|Media Darling on 'Global Warming' Assailed by Colleagues|
By Marc Morano
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
April 17, 2006
(CNSNews.com) - NASA scientist James Hansen, profiled by the New York Times, "60 Minutes" and other media titans as a renowned scientist with unassailable credibility on the issue of "global warming" and a victim of White House censorship, is actually a loose cannon at NASA who lied about the alleged censorship, according to one of Hansen's former colleagues as well as a current co-worker.
George Deutsch, a former NASA public relations employee who resigned his job in February, told Cybercast News Service that he was warned about Hansen shortly after joining the space agency. "The only thing I was ever told -- more so from civil servants and non political people -- is, 'You gotta watch that guy. He is a loose cannon; he is kind of crazy. He is difficult to work with; he is an alarmist; he exaggerates,'" Deutsch said.
Deutsch provided Cybercast News Service with agency internal documents and e-mails detailing the frustration among NASA public affairs officials over Hansen's refusal to follow protocol when it came to granting media interviews. See NASA Memo Here (PDF)
On Dec. 14, 2005, Hansen released to ABC News a letter to the editor, which he had originally sent to the research journal Science. Hansen was also featured in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," during which he declared that 2005 had tied 1998 as the warmest year on record. But according to an internal memo provided by Deutsch, Hansen failed to clear his scientific data or his ABC News media appearance with NASA headquarters in Washington.
Hansen, director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told ABC News his scientific conclusions before he told his fellow NASA scientists and the NASA public affairs department, according to a memo dated Dec. 15, 2005, and entitled "PAO (Public Affairs Officer) Point Paper."
Hansen's release of the temperature information "was not properly coordinated with Headquarters and was disseminated without our knowledge or approval," read the PAO Point Paper written by Deutsch and fellow NASA public relations official Dwayne Brown. Brown, currently a senior public affairs officer with NASA headquarters, confirmed the memo's authenticity in a telephone interview on April 13.
"NASA has not officially released any data declaring 2005 tied with 1998 for the warmest year on record, only Dr. Hansen has. Dr. Hansen acted independently of Headquarters and approved PAO channels when he spoke with ABC News and gave them his letter to the editor," the Deutsch/Brown memo stated.
During an interview earlier this month with Cybercast News Service, Deutsch elaborated on the agency's frustrations with the high-profile Hansen. "When you are as big a name as Dr. Hansen is, and you make a proclamation like that, it is really NASA policy."
Hansen's appearance on ABC News and his release of unapproved data caused internal anxiety at NASA, Deutsch said. "None of his [scientific] peers had agreed with  being the warmest year on record yet, and knew about the findings saying that it was.
"Why don't you tell the rest of NASA it is the warmest year on record before you tell ABC?" Deutsch asked. "This is one of those things that really, if you do it enough, it is a fire-able offense."
It was the subsequent effort by the NASA public affairs office to require Hansen to follow proper protocol when talking to the media that led the scientist to tell the New York Times in January that he was being "censored," according to Deutsch.
"I don't think Hansen has ever really been censored," said Brown, a career civil servant with over 20 years' service at NASA. "We at public affairs have been very supportive of all our scientists. [Hansen] has always been welcome to talk about this data. I mean, we encourage our scientists to talk about the data. That is what they get paid to do."
Hansen's subsequent complaints to the media that he was being censored prompted an incredulous reaction at a NASA public affairs staff meeting, Deutsch said. "Someone said James Hansen is making claims of political censorship. And everyone in the meeting just groaned -- groaned, like 'What a joke,'" Deutsch said.
"When you cry censorship and there isn't any, I mean you are crying wolf," Deutsch said. "So, [Hansen] wanted to do it his way. He's got a big ego, he's a control freak guy, and he wanted to do it his way, so he did. And he knows that there is not going to be any real crackdown on him. If someone is going to say something, it's not going to be a political appointee," Deutsch said.
The 24-year-old Deutsch was a political appointee at NASA after working for the committee that coordinated President Bush's second inauguration in January 2005. Deutsch eventually resigned from NASA when it was revealed that he had falsely indicated on his resume that he had graduated from Texas A&M University.
Deutsch, who provided his university transcript to Cybercast News Service, was one class short of fulfilling the requirements for graduation at the time he took the job with NASA in 2005.
"I had more credits than are required to graduate, but I needed one math class," Deutsch said, noting that he participated in the class of 2004's graduation ceremony.
He also attracted controversy for recommending that the word "theory" be added to each reference of the "Big Bang" on NASA 's website. Deutsch said he was simply making recommendations to comply with Associated Press style.
He also denied published reports that he sought to prevent Hansen from appearing on National Public Radio last December. In January, Hansen's public affairs spokeswoman Leslie McCarthy told the New York Times that Deutsch had refused to allow Hansen to be interviewed by NPR because Deutsch considered the radio network "the most liberal" in the country.
'Global warming martyr'
Deutsch provided Cybercast News Service an internal NASA e-mail dated Dec. 9, 2005, which he claims shows that the December 2005 NPR interview request was treated fairly. Hansen's claims of censorship were a result of senior NASA managers wanting to allow scientists with more seniority than Hansen to do the interview, according to Deutsch.
"His bosses expressed interest in doing the [NPR] interview. [The e-mail] proves we took the NPR interview request very seriously. We didn't brush it under the rug. We didn't do anything like that," Deutsch explained, adding that Hansen ended up doing a later NPR interview.
Deutsch said the NASA public affairs staff met with senior leaders at the agency to discuss the problems with Hansen, and the topic of firing Hansen was raised, but the conclusion from the meeting was that such an action would have "huge political fallout," so the idea was rejected.
"Your first reaction is how can we stop this problem completely, and so that was one of the ideas going around," Deutsch said. "But it's never anything that people got too serious with or too far with because they realized it would be just way too dangerous. He would become a global warming martyr, and that is what he wants."
Hansen sees himself as "this global warming guy fighting the big mean Republican bureaucracy," Deutsch added.
NASA established new media guidelines for its employees in March, but in retrospect, Brown acknowledged that miscommunication from all sides contributed to the Hansen controversy. "I regret that this played itself out. But the agency has always been open, will be open."
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Hansen publicly endorsed Democrat John Kerry for president in 2004 and received a $250,000 grant from the charitable foundation headed by Kerry's wife.
In addition, he has acted as a consultant to former Democratic Vice President Al Gore's slide-show presentations on "global warming."
Hansen, who also complained about censorship during the administration of President George H. W. Bush in 1989, previously acknowledged that he supported the "emphasis on extreme scenarios" regarding climate change models in order to drive the public's attention to the issue.
Several phone calls to Hansen's office seeking comment were not returned. But Hansen in February referred to Deutsch as "only a bit player" in the controversy surrounding the Bush administration's alleged censoring of science.