’s boss six times trying to work things out. At the time, they told me they really appreciated it. My boss was never able to point to a FACT of anything I did wrong to any of them, and I have emails from him to the program manager defending me and my team. And think about this. If my interpersonal communication skills had been so bad, they had years in which to get rid of me, but they never did before the DVD incident. Nor did they ever remove me from Team Lead for 9 straight years. I have many written commendations from other people who liked my work and appreciated my communication skills, including a shining statement from a manager just months before my layoff (available on request) about both my technical competence and interpersonal skills. “I have complete confidence in David,” he said.

    As for Edgington, you should surely realize there are two sides to every argument. It was a one-off incident before the election. He was a friend of mine. We had occasionally talked about Cassini’s science discoveries. On that day, in my normal cordial manner, all I did was hand him a piece of paper. But he looked at it and became belligerent, calling my view “propaganda.” We both became defensive (as men can do in a dispute), trying to justify our sides on the issue. Nothing either of us said was a personal attack; it was a dispute about a ballot proposition. When I saw our conversation was going nowhere, I bowed out best I could. The next day, I came back, apologized for the fact that the discussion had become heated, and told him I didn’t want this to come between us. You know what he did next? He stood up and spontaneously shook my hand! That’s how guys say things are cool again; ‘we respect each other, we’ll just agree to disagree’. We had never had any argument before that (he testified I was a “nice guy”). We never had another argument after that. And it had nothing to do with intelligent design. Edgington testified he did not want me to get in trouble over the incident. You also neglected to share Jennifer’s court testimony that praised my civility and calmness when she overheard me discussing the same proposition the same day with someone else who disagreed with my view. This is why it is so important for you to get all the testimony. By the time he said the things you quoted, he was being coached by JPL’s lawyers, whose job it was to make me look bad.

    I mention these FACTS because of the misrepresentation your selective quoting gives. But it’s beside the point, because that is NOT why I was disciplined, demoted, and dumped! The issue was the DVDs. Let me prove this. After receiving the written warning, I asked my line manager, who had given me the written warning (that had been written by HR, not by him) to clarify why I had been disciplined. He made it “crystal clear” that it was the DVDs that my boss yelled at me about. He said, “Whatever else they may have found, I do not believe entered into their decision to generate the written warning. It’s my belief, if that incidence [sic] had not happened HR would not have been contacted and the written warning would not have been generated.” I have those very words in his writing the day after the written warning was issued! Read my blog entry “Crystal clear: what my trial was all about.” Unlike Van Why, this group supervisor knew me for almost my entire career. He even bought some of my DVDs! He knew all about that “alpha female” and everything else that had gone on. He signed my annual reviews. And he said the trouble was about the DVDs.

    Look, sir, your site bears the label “free thought blogs.” Do I have free thought, too? Can I share my position among co-workers? Many times I went to lectures at JPL about evolution and the origin of life with no critique ever given. Sometimes they mocked those with opposing views. There were scientists with Darwin Fish on their doors, and cartoons mocking believers in traditional marriage or intelligent design (I have photos). If I grant them the freedom to share their views in this way, why can’t I occasionally share scientific evidence supporting a different view? Let me make it clear that I was not on a mission to proselytize at JPL; I was there to do a good job, and I did. I still love JPL and the space program. But I also wanted some of my friends to have the opportunity to hear an opposing view to the very lopsided presentations at the lab (views, I contend, are highly unscientific). Isn’t that what “free thought” is all about? If you REALLY BELIEVE in free thought, please grant it to me, as long as I share facts, logic, and evidence in a civil way–which I believe I did.

    I have about 18 boxes full of documents from the trial– tons of exhibits, records of countless hours of testimony, and more. I also have something you don’t have: first-hand experience with everything that transpired. You can’t just pick out a line here or there and expect to have an accurate picture. The fact is, I was in good standing, with a good reputation, when all of a sudden on 3/02/09, out of the blue, my boss tore into me for “pushing religion” because of a DVD I had previously shared with a friendly co-worker. That was the domino that started everything, leading to my firing. I would still be there working today if that had not happened. I would have full healthcare for my cancer, and would be a lot richer right now. How about showing some real empathy for another “free thinker” who suffered close to a million dollars in tangible losses because of intolerance?

    I’m going to give you a homework assignment. I want you to go watch “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” on YouTube. While you’re at it, watch “The Privileged Planet”–the other DVD I occasionally shared (it has 4 JPL scientists in it, and the interviews were filmed on lab with NASA authorization). I’m not asking you to agree with them. But I do ask, where is the pushing of religion? Where are the views expressed unsupported by scientific facts? Are Darwinians and atheists such delicate snowflakes that they cannot endure hearing a different interpretation of scientific evidence? Are these DVDs so subversive that a worker in good standing must be shamed, demoted, disciplined and cast out onto the curb for daring to share them? Or can I get you to say that, ‘yeah, they are well done, and make some good points; they are worth considering, even if you don’t agree.’ (Incidentally, we never obtained testimony that the judge, the lawyers, HR, or my managers ever watched these films. The judge was supposed to, but he never said he did.)

    In a sense, I’m doing a little scientific experiment on you. I listen to both sides of this debate on origins all the time. I read the best material from those who disagree with my view. I want to see if there is a so-called “free thinker” out there who can do the same, and honestly evaluate the evidence in a civil manner without getting nasty and impugning my character. If what I have said makes sense, can I get you to change your mind a little? Would you at least stand with me in support of free speech? Here’s your chance to show your readers that you really believe in free thought, free speech, and civility.
    Priv Planet:

    Thanks in advance for at least posting this comment in full.
    David Coppedge

  3. says

    As David Coppedge’s pro bono attorney who worked with him for three years, spent thousands of dollars (including his) letting JPL use every possible illicit tactic to frustrate discovery, endured five weeks of trial before a coward for a judge who never once indicated his view of the evidence, permit me to comment on your concluding remarks.

    First, the “Goliath” Klinghoffer is referring to isn’t you; it’s JPL and its highly paid attorneys at the Paul Hastings law firm in downtown Los Angeles, who managed to take advantage of our many logistical disabilities. The first and greatest of such disabilities was the absence of a legal team and support staff representing Dave. He and I worked around the clock, with Dave traveling an hour from home many days to assist me in preparing numerous motions, oppositions, reply briefs and other legal output, since I do not hire employees. You should understand that these lawsuits are rarely initiated because most lawyers won’t take them on a pro bono basis, especially in the leftist ideological landscape of Los Angeles courtrooms, where most of the judges are Democrat appointees, as our judge was.

    Another disability, quite literally, was Dave’s medical condition. He was not diagnosed with a brain tumor until after the trial was over. Both before and during trial, he suffered from acute head pain that was misdiagnosed by several doctors. It was so severe that during trial the pain caused him to leave the courtroom to lie on a wooden bench in the corridor. It affected his ability to assist me and to testify well.

    But, you know what? This case was litigated three years pre-trial. The record of lies, deception and maliciousness made by JPL employees is vast. The 3-week trial record is vast. Yes, a leftist ideologue such as yourself (or are you able to disabuse me of that belief?) bought JPL’s lies. It really wasn’t too difficult, since it was a fait accomplis. You can choose to disbelieve Dave, but you don’t walk in his shoes and you weren’t shouted at for “pushing [your] religion” by simply loaning out a DVD, and you didn’t attend the depositions or sit through trial for five weeks or read the massive post-trial record either. In short, you have formed a judgment based on unsubstantial evidence, and the evidence you reject isn’t based on a rigorous examination of the facts, rather, by emotion and slavish ideological orthodoxy.

    Frankly, if that’s how you form scientific judgments, you shouldn’t call yourself a scientist, a researcher, a scholar or whatever elite label you attach to yourself. It’s an insult to objective thinkers. But knowing your mind is calcified fossil material, immutable and non-evolving, feel free to stay put.

    • Matthew Herron says

      First, the “Goliath” Klinghoffer is referring to isn’t you; it’s JPL and its highly paid attorneys…

      Sorry, no. He is clearly referring to me:

      Now why would a biologist employed at a public university, a self-described atheist and “Senior Research Scientist,” care to delve backward into history to attack Coppedge, who lost his job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in 2011 and soon developed cancer, all shortly before retirement age? Why do the strong ever pick on the weak?

      Think about the power differential between Matthew Herron, a random biologist supported from the public trough, versus David Coppedge, cut from his own work with gross prejudice for the offense of lending out DVDs on intelligent design to willing colleagues.

      Which is silly. I blog in my spare time (of which there isn’t much); that’s my only ‘power’ that’s relevant to any of this.

    • Matthew Herron says

      I will get around to it eventually, but don’t hold your breath. It’s certainly not going to happen until after I finish The Edge of Evolution, and with a couple of especially hectic months starting tomorrow, that could be a while.
      Happy New Year, Mr. Coppedge.
      Edit: Careful with that sling!

  4. says

    Happy New Year to you, too, Matthew. But let me see if I understand your response. You had plenty of time to write two blog entries visible to the world, about someone you don’t know, and a trial you don’t understand, calling me a possibly deluded liar purveying “pure fiction” and inconsistencies, but you cannot spare 60 minutes to watch the centerpiece of the case to learn what the trial was all about?
    –Duly noted in my lab book–

  5. says

    None of my coworkers were publishing lies about me on the internet, calling themselves “senior research scientists” but failing to do the minimum amount of research needed to draw an informed conclusion.


  1. […] the past, my blogging activities have occasionally sparked blowback, for example insinuations that I did represent the federal government and thinly-veiled legal threats sent to my employer. For now, I intend to keep blogging, albeit at […]

Leave a Reply