Nate Silver apologizes to critics on behalf of his science writer

Two prominent climate scientists accused the FiveThirtyEight writer of threatening them

Topics: roger pielke jr., Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight.com, climate science, Michael Mann, ,

Nate Silver apologizes to critics on behalf of his science writerNate Silver (Credit: AP/Nam Y. Huh)

Adding on to the “rash of shit” being leveled at the new FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver reportedly apologized on behalf of science writer Roger Pielke Jr. after two climate scientists critical of his work accused him of threatening them with legal action.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, were publicly critical of Pielke’s first piece about climate change. Both contributed to a take-down at Think Progress, which characterized the article as “deeply misleading.”

Michael Calderone has the rundown on what ensued at the Huffington Post:

In an email to HuffPost, Mann said Pielke sent him “a threatening email in response to my fair criticism of his piece.” Mann added that a representative from FiveThirtyEight contacted him and offered “an apology for what they characterized as unacceptable behavior by Pielke.”

Mann declined to make Pielke’s email public, but told HuffPost that he viewed it as a “thinly veiled” threat of legal action.

In an email to HuffPost, Trenberth said Pielke contacted him and his bosses following the ThinkProgress report. Trenberth said he also received an apology from FiveThirtyEight.

Trenberth said he considered Pielke’s email “a threat to me.”

“He was very accusatory and threatened me if I did not respond,” Trenberth told HuffPost.

Trenberth forwarded the text of the email to HuffPost. Pielke wrote that Trenberth had “made some pretty coarse and perhaps even libelous comments” in the ThinkProgress article. Pielke requested that Trenberth correct his public claims and noted that “an apology would be nice also.”

“Once again, I am formally asking you for a public correction and apology,” Pielke wrote to Trenberth and his bosses. “If that is not forthcoming I will be pursuing this further. More generally, in the future how about we agree to disagree over scientific topics like gentlemen?”



Pielke called the claims “ridiculous,” but Silver responded with an apology on his behalf. “Roger is a freelance contributor and his private communications do not represent FiveThirtyEight,” he told HuffPost. “We had candid conversations with Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth. We made clear that Roger’s conversations with them did not reflect FiveThirtyEight’s editorial values.”

In a lengthy post to FiveThirtyEight’s website Friday morning, Silver also elaborated on his response to the criticism being leveled at the piece, acknowledging that some of the claims Pielke made in “offhand remarks” are subject to intense scientific debate. He clarified that Pielke will not only be writing about climate; nor will he be the only person on the site writing about climate change. The promised rebuttal, he added, is forthcoming.

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