By David Goldman and Paradise Afshar, CNN
(CNN) — A jury has awarded climate scientist Michael Mann more than $1 million in a defamation lawsuit he brought against a former scholar and a media personality who lampooned Mann’s work.
The legal battle has been ongoing for more than a decade. Mann initially filed a lawsuit in 2012, after Rand Simberg, a former scholar for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Mark Steyn, a TV and radio personality who wrote for the National Review, wrote blog posts ridiculing Mann’s scientific research that warned of rising temperatures, and compared him to Jerry Sandusky, the former Pennsylvania State football coach who was convicted of child molestation.
“Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet,” Steyn and Simberg wrote. Steyn and Simberg also ridiculed Mann’s research on the “Hockey Stick” chart that illustrated the dramatic rise in average global temperature since pre-industrial times.
A jury in the Washington, DC, Superior Court civil case awarded Mann $1 million in punitive damages and a dollar from each defendant in compensatory damages.
Mann had also sued the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute. A DC Superior Court judge ultimately dismissed Mann’s case against them in 2021 but allowed the case against Steyn and Simberg to continue. Mann intends to appeal that 2021 decision, which said the Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Review could not be held liable for defamation, according to multiple reports.
“I hope this verdict sends a message that falsely attacking climate scientists is not protected speech,” Mann said in a statement posted on X. Representatives for the defendants did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
“Today’s verdict vindicates Mike Mann’s good name and reputation,” his attorney Pete Fontaine said in the statement. “It also is a big victory for truth scientists everywhere who dedicate their lives answering vital scientific questions impacting human health and the planet.”
Defamation is notoriously difficult to prove in the United States, because the First Amendment provides wide protections for speech. However, Mann’s is the latest in a recent string of defamation trial victories for plaintiffs or large settlements – most notably including E. Jean Carrol’s $83.3 million verdict against former President Donald Trump. And last year, Fox Corp. agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787 million in a settlement.
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