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Science Committee Dems to Trump: Stop Peddling Fake News, Appoint a Qualified Science Advisor

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Washington, May 18, 2017 | comments

Rep. Don Beyer, Vice-Ranking Member of the House Science Committee, today led Democratic Members of the Committee in urging President Trump to appoint a reliable Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). They also urged him to avoid inaccurate articles and pseudoscience. Their letter was written following a report that Trump reacted strongly to fake Time magazine articles which he believed to be real, which were shared with him by his Deputy National Security Advisor.

The Representatives wrote:

“We are concerned about the process by which you receive information… Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration.

“…Until the OSTP is adequately staffed and the director position filled by a qualified, objective scientist who understands the difference between alternative news peddled on alt-right websites and legitimate well-vetted scientific facts, we fear that you will continue to be vulnerable to misinformation and fake news. Relying on factual technical and scientific data has helped make America the greatest nation in the world. We therefore urge you to quickly appoint a qualified, widely-respected candidate to direct OSTP.”

The letter was signed by House Science Committee members: Don Beyer, Suzanne Bonamici, Mark Takano, Bill Foster, Jerry McNerney, Zoe Lofgren, and Jacky Rosen.

Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy in 1976 to provide the White House with sound, informed advice on science and technology. The Office has been short-staffed and without a Director since the beginning of the Trump administration.

Full text of the letter follows, and a signed copy can be found here.

Dear President Trump:

We are concerned about the process by which you receive information. According to a story reported by Politico on May 15, 2017, your Deputy National Security Advisor passed along printouts of two Time magazine cover stories – one, a previously identified and debunked internet hoax purporting to be from the 1970s warning of a coming ice age, and the other, from 2008, a special report on global warming, with the intention of undermining concern about climate change.

Disseminating stories from dubious sources has been a recurring issue with your administration. You previously made the false claim that President Obama ordered your phones to be “tapped” based on false reports which have subsequently been contradicted by senior U.S. intelligence officials. You also falsely stated that millions of votes were cast against you “illegally” after reading about subsequently-debunked “research” pushed by alt-right websites. This, by no means, is a comprehensive list of your activities peddling fake news.  

Where scientific policy is concerned, the White House should make use of the latest, most broadly-supported science. You have a tool at your disposal in this regard, should you wish to make use of it, in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) which, under your administration, has been left largely unstaffed and without a director. If you appoint a qualified OSTP Director, you will have a reliable source of policy advice for matters related to science and technology, which forms the bedrock of our national security and economic power.

Until the OSTP is adequately staffed and the director position filled by a qualified, objective scientist who understands the difference between alternative news peddled on alt-right websites and legitimate well-vetted scientific facts, we fear that you will continue to be vulnerable to misinformation and fake news. Relying on factual technical and scientific data has helped make America the greatest nation in the world. We therefore urge you to quickly appoint a qualified, widely-respected candidate to direct OSTP. Furthermore, it’s critical that anyone you nominate represent the views of the broader scientific community, as was the case for both Presidents Bush and Obama.  

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