The science of spin

The Bush White House defends its global warming editor -- even though he's a goner.

By Mark Follman
Published June 13, 2005 1:25PM (EDT)

The Bush White House gives meaning to hot air in more ways than one: Philip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House council on environmental quality, has resigned after evidence surfaced that he doctored official policy papers in an effort to downplay global warming -- though according to his employer in Washington, the onetime oil industry lobbyist had already been planning on an extended vacation anyway.

The White House said Cooney's departure was "completely unrelated" to last week's disclosure, according to the Guardian. "Mr. Cooney has long been considering his options following four years of service to the administration," said White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino. "He'd accumulated many weeks of leave, and decided to resign and take the summer off."

The administration didn't appear overly concerned that Cooney, a lawyer with no science background who previously worked for the American Petroleum Institute, had been cooking the books in favor of the oil industry. In one section of the documents assessing scientific evidence of a link between gas emissions and climate change, he inserted "significant and fundamental" before the word "uncertainties." With another sentence stating "The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is difficult," Cooney included the word "extremely" before "difficult."

All the same, the White House insisted that the changes did not violate an administration pledge to rely on sound science, and defended Cooney's revisions as part of the normal review process.

You can discover more about the world of sound science under Bush & Co., here.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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