Science denial runs deep in the GOP

Back in 2012, climate science denial created an “October Surprise” moment for the presidential election and a turning point against the presidential prospects of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. In 2020 science denial is again a game changer, this time for Republican President Donald Trump, who has continued to downplay COVID-19’s seriousness, even after he was hospitalized for the disease which has killed more than 210,000 Americans.

A month before Hurricane Sandy reached landfall first in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and then New York City, killing 37 people in New Jersey and 44 in New York, and causing $70 billion worth of damage, Romney downplayed the threat of the climate crisis.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” said Romney, pausing to do a clearly scripted lip bite, as if to stop himself from laughing along with the audience. “And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

On Oct. 31, just two days after the hurricane’s landfall, the now-defunct group Forecast the Facts released an advertisement titled “Romney vs. Sandy.” It got hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, a huge haul for a climate video, and aired in key swing state TV markets. 

“Mitt Romney must hope we forgot that he mocked climate change at the Republican National Convention, to the raucous cheers and applause of the GOP delegates,” Brad Johnson, then a campaign manager for the group Forecast the Facts and now a progressive political consultant based in Washington, DC, said at the time in a press release introducing the video. “We didn’t forget. We’re putting out this video to remind every voter struck by Sandy that Mitt Romney thinks the poisoning of our weather is a joke.”

RL Miller, then an independent climate activist and today a member of the Democratic National Committee and executive director of the group Climate Hawks Vote, explains that Romney’s rhetoric parallels Trump’s downplaying of the novel coronavirus in recent days, weeks and months.

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