Guest: Moyers Said He'd Help Democrats (Updated: Moyers Denies, Guest Insists On Claim)

October 17th, 2006 6:14 AM

PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers asked "Is God Green?" in his liberal campaign trilogy "Moyers in America" last week. Over at, Rachel Waters noted that Moyers insisted that conservatives were only "mildly joking" with the hang-em-high bumper sticker "Support Environmentalists With a Rope." Catholic blogger Jimmy Akin tipped me off to another angle. One Christian expert Moyers used who was not bowing before Greenpeace, Calvin Beisner of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, reported Moyers was very frank about his intention to boost Democrats into majority status: 

The bias of Moyers’s program is not surprising. He forthrightly told me before our interviews that he, as a liberal Democrat, hoped to use this program to divide the evangelical vote and return control of Congress to the Democrats in November's elections. The timing of the program’s release, therefore, is not surprising.

The PBS program aired Wednesday, October 11. The full program, which included excerpts from an interview Moyers did with yours truly, can be viewed on PBS’s web site; the transcript is also available, as is the full transcript of his interview with me. Comparing the full transcript of his interview with me with what actually got into the program is an education in how to misrepresent someone by editing his on-camera comments.

Akin added Beisner's take on the selective presentation of information:  

While Moyers mentioned that some think tanks that oppose the popular view receive some funding from fossil fuel industry sources (and, by the way, he did not mention that I received no compensation for my association with the Acton Institute or any other think tank--he just let the association of ideas do its job of making viewers think my views are bought off), he did not mention that the Evangelical Climate Initiative’s initial funding was a $475,000 grant from the Hewlett Foundation, which is a major supporter of abortion as a method of population control around the world, or the reasons why Hewlett links those concerns with global warming concerns.

[H]e left the appearance that this lonely little professor of historical theology and social ethics [Beisner] holds this view, along with a handful of contrarian scientists, all bought off by industry money, when in fact, as we document in our “Call to Truth,” the scientific community is quite divided on the issue.

You will also have noticed that Moyers very carefully avoided all discussion of the actual scientific evidence, asserting instead simply that a 2004 study of 928 scientific articles found unanimous consensus in favor of the manmade catastrophic warming hypothesis. What he didn’t tell viewers was that an attempt to replicate that study discovered very significant methodological errors in it that improperly excluded over 90 percent of the relevant literature and that even within the articles the study did survey,

* only 1 percent explicitly endorsed what study author Naomi Oreskes called the “consensus view”;

* 29 percent implicitly accepted it “but mainly focus[ed] on impact assessments of envisaged global climate change”;

* 8 percent focused on “mitigation”;

* 6 percent focused on methodological questions;

* 8 percent dealt “exclusively with paleo-climatological research unrelated to recent climate change”;

* 3 percent “reject[ed] or doubt[ed] the view that human activities are the main drivers of the ‘the [sic] observed warming over the last 50 years’”;

* 4 percent focused “on natural factors of global climate change”; and

* 42 percent did “not include any direct or indirect link or reference to human activities, CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions, let alone anthropogenic forcing of recent climate change...”

When you think the data are on your side, you argue the data. When you don’t, you attack the person. That is what Moyers did, and that is what the supporters of the Evangelical Climate Initiative have done, consistently.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, MRC received a fax from the law firm of Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo on Madison Avenue in New York City. Neil Rosini explained the firm represents Mr. Moyers and demanded a retraction from Beisner, "that Mr. Moyers never made any such statement to Dr. Beisner or anything colorably close to it." They demanded MRC "immediately publish in full Mr. Moyers’ response to Dr. Beisner, as well as the retraction and apology of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, if any, all with at least equal prominence to that given the false statement of Dr. Beisner." Here is the Moyers e-mail in full, sent to Beisner on Tuesday at 12:47 PM:

You are not telling the truth. In fact, what you wrote in the ISA newsletter is an outright lie. You claim that ‘When Moyers intervewwed me for the documentary last spring, he very candidly told me that he is a liberal Democrat and intended for the documentary to influence the November elections to bring control of Congress back to the Democrats.’ I said nothing of the sort – nothing. To the contrary, I told you that I am an independent – members of the crew remember my saying that to you specifically (there were, remember, three other people in the room.) You yourself taped the entire session with your own recorder: show me where in the transcript such a conversation occurred. I also told you, as I told everyone interviewed, that we of course could not use the entire interview but that I would post it on our Website when the broadcast aired, as was done. If I had said anything approaching what you claim I said, if you perceived any bias on my part, you could have – and should have – refused to participate. But you did participate freely, and were treated fairly and honestly, and for you now to bear false witness is not only unChristian but astonishing. What am I supposed to make of the many friendly emails you have sent over these months, singed ‘In Christ, Cal?’ Or our exchange on how much I have enjoyed your daughter’s CD that you sent? Your conservative evangelical brothers who were also interviewed in the documentary – from Rich Cizik to Tri Robinson to Allan Johnson (not a liberal among them) have written in praise of how they were treated. You and you alone have chosen to bear false witness to our conversation and to defame – in your own words – the ethics and journalistic balance of the documentary. You owe me and my team an apology and a public retraction.


UPDATE #2: Mr. Beisner forwarded to me what his letter sent back to Moyers, that he stands by his recollection of the conversation, which he says happened before recording the interview:

He sincerely believes that he accurately summarized in the newsletter his recollection of a private conversation with your client that was not recorded prior to the interview on camera.  He also believes his recollection may have been influenced by a conversation he and your client had on the way to the airport following the interview.  Finally, he stands by the opinions expressed that you challenge in your letter.