Will Heartland Institute's Corporate Funders Tacitly Endorse Comparing Climate Realists to bin Laden and the Unabomber?

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that Joe Bast and the Heartland Institute will discontinue the outrageous billboard campaign in a matter of hours. Bast issued the following statement to the Washington Post - notice the lack of an apology: 

We will stop running [the billboard] at 4:00 p.m. CST today. (It’s a digital billboard, so a simple phone call is all it takes.) The Heartland Institute knew this was a risk when deciding to test it, but decided it was a necessary price to make an emotional appeal to people who otherwise aren’t following the climate change debate.

The Heartland Institute has stooped to new lows today with the release of a billboard campaign in Chicago featuring “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Heartland's intent with the billboards is to suggest that anyone who accepts the overwhelming evidence of manmade climate change is a radical on par with these murderers and madmen. 

Leo Hickman, who was first to cover this shameful stunt at the Guardian, sums it up best:

It really is hard to know where to begin with this one. But let's start with: “What on earth were they thinking?”

Among other head-scratchingly stupid elements, Heartland's announcement about its outrageous billboard campaign includes this insane statement:

The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.

With a despicable stunt like this, it will be a miracle if Heartland retains financial support from any of the nineteen public companies that its internal documents revealed are fostering the group's work. Even Altria (a.k.a. PhilipMorris) should feel compelled to distance itself from Heartland after this. Who wants to sip Ste. Michelle wine (an Altria brand) knowing that the company funds this kind of extremism? 

Here is the first billboard Heartland purchased:

Scott Mandia calls the billboard campaign “indefensible un-American behavior,” especially Heartland's reference to a possible future billboard featuring Osama bin Laden, which would surely be offensive to all Americans, especially New Yorkers and those who lost loved ones and friends on September 11, 2001.

The billboard campaign is meant to generate interest in the forthcoming Heartland skeptic conference, which we regularly refer to as Denial-a-Palooza. That gathering is set to take place May 21-23 in Chicago (stay tuned for our plans surrounding that).

Reactions are pouring in from all over the media world to the billboards, and one common question is whether anyone will now pull out of the denier conference or seek to distance themselves from Heartland in the wake of this disgusting billboard episode.

Joe Romm at ClimateProgress names some names:

Will confirmed speakers like Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Czech President Vasclav Klaus, Joe Bastardi, Pat Michaels, Fred Singer, or former NASA astronauts show up at the conference, thereby endorsing this beyond-extremist message? Will leading deniers denounce these offensive ads — or will they implicitly endorse this kind of hate speech? Will media outlets like PBS keep quoting Heartland ‘experts’ as if they were a legitimate source of information?

GM ended their financial support of Heartland earlier this month, as has AT&T, but why are State Farm and Microsoft still supporting it? Many other public corporations have donated money or provided resources to Heartland, including Eli Lilly & Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Nucor, Pfizer, and Time Warner Cable. Will they cut ties or implicitly endorse these extreme ads?

Here again is the list of the 19 public corporations who fund the Heartland Institute (or used to until recently in some cases):

Forecast the Facts has just released a new petition for citizens to urge these companies to ditch the denial machine at Heartland.

Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts, reacts to the new billboards:

“Heartland's latest act of cimate denial is outrageous and disgusting. Their guilt-by-association billboards are typical of Heartland's extreme campaign to stymie climate action. That is why General Motors ceased their support for the hateful group, and why the tens of thousands of members of Forecast the Facts are calling on all corporations to stop funding the Heartland Institute.”

Finally, I have to hand it to Anthony Watts, we don't agree on much else, but Watts is correct when he says:

“…I’ll be blunt, I think Heartland’s billboard campaign is a huge misstep, and does nothing but piss people off and divide the debate further. IMHO it isn’t going to win any converts, and had they asked me I would have told them that it is a bad idea that will
backfire on them.” 

Watts posts an excerpt of the Heartland press release about the billboards, and then follows it with, “Ugh. Ugly.”

This from the guy who essentially acted as Heartland's adjunct press secretary during the Denialgate episode, and is favored to receive a lot of funding from the group, according to its own internal documents.

When even Anthony Watts thinks Heartland has gone too far, it's high time for Heartland's corporate funders to ditch this looney outfit.

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You took the words right out of my mouth.  I am flabbergasted, dumbfounded, gob-smacked … the list goes on, at how just. plain. STUPID this is.  Jumped the shark?  They did CARTWHEELS over it!

It really is hard to know where to begin with this one. But let’s start with: “What on earth were they thinking?”

Trouble is, just asking that question presupposes that

a) They remember what they were thinking;

b) They won’t realize that they can end the argument by refusing to reply.