On Monday at Trump Tower, Donald and Ivanka Trump met with an “accused sexual predator”—at least, that’s how Breitbart News might characterize their meeting with former vice president and top climate activist Al Gore.
Breitbart, which has covered Donald Trump’s rise with reverential awe, criticized Hillary Clinton in October for campaigning with Gore and cited 2010 allegations that Gore tried to have sex with a masseuse without her consent. That October report was one of the gentler examples of Breitbart ripping into a climate-change activist: The site has never lacked for content suggesting climate change is exaggerated, fake, or an insidious plot to build a one-world government.
“Global warming is not the problem,” proclaimed a Dec. 31, 2015, headline. “Global governance is.”
While Trump and his daughter appeared to look for common ground Monday with a man who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work “to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about manmade climate change,” his most generous supporters have helped finance some of its fringiest skeptics, along with prominent conservative organizations that question the scientific consensus on the issue.
Members of the Mercer family, who have provided financial backing for Breitbart, are among Trump’s biggest donors, highlighting the potential for acute awkwardness in Trump’s inner circle regarding Gore. The emerging conventional wisdom about the Trump White House is that Robert and Rebekah Mercer, a father-daughter duo who helped fund his presidential campaign, have outsize influence on Trump’s policy and personnel decisions. Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon are particularly close (and some watchdogs believe she may have illegally funneled money to one of his companies through a super PAC during the campaign).
Numerous reports have concluded the Mercers provided the site with financial support. It isn’t clear exactly how much they have spent or if they currently help fund it, but neither Mercer family representatives nor Breitbart spokespeople have publicly countered any of the reporting about the link.
If you like Breitbart’s “global governance” coverage, you’ll love the work of another Mercer-backed entity: the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, a group led by Arthur Robinson that once published a book on how to survive nuclear war (probably worth a read). The group pushed a petition that it claims was signed by 30,000 scientists saying the consensus on climate change is wrong. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the signatories were climatologists, and reporters were unable to independently confirm that many of the signers were actually real people.
And the Mercers’ family foundation generously supports the Heartland Institute, a think tank known for its research questioning climate science. Its main landing page on the issue says that fighting the effects of climate change might involve “rationing access to energy,” which could in turn “cause the premature death of millions of people.” And the group’s director, Jay Lehr, has described anthropogenic climate change as “the greatest scam in world history.” The Mercers have given Heartland millions of dollars over the years, as its tax forms show.
Needless to say, it’s not a philanthropy portfolio that would be particularly friendly to Al Gore. And the fact that he has Trump’s ear—or at least had it for part of Monday morning—is highly likely to have rankled some of Trump’s most loyal advocates.