Heartland Institute Comments on “Fakegate”

February 20, 2012

FEBRUARY 20, 2012 - What began as the theft of documents from The Heartland Institute has become a major scandal involving DeSmogBlog, ThinkProgress, and the Huffington Post in which many other figures in the global warming movement are complicit.

James Delingpole, a London-based columnist for The Telegraph, calls it “Fakegate.”

An Outrageous Violation of Ethics and Law

On the afternoon of February 14, DeSmogBlog (a Canadian-based PR operation funded by the Suzuki Foundation) and ThinkProgress (a project of the liberal Center for American Progress) posted several documents on their Web sites, describing them as originating at Heartland, and blogged about their content. A day later they were joined by the Huffington Post.

All three organizations had to know the documents were stolen from The Heartland Institute, and should have but may not have realized that one document was a forgery. Two of the documents were plainly marked “confidential,” and they and other documents contained private and personally identifiable information.

Disregarding the law as well as basic ethics, and without making any attempt to confirm the authenticity of the documents, the three advocacy groups posted the documents on their Web sites and blogged about them.

“It was an outrageous violation of ethics and the law,” says Heartland President Joseph Bast. “It doesn’t matter what you believe about climate change, or if you are a liberal or a conservative. You ought to understand and denounce this unethical behavior.”

An Obvious Forgery

On February 15, the day after the documents appeared online, The Heartland Institute issued a statement saying one of the documents, titled “January 2012 Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy,” is a forgery. We say again now, that memo is a fake.

An internal investigation by The Heartland Institute has confirmed that the “climate strategy” memo was not written by a staff member, did not originate in The Heartland Institute’s offices, and was not one of the stolen documents. We are still waiting for the report of a forensic investigation firm.

Several independent experts have concluded the “climate strategy” memo is almost certainly fake:

Megan McArdle at The Atlantic, “Leaked Docs From Heartland Institute Cause a Stir--but Is One a Fake?” (Feb. 16, 2012), and “Heartland Memo Looking Faker By the Minute” (Feb. 17, 2012).

James Delingpole, The Telegraph (UK), “Fakegate.”

Anthony Watts, “Notes on the faked Heartland document.”

And Now the Cover-Up

By now, individuals working with DesmogBlog, ThinkProgress, and the Huffington Post likely know or strongly suspect who stole documents from The Heartland Institute and who forged the memo. Why haven’t they come forward with that information or at least admitted they were wrong to post and discuss stolen and fake documents?

The following statement can be attributed to Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute:

I am asking the people at DesmogBlog, ThinkProgress, and the Huffington Post to come forward and identify who stole the documents and who forged the memo, if they know. It was likely either someone on their staffs or someone well known to them. It is unconscionable and illegal for them to conceal the identity of a person who has broken the law and who has damaged the reputations of many people and organizations, not only The Heartland Institute. At a minimum, they should share what information they do have with Heartland and the FBI.

Bast goes on to say,

I also want to know why DesmogBlog, ThinkProgress, and other Web sites such as the Huffington Post refuse to take stolen and forged documents down from their Web sites. Why are they forcing us to pursue a legal remedy?

Fakegate may be as damaging to the global warming movement as Climategate was. That scandal revealed high-ranking scientists in the global warming movement conspiring to restrict debate, hide uncertainty, and destroy data.

The Heartland Institute wants to know who in the global warming movement conspired to steal and forge documents. What do the leaders of DesmogBlog and other organizations know? When did they know it? Why are they leaving forged documents on their Web sites?

For more information about Fakegate or The Heartland Institute, please contact Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org or 312/377-4000.


The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, DC. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.