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New York Times In Hot Water Over Skeptical Climate Change Column: Who Is Bret Stephens?

2 May 2017, 9:28 am EDT By Alexandra Lozovschi Tech Times
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Bret Stephens's debut at The New York Times ignited a series of reactions in the media, as his first column, published April 28, tackled a skeptical approach on climate change.

The journalist prefaced his take on the subject with Hilary Clinton's outcome in the 2016 presidential elections and how it was affected by faulty polling data, arguing that science and algorithms are not always accurate.

"There's a lesson here. We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris," writes Stephens in his column before proceeding to discuss the clash between environmental advocates and climate change scientists.

Who Is Bret Stephens?

The New York Times introduced the new columnist to the public on the same day his first article was featured, noting Stephens is the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

"Particularly during this turbulent and searching time in America and around the world, we should have the humility to recognize we may not be right about everything and the courage to test our own assumptions and arguments," states James Bennet, editorial page editor of The New York Times, in the introduction article.

The journalist joined The New York Times team after authoring the Global View column for The Wall Street Journal and serving as that publication's deputy editorial page editor.

Stephens is also the former editor of The Jerusalem Post, where he became editor-in-chief in 2002 at the age of 28, after starting his career at WSJ.

The 42-year-old columnist is, according to Forward, "an assertive defender of Israel and its current government's policies" and "one of the loudest critics of President Trump on the right."

The publication cites an April 12 statement from The New York Times in anticipation of the new addition to its op-ed roster: "He's a beautiful writer who ranges across politics, international affairs, culture and business, and, for The Times, he will bring a new perspective to bear on the news."

Reactions To Stephens's First New York Times Column

Stephens's column on global warming, titled "Climate Of Complete Certainty," was received by the public as an example of climate change denial.

The journalist's attempt to question climate scientists' certainty that global warming is a dangerous reality stirred reactions amid environmental researchers, many of whom canceled their subscriptions to the newspaper in response to Stephens's article.

Meanwhile, progressive and leftist readers voiced their discontent, complaining about their lack of representation on The Times's editorial page.

Following the publication of Stephens's column, The New York Times journalists took to Twitter to distance themselves from Stephens's take on the climate change debate and promoted opposing views to that of their colleague.

In addition, shortly after the column was published, NYT Climate — The New York Times newsroom team covering climate and the environment — shared a link that directed its readers to the climate and environment webpage, which was retweeted by the newspaper's main Twitter handle.

However, Jonah Goldberg, writing for The Los Angeles Times, shows Stephens's article doesn't actually deny global warming but in fact concedes to it, and was designed rather as a deliberate act of "trolling."

"Recall that Stephens left the Journal because he was swimming against the currents of the Trumpified right. What better way to inaugurate his new column than with a splash, earning back some populist street cred by making liberals set their hair on fire and cause an (alleged) wave of cancelled subscriptions? All the while, he invited hordes of conservatives to defend him and mock his critics," explains Goldberg, adding: "As a fellow columnist, I doff my cap to you, sir."

Apart from his recent stab at the generally accepted facts on global warming, Stephens has also drawn criticism in the past for his statements about the Arab world and for columns seeming to deny the impact of human activity on climate change.

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