Craig Rucker

Craig Rucker is a co-founder of CFACT and currently serves as its president. Widely heralded as a leader in the free market environmental, think tank community in Washington, D.C., Rucker is a frequent guest on radio talk shows, written extensively in numerous publications, and has appeared in such media outlets as Fox News, OANN, Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Hill, among many others.

A D.C. jury found against journalist Mark Steyn and his co-defendant Rand Simberg and ordered them to pay just over 1 million dollars to climate scientist Michael Mann.

Check out the breakdown of the damages:

$1 from each defendant for compensatory damages
$1,000 in punitive damages from Simberg and
$1 million in punitive damages from Mark Steyn

These damages are very revealing and may provide the defendants the basis for their appeal.

The jury essentially agreed with Simberg and Steyn that Mann’s claim of having suffered harm in the form of an unexplained glance from a stranger in a grocery store or grants that did not come his way (with no evidence as to why) were not evidence of meaningful harm.

The jury chose instead to punish the defendants through punitive damages, essentially declaring that the kinds of questions and points the defendants raised about Mann and his scientific conduct must be discouraged.

An appeals court may well find this an undue burden on all our right to speak freely about important matters of public policy.

Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”, attended the trial and reportedly approached jurors and told them that he and Michael Mann were longtime friends.  If this is substantiated, an appeals court may also find that the D.C. court failed in its obligation to protect the jurors from tampering.

I recently expressed my hope that the high “absolute malice” standard set forth in the famous Supreme Court precedent in NY Times v. Sullivan would shield Steyn and Simberg’s right to free speech from Mann’s lawsuit.

We hope that defendants appeal and give an appeals court the opportunity to remind us all that free speech is a bedrock civil right.

As Supreme Court Justice William Brennan wrote in NY Times v. Sullivan (CFACT concurs):

“An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment.”

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