Huffington Post Gets Astroturfed


When first popped up in my reader with its "The Worst Science Stories of 2007: STATS Dubious Data Awards" I immediately wrote it off as the rantings of a wingnut who hangs out with Steven Milloy or Terrence Corcoran in the junk science brigade; in just one article, author Trevor Butterworth dumps on San Francisco's Mayor Gavin for banning water bottles, calls fire retardants harmless, declares gender-bender chemicals like phthalates a statistical anomaly and other inanities. I didn't bother finishing it.

Then I learned that it was published on the Huffington Post, a usually respectable blog that leans left and that Butterworth is a regular columnist. Butterworth is also the editor of, "a non-profit, non-partisan organization"..."[whose] goals are to correct scientific misinformation in the media resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge." We had a look.


When you go through you find that just about everything TreeHugger has ever written is a lie, that new car smell is not real, and gender-bender chemicals like bisphenol A or Triclosan aren't harmful; he even thinks vinyl rubber duckies are fine for kids. He writes "An infant would have to suck on a rubber toy for approximately two hours a day to absorb enough of the chemicals, known as phthalates, to reach the threshold where there might be a risk."

So who is behind this "non-partisan" Stats.Org and what is its agenda?

For one, its president is a certain S. Robert Lichter, who is a busy guy, being also the President of The Center for Media and public Affairs, another "non-partisan" organization that just happens to be funded by the Scaife Foundation, controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife, who funded the "Arkansas Project," the aim of which was to dig up dirt to force President Clinton from office. Lichter was also the DeWitt Wallace Chair in Mass Communications at the American Enterprise Institute (which tried to pay scientists to contradict the IPCC report, and sports Lee Raymond as Vice-Chair), and is a paid consultant to the Fox Network.

But fortunately he doesn't have to go far to do both jobs, because they are run out of the same office. is a front designed to confuse the public about science, operated by an extremist conservative "think tank", and Trevor Butterworth wrote every word on it, including "and" and "the." This is not the New York Times giving a few agate lines to William Kristol to provide "fair and balanced" coverage, this is Huffpo giving pixels to an astroturfer.

He should not be on Huffpo without a warning label. In fact, he should not be there at all.

Note: Astroturfing usually refers to fake "grassroots" campaigns, which this is not. I just couldn't find a better word to describe it, and am open to suggestions.