The New York Times bungled a major story citing concerns that President Donald Trump’s administration was considering burying a sweeping federal climate report that showed average temperature in the US in recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.
A report on Tuesday in the Times laid out the findings of a high-profile multiagency climate report, which said that Americans are already feeling the effects of a climate that’s changed over the past several decades.
But the Times ran into trouble by claiming that the Trump administration could “change or suppress” the report, despite the fact that a copy was already published to the nonprofit Internet Archive in January.
The Times published a correction on Wednesday, noting that while the report was “not widely publicized, the report was uploaded by the nonprofit Internet Archive in January; it was not first made public by The New York Times.”
“We were just not aware that somebody involved in the report had put a draft on this nonprofit Internet site,” New York Times Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller told The Washington Post. “It was not a well-known site to us and the point is that the people who shared the draft with us were not aware of it either. That doesn’t change the larger point that scientists were worried that the government wouldn’t approve the report or release it through normal channels.”
Republicans were quick to highlight the correction, which came days after Trump’s resumed attacks on the legitimacy of the paper’s reporting.
“It’s very disappointing, yet entirely predictable to learn The New York Times would write off a draft report without first verifying its contents with the White House or any of the federal agencies directly involved with climate and environmental policy,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday.
Media critic Erik Wemple observed in the Post: “Any intimation that the Trump administration is blocking or somehow suppressing a dire climate-change study is explosive stuff, in large part because it would align with actual transparency problems. As Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe reported in June, Republicans in Congress have complained that federal agencies aren’t sharing information; the White House began banishing live coverage of briefings; and it ended the Obama practice of releasing White House visitor logs.”
In the first several months of the Trump administration, many scientists have expressed concern that the federal government is not taking effective steps to curb the effects of climate change.
Across the federal government, the Trump administration has repeatedly rolled back environmental protections and pulling the US out of the Paris Climate agreement. In some instances, federal agencies have discouraged employees for using the phrase “climate change,” asking employees to refer to climate change as “weather extremes.”
Trump and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt have given vague answers when asked whether they believe that climate change is impacted by human activity, or if Trump still believes that climate change is a “Chinese hoax.”
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