Thom Hartmann, a progressive political radio host, told a geologist he is a criminal, kills children, and should be imprisoned because he rejects the belief that man is causing climate change.
Hartmann told Paul Driessen, who works with CFACT, an advocacy group who rejects man-made climate change, that his crimes are the same as the tobacco industry who was tried and convicted on criminal and civil counts for defrauding the American people about the dangers of tobacco. The federal government brought charges against the tobacco industry through a novel use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was written to deal with organized crime. The US Supreme Court backed the federal government's interpretation of the law in US v Philip Morris in 2006.
Last month, 20 climate change advocates signed a letter asking the government to charge those who disagree with their interpretation of science and who spread their ideas to be imprisoned under the same statute as the tobacco industry.
Hartmann, who videos his interviews, was visibly shaken and asked Driessen why he should not be in jail. When Driessen laughed, Hartmann interrupted and told him that it is a serious question. "You're taking money to deceive the public in a way that's killing people," he said.
Driessen countered that policies that deny abundant electricty in developing countries are actually killing people. Hartmann dismissed his response. "Filibustering does not promote any type of conversation," he said, then explained how Germany's energy model should be copied across the world.
More than half of Germany is receiving electricty through renewable energy, primarily wind and solar energy. But Driessen explained that unsubsidized Germans pay 80 cents a killowatt hour for electricty, which is 10 times what Americans pay in states that are still reliant on coal for electricty and five times more than Americans pay who use a mixture of renewable and coal-generated electricty. Hartmann interupted Driessen to say that he does not believe his numbers. "You are a professional climate change denier. You are paid to lie to people."
Despite Driessen's explanation, Hartmann returned to his first question. "What does that have to do whether or not you and your cronies [should be in jail]?"
Hartmann read CFACT's IRS statements that every non-profit organization must submit. "Last year you guys took in $1,977,332. The year before that, it was $5,501,222, presumably for the purpose of promoting the interests of the fossil fuel industry, which is heavily subsidized to the tune of five-trillion-dollars world-wide, maintaining those subsidies and trashing renewable power."
Shaking with emotion, Hartmann told Driessen "I think, frankly, people who do that should be in jail."
While Driessen explained that his opinions were protected by the freedom of speech, Hartmann told him his speech is about "racketeering influence organized crime." "Sir, I'm calling you a criminal, are you not going to respond to that?"
When Driessen explained how the Sierra Club received more that 15 years worth of CFACT's annual budget for a single campaign from Chesapeake Gas, Hartmann cut him off and told him he is part of a scam. "Obviously, you are part of a racket, of a scam here. This is a scam to deceive the American people and enrich the oil industry and the Koch brothers."
Driessen described how climate change is driven by "powerful, interconnected and very complex forces that we don't understand yet and we certainly don't have any control over." Hartmann said Driessen's explanation is why he should be jailed. "That's a really nice little schtick but that's what you should be in jail for, for saying that kind of stuff." Hartmann continued to speak over Driessen, "what you are saying are demonstrable lies. There is no debate, Paul. One hundred percent of the scientists in the world who are not funded by the fossil fuel would say that what you are engaging in is criminal racketeering."
Driessen finally responded, "That is outrageous, Thom. It's unAmerican, it's anti-freedom of speech..." Hartmann cut him off and claimed Driessen is responsible for the deaths of people in Syria. "You are killing people, Paul. You've got five million climate change refugees fleeing into Europe right now because of the droughts in Syria. Dead children, Paul. Your responsibility."
Progressives have made the argument that Syria's catasrophe was triggered by droughts caused by climate change. "It's all the consequence of climate change," Hartmann said. Hartmann described how, five years ago, half a million farmers abandoned their farms because of droughts and fled into the cities. "The government's response was so brutal to those people that it led to a civil war."
Driessen tried to explain how farmers in Syria have dealt with droughts "hundreds of times" but Hartmann asked his controller to cut off his microphone. "Obviously, you have no interest in having a conversation 'cause you're constantly trying to talk over me." Hartmann continued the original question: "Once again, Paul, why should you not be prosecuted for criminal racketeering?" Driessen told Hartmann he's trying to have a discussion but Hartmann finished his sentence for him: "about whether or not you should be in jail."
After that, the music cued and Hartmann ran out of time for a commercial break.