NEW YORK — The top editor at The New York Times on Thursday defended Bret Stephens, arguably the paper’s most controversial columnist, who has used the Grey Lady’s pages to espouse climate skepticism.
Over the past year, critics have excoriated the paper for printing regular columns by Stephens, particularly in response to his repeated attempts to cast doubt on science suggesting climate change is caused by human activity.
During a panel at the Financial Times’ Future of Media conference on Thursday, Dean Baquet asserted that Stephens was “not a climate change denier,” as his critics have contended. Instead, Baquet argued, Stephens simply makes a more nuanced point about climate change and the economy.
“He is pushing back against those who think climate change should dominate all thought about regulation,” Baquet explained. “Whether you agree with him or not, that is a provocative point.”
Though Stephens has not outright denied the science of anthropogenic climate change, he has suggested that climate-science predictions could be as inaccurate as weather models or the 2016 election models.
During Thursday’s panel, the executive editor slightly distanced himself from the Times’ increasingly controversial editorial board, pointing out he does not oversee the op-ed section.
Over the past few months, the paper has taken heat for printing Stephens; running a misleading column by Bari Weiss that bashed liberals using what turned out to be a fake tweet; and hiring (then firing) tech columnist Quinn Norton, who has a history of bigoted tweets.
But Baquet did throw his full support behind editorial chief James Bennet, despite the aforementioned firestorms.
“I agree with what James Bennet is trying to do,” he said.