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Illustration by Perrin Ireland
Illustration by Perrin Ireland
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How Writers Are Protesting the New York Times's Decision to Hire a Climate Change Skeptic

Picture of Michael Barron
Books and Digest Editor
Updated: 16 May 2017
A letter penned by a group comprised of novelists, journalists, and other literary notables has also been made into a short, illustrated video.

Earlier this year, journalist Bret Stephens, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, was appointed to be a columnist for the New York Times, a position he began on April 28. The decision to hire to the controversial Pulitzer Prize winner (for foreign affairs reporting) was greeted with protest; Stephens, as has been pointed out by numerous credible sources, is a climate change skeptic, a topic he addresses unapologetically in his inaugural piece. “Ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism,” he writes. “They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.”

Demanding responsible environmental protocol to ensure the longevity of our planet is less likely to cause human wreckage than forgoing such measures without reason. But to give a public platform to someone who would prefer to trumpet the individual right to skepticism over offering an alternative plan to our collective right to survival is simply dangerous. In response to Stephen’s hiring, over 30 writers (myself included) have bandied together to compose a letter citing the reasons why the Times‘s decision to bring Stephens on board is a detriment to its mission.

Now, the letter’s initial drafter, the writer Alexandra Kleeman, and illustrator Perrin Ireland (who works for the National Resources Defense Council) have teamed up to create a video that brings arresting hand-colored visuals to this joint dissension. Watch it and read the full letter below.

This letter, originally published on Literary Hub, can be read below:

To the Editors:

We note with disappointment and shock the New York Times‘ decision to hire Bret Stephens as an op-ed columnist. In columns for the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Stephens has baselessly claimed that the abundance of evidence for global warming has been “debunked”; that climate change is an “imaginary problem”; and that those who accept the scientific evidence of climate change are akin to totalitarians, anti-Semites, and Communists.

These claims, and the intellectual dishonesty that underpins them, contradict the central mission of the New York Times, a media outlet that carefully sources its facts and information. Stephens is not just a “conservative voice.” An honest conservative voice may argue about what policies ought or ought not to be implemented in response to climate change. He is in fundamental respects an opponent of truth. It is disturbing that the Times would lend its credence to claims that find no real support in the scientific community and indeed are contradicted by the Times’ own coverage of these issues. To normalize Stephens’ science denialism is to normalize the willful negation and distortion of facts that the Times supposedly resists.


Katheleen Alcott · Hannah Lillith Assadi · Ramona Ausubel · Michael Barron · Julie Buntin · Anelise Chen · Karim Dimechkie · Liz Dosta · Rivka Galchen · Sarah Gerard · Alex Gilvarry · Hermione Hoby · Perrin Ireland · Karl Jacoby · Porochista Khakpour · Alexandra Kleeman · Marie Myung-Ok Lee · Ariel Lewiton · Cal Morgan · Joseph O’Neill · Tracy O’Neill · Téa Obreht · David Leo Rice · Ingrid Contreras Rojas · Jonathan Schienberg · Dan Sheehan · Jessica Soffer · Marya Spence · Richard Torres · Erin White