Anthony Watts may have some ‘splainin to do

A few days ago an insider at the industry friendly Heartland Institute reportedly released some internal emails and other documents. One of them seems to feature Anthony Watts of the climate change denier site WhatsUpWithThat in a very bad light:

(ThinkProgress) — Watts has deep expertise in web site design and is well known and well regarded by weathermen and meteorologists everywhere.  The new site will be heavily promoted on WatsUpWithThat. … Heartland has agreed to help Anthony raise $88,000 for the project in 2011.  The Anonymous Donor has already pledged $44,000 ..

It’s unclear who leaked the material or if it’s been doctored in any way. But the posted document suggests Watts was to be paid, or was in fact paid, exorbitantly — the figures I’ve heard rumored is about $75,000 on this single deal. Given that Watts continues to post what climate experts call misleading information sympathetic to the fossil fuel industry, even when a study he championed for years was conducted late last year and found the same degree of warming other scientists have presented in years past, it looks an awful lot like a big fat payoff was or is in the works, from the energy industry directly to Mr. Watts for his “work.” It would also help explain why an obscure former meteorologist would shoot to the top of the traffic stats in such a short span of time; that kind of money, which is many, many times what even most paid blogger make in a year, would pay a handsome salary with enough left over to buy key advertising on right-wing sites, provide for travel to important conferences and gifts for influential people, and cover state of the art computers and other blogging tools. I don’t know that that happened, but as someone with “considerable experience” in new media communication I can sure see how it could.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bloggers being paid. Ahem. If a think-tank or an ANONYMOUS DONOR wanted to give me five figures in cash that wouldn’t be an ethical dilemma. But it wouldn’t change what or how I write, outside of equipping me with better computers and apps anyway, and possibly freeing me from the dead end cube farm where I spend most of my day allowing me to post more often, and I wouldn’t hide it. Far from it! I’d be bragging about it to anyone who would listen and probably writing grateful posts as sweet as any love letter thanking the person or organization.

Until this is cleared up I think it’s reasonable to suspect anything Mr. Watts says or writes, unless he is speaking under oath and penalty of perjury. That’s the breaks when your credibility takes this kind of hit.


  1. jamessweet says

    I dunno, every time I read about somebody selling their soul, I’m always like, “That’s it?” Don’t get me wrong, $75k would be awesome, but if that also has to cover expenses associated with pimping the website, it’s not so much money that it’s worth selling out your values.

    For a few hundred grand, I might just think about becoming an AGW denialist blogger… (these days I *probably* wouldn’t, what with having two young sons who are going to inherit the world in whatever state we leave it, but it would be awfully tempting) …but for $75k minus expenses? Meh… Doesn’t really seem like enough money, y’know?

  2. The Lorax says

    For a few hundred grand, I’d be a global warming denier. Or, at least, I’d blog about it. Mainly because I know that there’s no stopping it; the science is there, it does matter, it is true, and it will affect the human race and the world we live in. Period. Politically, it matters how many people bash it or try to deny it. But facts don’t care about politics. You can’t blog away climate change any more than you can vote away the Moon.

    Maybe I’d do an Ender’s Game thing and have a friend of mine post dissenting arguments steeped in fact in the comments to my blog posts… that way I can spread actual science whilst receiving vast sums… wuahahahaha…

  3. sunsangnim says

    The Lorax is willing to sell out? But who would speak for the trees?

    But then again, maybe the Lorax already sold out to Universal Studios.

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