Nature Pens Scathing Editorial On Virginia A.G. Cuccinelli Witch Hunt of Michael Mann

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In a scathing rebuke of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s witch hunt relating to the work of climatologist Michael Mann, the highly-regarded journal Nature this week published an editorial called “Science subpoenaed” that condemns the latest political attack on a climate scientist and calls into serious question Cuccinelli’s motives.

AG Cuccinelli, a former Republican state Senator, earlier this month launched a ridiculously over-the-top inquiry demanding that the University of Virginia turn over a massive number of documents and personal communications related to Professor Mann’s work and government contracts.  Cuccinelli demands to see eleven years’ worth of Mann’s emails and other correspondence with climate scientists, and all available documents, computer code and data relating to Mann’s research on five different state and federal grants.

Echoing The Washington Post, which published a similar editorial lambasting Cuccinelli’s “witch hunt” of Professor Mann, the Nature editorial similarly slammed the AG.

Nature notes that “Cuccinelli has lost no time in burnishing his credentials with far-right ‘Tea Party’ activists, many of whom hail him as a hero,” and suggests that:
Given the lack of any evidence of wrongdoing, it’s hard to see Cuccinelli’s subpoena — and similar threats of legal action against climate scientists in a February report by climate-change denier Senator James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) — as anything more than an idealogically motivated inquisition that harasses and intimidates climate scientists.”

Not surprisingly, climate deniers are cheering on Cuccinelli’s effort, including the paid tobacco shill turned chemical industry apologist turned climate denier Steven “Junkman” Milloy.

Milloy penned a recent piece in the Washington Times saluting Cuccinelli’s witch hunt, a piece which he says on his website is “dedicated to those skeptics and libertarians who, confused about Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli’s investigation of Michael Mann, are aiding and abetting the enemy.”

Apparently Milloy is annoyed that fellow skeptics at didn’t fall in line to cheer Cuccinelli’s effort, and instead raised questions about the appropriateness of the AG’s focus on Michael Mann, noting that the “Washington Post has properly branded Cuccinelli’s ploy as a witch hunt.”

Nature also mentions the fact that “even several climate sceptics who count themselves among Mann’s fiercest critics have publicly condemned the attorney general’s move.”

The Nature editorial concludes:
“Scientific organizations must respond quickly and forcefully any time political machinations threaten to undercut academic freedom. And, rather than complying, the University of Virginia should explore every avenue to challenge the subpoena.”

The Nature piece is highly recommended reading, as is the earlier Washington Post editorial, which stated:
WE KNEW Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) had declared war on reality. Now he has declared war on the freedom of academic inquiry as well. We hope that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and the University of Virginia have the spine to repudiate Mr. Cuccinelli’s abuse of the legal code. If they do not, the quality of Virginia’s universities will suffer for years to come. In his ongoing campaign to wish away human-induced climate change, Mr. Cuccinelli has targeted Michael Mann…”

The Washington Post’s editorial about the attack on Mann notes that, “Mr. Cuccinelli demonstrates a dangerous disregard for scientific method and academic freedom,” and concludes that “[Virginia Gov. Robert F.] McDonnell should condemn the attorney general and aid the university, making it clear that Mr. Cuccinelli speaks only for himself.”

It wasn’t the first time the Post had slammed Cuccinelli either.  In an October 2009 editorial titled “Mr. Cuccinelli’s Bigotry,” the Post Eds wrote that “given his bizarre ideas, he would very likely become an embarrassment for the commonwealth.”

It appears the Post was too generous with their conservative “very likely” qualifier, as Cuccinelli has proven on multiple occasions thus far in his short term to be a colossal embarrassment. 

Bravo to Nature for calling Cuccinelli out as well.

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