06/06/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Fox News' Ed Barnes Tries to Re-Ignite Attacks on Climate Scientist Exonerated by Penn State

In his “exclusive” story, titled “Top Climate Scientist's Exoneration Won't Be the Last Word,” Fox News’ Ed Barnes suggests that the Penn State investigation that cleared Dr. Michael Mann of any wrong-doing was a “whitewash” designed to protect the “millions of dollars in grant money it gets by having Mann on the faculty.”

Barnes claims that Penn State’s decision to exonerate Mann generated “a storm of controversy” and “came under severe attack.”  Reading his inflammatory language, you might think that a whole lot of academics and scientists ridiculed the inquiry.  Who is this angry mob that generated such a “storm of controversy?” 

Actually, the Barnes storm is comprised of only three people - a mining executive, the wealthiest member of Congress, and a former columnist.

The former contributor, Steve “The Junkman” Milloy, is better known for his role as apologist and shill for the tobacco, chemical, mining and oil industries than for his expertise critiquing university review boards.  What are Milloy’s qualifications to serve as judge and jury in denouncing a highly-regarded university’s review process?  Milloy runs, a website that defies all manner of scientific realities, arguing that everything from DDT to secondhand smoke to asbestos is perfectly healthy for you. 

The second is blogger Steve McIntyre, creator of and 30-year veteran of the mining business.   Some may consider McIntyre qualified to attack Michael Mann, since he's gone to great lengths along with Ross McKitrick to attack Dr. Mann.  Both of their Mann-eater papers were re-published and distributed by the ExxonMobil-funded George C. Marshall Institute. McIntyre says he’s more interested in mining these days than climate science, unless it’s about Michael Mann of course.

The third is the wealthiest member of Congress, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose net worth is north of $250 million thanks to his success as CEO of Directed Electronics and its “Viper” car alarm. (That’s actually Issa’s voice barking ''please step away from the car.”)  But how exactly is this successful former CEO, Army veteran and holder of a bachelor’s degree in business administration qualified to question the work of a highly-regarded climate scientist? 

Though certainly known for stormy behavior and severe attacks, do these three men really constitute a “storm of controversy?”

I suppose when you throw in a dash of the right-wing Commonwealth Foundation (which released a 12-page policy brief ripping Penn State for exonerating Mann), and a sprinkle of the right-wing-on-training-wheels Young Americans for Freedom (which launched a petition to re-investigate Mann), then in Ed Barnes’ world you can safely forecast a raging storm with a 100% chance of severe attacks.

Barnes even slapped an “Exclusive” tag on his new piece, hoping to catch new readers, even though the content is largely rehashed from his two-month-old article from February , featuring the same quote from Steve Milloy and same argument from Steve McIntyre.  That’s pretty exclusive, indeed.

Barnes and others at Fox News have played a central role in the “Climategate” echo chamber, providing a megaphone for skeptics trying to spin the stolen CRU emails into scandal every which way, and continuing the long smear campaign against Michael Mann.

Despite all their rants, the inquiries into Mann and the CRU scientists have found no evidence of the data tampering or interference with information requests that FOX and friends hoped would emerge from their “ClimateGate” dud.  They can’t tolerate the fact that Dr. Mann and Phil Jones and others have been largely vindicated.  So they resort back to spin. And when that doesn’t pan out, they spin again

It’s dizzying just trying to follow it, really.