The National Post must pay climate scientist Andrew Weaver 50,000 Canadian dollars and unpublish four articles about him after Canada’s Supreme Court ruled the newspaper libeled him.
Weaver’s lawsuit was a fight to save his reputation after the national newspaper based in Toronto claimed in 2009 and 2010 that, among other negative things, he was dishonest about scientific facts.
“It’s really tough to make a decision to do this,” Weaver told iMediaEthics by phone of pursuing his lawsuit. “It’s not something that one does lightly. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, it’s an emotional drain, but I felt I had no choice to take the National Post to court.”
Weaver said he asked the National Post to retract its articles before his lawsuit was filed. “I felt I was becoming a punching bag” in the newspaper. “They tried to, in my opinion,discredit me publicly.”
He said that the Supreme Court’s decision has “gone a long way” in restoring his reputation. “Correcting the public record, that’s for me what is important,” Weaver told iMediaEthics. “The public record is now correct.”
Weaver stated the National Post’s columns “falsely implied that he had distorted and concealed scientific data in exchange for government funding and to promote a public agenda about climate change,” Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
He was also upset about the implication that he tried to cover up alleged “academic failings,” the Huffington Post reported. “The Post stories reported that Weaver linked break-ins at his University of Victoria office to a plot to hack into emails of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which became known as ‘Climategate’ and suggested that he tried to distract the public from his academic failings in his climate change research.”
The judge, Emily Burke, agreed. She ruled that the National Post was “careless or indifferent to the accuracy of the facts” and that “they were more interested in espousing a particular view than assessing the accuracy of the facts.”
Further, Burke decided that the articles damaged Weaver’s “reputation and integrity as a scientist.”
iMediaEthics has written to the three Post staffers named in the lawsuit, and the National Post for comment. Peter Foster, one of the National Post staffers, declined to comment to iMediaEthics.
Weaver commented on the ruling in posts on Facebook and Twitter, saying he was “thrilled” with the verdict.
On Facebook, he wrote, according to the Huffington Post, “I initiated the lawsuit in 2010 after the National Post refused to retract a number of articles that attributed to me statements I never made, accused me of things I never did, and attacked me for views I never held. I felt I had to take this matter to court to clear my name and correct the public record. This judgment does precisely that.”
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I am absolutely thrilled with today’s BC Supreme Court judgment in my libel case http://t.co/Wk6h6rPcoa
— Andrew Weaver (@AJWVictoriaBC) February 6, 2015
He also told the Toronto Star that “To me, it was about the importance of actually ensuring that the articles were truthful. There were a lot of inaccuracies in there. I had no choice but to correct them.”
The ruling can be read here.
Weaver’s victorious lawsuit was against the National Post’s publisher Gordon Fisher and columnists Terence Corcoran, Peter Foster and Kevin Libin.
The newspaper had defended its articles during the lawsuit claiming they focused on “Weaver’s public actions and words, not his character” and that they were “fair comment,” the Huffington Post and Toronto Star reported.
The National Post is appealing the ruling, the Toronto Star reported.
The Post noted that the judge “declined to award punitive damages as she did not find malice in the published articles.”
The National Post says it has a “weekly footprint” of almost 2 million people.
Hat Tip: Care 2