Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, today called on the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents to provide further explanation regarding allegations that political pressure influenced the content of a recent exhibit on the Arctic.

According to a report in today’s Washington Post, the script for the exhibit, “The Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely,” was revised at the last minute to address the concerns of Members of Congress who are skeptical about the causes of global warming.

“Global warming is among the most pressing issues we face today, and it is critical that the Smithsonian, as the United States’ preeminent center of science and research, help educate the American people on the consequences of unabated climate change,” Chairman Feinstein wrote in a letter to Board of Regents Executive Committee Chairman Roger Sant.

The following is the text of Chairman Feinstein’s letter to Mr. Sant:

November 16, 2007 

Mr. Roger Sant
Chairman
Executive Committee
Board of Regents
The Smithsonian Institution
1000 Jefferson Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20560 

Dear Mr. Sant: 

I am concerned about allegations that officials at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History may have taken steps to downplay global warming in a 2006 exhibit on the Arctic to avoid a political backlash. 

According to a report in today’s Washington Post, the script for the exhibit, “The Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely,” was revised at the last minute to add “scientific uncertainty” about climate change. 

The newspaper article also provides a series of e-mails, from NASA scientists and others involved in the project, which allege that the focus of discussions prior to the exhibit’s opening “shifted from scientific content to political content,” and that there were efforts to “appease” Members of Congress who are skeptical about the causes of global warming. 

Dr. Christian Samper, the Smithsonian’s Acting Secretary, has firmly denied these allegations.  And he told the reporters that “there was no political pressure – not from me, not from anyone.” 

But due to the seriousness of these allegations, I believe it is important that the Smithsonian take steps to reassure Congress and the public that the exhibit’s representation of the threat of global warming was not toned down because of political pressure. 

Global warming is among the most pressing issues we face today, and it is critical that the Smithsonian, as the United States’ preeminent center of science and research, help educate the American people on the consequences of unabated climate change. 

Sincerely,         

Dianne Feinstein
Chairman 

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