Ed Chen Attacks the Messenger

Below is a letter we have sent to the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council regarding Ed Chen's blog of September 16th:

To: Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council;
Dear Ms. Beinecke;

As the editor of ClimateWire and a former Wall Street Journal energy and environment reporter, I have dealt with your fine organization for years. I know one of the changes you've made is to encourage the writing of blogs at NRDC. Some are very good, but when they are erroneous and damaging I think you have the same responsibilities as a publisher to correct the error and, at the very least, apologize for any damage caused.

ClimateWire published an article on Sept. 15 that said the winner of the Delaware Senate primary, Christine O'Donnell, strongly attacked Rep. Mike Castle for his support of cap and trade in the House climate bill and it was a factor in Castle's defeat. The article was the first to focus on the result of O'Donnell's stance and voters' attitudes about it. It was the product of two days of interviews in Delaware by our reporter, Evan Lehmann.

Ed Chen, your federal communications director in Washington, then wrote a blog entitled "Cap and Trade Wasn't Castle's Undoing." It was posted on Sept 16 and appeared later in the Huffington Post. Chen called the involvement of the cap and trade issue in Castle's defeat an "unfounded assertion" and a "canard." He then went on to scold my parent company, E&E Publishing, for publishing opinions and failing to do "basic research."

As it turns out, Rep. Mike Castle, the loser in that race, said at a press conference on Sept. 22 that the fact that he voted in the House to support cap and trade legislation was a serious factor in his loss. "That really was a starting point of my problems as a candidate," he explained.

What your political people will tell you is that the Republicans and the fossil fuel industry are doing their level best to give the phrase "cap and trade" politically toxic connotations. The
first message that this may be an effective strategy came in our piece from Delaware. Since the NRDC is in the business of selling "cap and trade," that is probably a message Ed didn't want to hear. But then he took a reckless step, in my view, and attacked the messenger.

First, in the light of Castle's admission that attacks on his cap and trade vote marked the beginning of his downfall, I think Chen needs to correct the record and get the Huffington Post to do the same. (His headline said: "Cap and Trade Wasn't Castle's Undoing"). Second, I
think he should tender a public apology to E&E and to Evan Lehmann. Ed is an old friend. I have known him for more than 25 years. If he had questions about Evan's reporting, he could have called me. The fact that he didn't and then accused us of "an uncommonly egregious case of biased reporting" was damaging and unsupported by the facts.

Ed says Washington journalism is a "cut throat" business. But when we get stories wrong, we publish retractions and apologize to people who may have been harmed, usually within the next news cycle. What do you do? I look forward to hearing your views on this. We continue to
regard this as a serious matter.


John Fialka
Editor, ClimateWire
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