The Washington Post opened a can of worms when its fact checker took on claims by Secretary of State John Kerry that he held the pivotal congressional hearing on climate change with former Colorado Sen. Tim Wirth and the godfather of global warming, Al Gore.
The Post gave “four Pinocchios” to Kerry for making the repeated claim the trio organized the June 23, 1988 Senate hearing when activist professor James Hansen proclaimed that pollution had caused global warming.
The Post nailed Kerry for some falsehoods, and we spotted several unchallenged but demonstrably tall tales added by Wirth.
First off, Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) was the committee chairman, neither Gore Nor Kerry were even on the committee. However, Wirth was there and did pull some presiding duty during the day.
The story has taken on a life of its own over the years with Wirth also credited for creating climate theatrics for the hearing.
The Post found this transcript of a 2007 PBS Frontline interview with Wirth:
Believe it or not, we called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. Well, it was June 6 or June 9 or whatever it was, so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo: It was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it. It was stiflingly hot that summer. [At] the same time you had this drought all across the country, so the linkage between the Hansen hearing and the drought became very intense.
It turns out, even the suggestion of stage-managing the event was contrived by Wirth, and Kerry who repeated the story.
If they had checked with the “weather bureau” like we did, they would have learned that July and August are the hottest months in Washington. Technically, “June 6 or June 9” is NOT EVEN SUMMER.
Wirth was correct that it was a scorcher of 98 degrees on June 23, 1988 when the hearing was held, but not even close to record setting. That would be in 1918 and 1930, long before global warming became a thing, when temps hit 106 degrees.
The record heat for 1988 was 102 degrees – in July and August. That’s why Congress always takes their SUMMER RECESS in August during the hottest time of the year in DC.
Even the interns know this. Wirth’s exaggeration was just plain sloppy.
As for the windows being opened in the hearing room to set the stage, we checked with our DC peeps who agreed the enormous picture windows probably don’t even open.
And they pointed to statements given to the Post by Daryl Owen, who was the Democratic staff director of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at the time as the undisputed expert on the matter.
“You may have been more successful in unearthing the archives than have I, but I can say with certainty that it was we who chose the hearing date, as that was the protocol of the committee,” Owen wrote. “Thus, the notion that it was chosen to coincide with a warm day in Washington is fiction, as is the notion that the hearing room windows were left open to warm the room. In fact, I’ll have to check but I’m not even sure those windows can be opened.”
He added: “If you’ve ever seen the Chairman perspire, it would have been career ending to open the windows on a hot day for a hearing he was to attend.”
Some may judge us petty for checking, but we see it as just more exaggerated claims built upon exaggerated claims.
As the Post said:
For skeptics of climate change, the story has become an example of how left-leaning politicians have manipulated public perceptions on the issue.