Heartland Institute: “cannot confirm or deny” authenticity of documents

In response to criticism from prominent climate sceptics of Science Media Centre coverage of the Heartland Institute leak, the SMC gave Heartland President Joseph Bast the opportunity to clarify exactly which leaked documents are genuine and which are alleged to be fake.

SMC questions put to Heartland:

– What document or documents exactly are fake?

– What documents posted on DeSmogBlog exactly can be confirmed as being genuine Heartland documents?

The reponse in full from Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast:

Mr. Griffin

Bryan Leyland asked me to respond to your email. Feel free to share this message or quote from it.

We have said in the plainest of language that the memo titled “January 2012 Confidential Memo: 20121 Heartland Climate Strategy” is a forgery, and have asked repeatedly that it be removed from Web sites and blogs and that any quotations from it be retracted. We expect to have a report from a forensic investigation firm shortly that proves the document did not come from us.

We have also said plainly that other documents were stolen by someone assuming the identity of a member of Heartland’s Board of Directors. But we have not and cannot confirm or deny the authenticity of the other documents because we made promises to our donors to protect their anonymity, a promise we must not break, and because the stolen documents appear to contain personal information about Heartland staff, board members, and contractors that violates their privacy and threatens their personal safety.

Were the stolen documents altered before they were posted on the Web sites of Desmogblog, ThinkProgress, and other sites? We will not confirm or deny this possibility.

I hope you understand the difficult position we are in, and will turn your attention to the real issues here. They are not who funds us: We have long insisted that only very small amounts of our funding come from companies with an interest in the climate change debate, and if you believe the posted documents are accurate, then they confirm that claim.

The real issue is also not what our plans are for the coming year … we have always been forthright about our programs, and in fact ten new projects are featured in the cover story of the latest issue of our quarterly newsletter, QPR. The article was written weeks before “Fakegate” occurred.

The real issues are: Who committed the dual crimes of theft and forgery? Was it a leading figure in the global warming movement? Second, who else knew about the crime and forgery, and when did they know? Did they know the memo was a forgery before they posted it? Why didn’t they contact Heartland for confirmation before posting the documents? Why have they refused to take the stolen and forged documents down? Are they now actively conspiring to cover-up the crime?

The code of ethics that journalist ought to abide by (for example those summarized here: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp) seem quite at odds with how this event has been covered so far. I hope your writing will be different. If you have further questions, please contact Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director.


Joseph Bast


The Heartland Institute