WaPo: Even the backstory on Kerry's climate-change brag was a lie

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler uses a “Pinocchio” scale to assign a level of egregiousness to lies he uncovers, with four Pinocchios as the maximum … until now. Secretary of State John Kerry earned himself the full complement two weeks ago from Kessler for bragging about his management of the first global-warming hearing in the Senate, a hearing that he not only didn’t arrange but didn’t even attend. Kessler dug deeper on the tall tales emanating from the event, and found that one of the real organizers has been lying about what took place in the hearing in order to aggrandize himself and make it seem a lot more dramatic than it was.


Kessler covered the claim from former Senator Tim Wirth in the first column:

Then came Hansen’s testimony on June 23, 1988, before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That hearing was chaired and organized by then-Sen. Timothy Wirth (D-Colo.), who later told an interviewer that, for a bit of stage effect, he chose a particularly hot day in the summer—it turned out to be a record high–and left the windows of the hearing room open the night before. Thus witnesses were sweltering and wiping their brows as they testified about global warming.

But as it turns out, this was entirely fantasy, except for the coincidental hot weather that day:

But Hansen says it did not happen that way. “Yes, the ‘window open’ bit is fiction,” he wrote an e-mail. “As for June 23 being chosen because it is the hottest day in climatology, I assume that is nonsense — I have not checked Washington’s climatology but the hottest day normally is some weeks after the beginning of summer, not two days.  I love Tim and his wife Wren, but he just made these up later to make it seem interesting.”

Eventually, we tracked down David Harwood, who was Wirth’s principal staff aide for climate change at the time. “The windows being open absolutely did not happen,” he said. “I know that did not happen. Tim would never have known, as he was a Senator of course. I have no idea where that came from.” …

Harwood also confirmed that the hearing date would have been arranged to work with Johnston’s schedule, not because of a predicted temperature.


Gee, that sounds a lot like the AGW movement itself, doesn’t it? A couple of coincidences strung together in an abbreviated context, told often enough that no one bothers to check the underlying assumptions. In this case, although the day was definitely hot and the room was crowded, no one’s ever thought to challenge Wirth on his “fiction,” including Kessler until now. He scolds himself in the conclusion, while noting that this makes Kerry look even worse than it did before:

The Fact Checker should have conducted more diligence in confirming the events as described by Wirth in 2007, notwithstanding how often the story had been repeated. (We recommend that PBS Frontline add a corrective note on the Web page containing the Wirth interview.)

Frankly, this now puts Kerry’s statements in an even a worse light. Not only did he place himself at a hearing he did not organize and attend, but he described witnessing events that did not happen.

Perhaps this is a new WaPo Pinocchio level — four, squared.

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