A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA
By Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, Feb,. 8, 2006
George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.
Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.
Officials at NASA headquarters declined to discuss the reason for the resignation.
"Under NASA policy, it is inappropriate to discuss personnel matters," said Dean Acosta, the deputy assistant administrator for public affairs and Mr. Deutsch's boss.
The resignation came as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was preparing to review its policies for communicating science to the public. The review was ordered Friday by Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, after a week in which many agency scientists and midlevel public affairs officials described to The New York Times instances in which they said political pressure was applied to limit or flavor discussions of topics uncomfortable to the Bush administration, particularly global warming.
"As we have stated in the past, NASA is in the process of revising our public affairs policies across the agency to ensure our commitment to open and full communications," the statement from Mr. Acosta said.
The statement said the resignation of Mr. Deutsch was "a separate matter."
Mr. Deutsch, 24, was offered a job as a writer and editor in NASA's public affairs office in Washington last year after working on President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee, according to his résumé. No one has disputed those parts of the document.
According to his résumé, Mr. Deutsch received a "Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Class of 2003."
Yesterday, officials at Texas A&M said that was not the case.
"George Carlton Deutsch III did attend Texas A&M University but has not completed the requirements for a degree," said an e-mail message from Rita Presley, assistant to the registrar at the university, responding to a query from The Times.
Repeated calls and e-mail messages to Mr. Deutsch on Tuesday were not answered.
Mr. Deutsch's educational record was first challenged on Monday by Nick Anthis, who graduated from Texas A&M last year with a biochemistry degree and has been writing a Web log on science policy, scientificactivist.blogspot.com.
After Mr. Anthis read about the problems at NASA, he said in an interview: "It seemed like political figures had really overstepped the line. I was just going to write some commentary on this when somebody tipped me off that George Deutsch might not have graduated."
He posted a blog entry asserting this after he checked with the university's association of former students. He reported that the association said Mr. Deutsch received no degree.
A copy of Mr. Deutsch's résumé was provided to The Times by someone working in NASA headquarters who, along with many other NASA employees, said Mr. Deutsch played a small but significant role in an intensifying effort at the agency to exert political control over the flow of information to the public.
Such complaints came to the fore starting in late January, when James E. Hansen, the climate scientist, and several midlevel public affairs officers told The Times that political appointees, including Mr. Deutsch, were pressing to limit Dr. Hansen's speaking and interviews on the threats posed by global warming.
Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch's credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.
"He's only a bit player," Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. " The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about."
"On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed," he said. "The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That's the big issue here."
Ex-Press Aide for NASA Offers Defense
By Andrew C, Revkin, The New York Times, Feb. 10, 2006
George C. Deutsch, the young NASA press aide who resigned on Tuesday
amid claims that he had tried to keep the agency's top climate scientist from speaking publicly about global warming, defended himself publicly yesterday.
Speaking to a Texas radio station and then to The New York Times, Mr.
Deutsch said the scientist, James E. Hansen, exaggerated the threat of warming and tried to cast the Bush administration's response to it as inadequate.
Mr. Deutsch also denied lying about having a college degree and trying to inject religion into some NASA Web presentations.
"I have never been told to censor science, to squelch anything or to insert religion into any issue," he told the radio reporter, Brian Cain.
Parts of that interview were posted on the Web site of WTAW-AM, in College Station (wtaw.com), where Mr. Deutsch attended Texas A&M University until he joined President Bush's campaign in 2004.
After seeing a transcript of some of the criticisms, Dr. Hansen said, "This is so wacky that it deserves little response."
In the radio interview, Mr. Deutsch also criticized others within NASA who supported Dr. Hansen's view that he was being suppressed. Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer who told The Times of several conversations in which Mr. Deutsch said his job was to "make the president look good," said she would not comment on his assertions.
"The House Science Committee is conducting an investigation because they were concerned and I'm just not prepared to stoop to his level," Ms. McCarthy said in a telephone interview last night.
Starting in late January with several interviews in The New York Times, Dr. Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, and several career NASA public affairs officials and scientists complained about what they said were intensifying efforts by political appointees in NASA, including Mr. Deutsch, to control more closely his lectures and Web presentations.
Last Friday, after more NASA scientists and public affairs officers told The Times of other instances in which political appointees altered news releases or Web presentations in ways the workers said were tinged by politics, Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, issued a "statement of scientific openness" to all NASA emloyees saying, "we have identified a number of areas in which clarification
and improvements to the standard operating procedures of the Office of Public Affairs can and will be made."
Dr. Griffin also said "it is not the job of public affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."
The Times reported on Wednesday that contrary to his résumé on file with NASA, Mr. Deutsch, who is 24, never graduated from Texas A&M. Yesterday, in an interview with The Times, Mr. Deutsch said he had written the résumé in anticipation of graduating.
"When I left college," he said, "I did not properly update my résumé. As a result, it may appear misleading to some. However, I was up front with NASA about my undergraduate status when they hired me."
In an e-mail message, Mr. Deutsch said that remarks about religious views on the creation of the universe sent last October to a Web designer working on a presentation on Albert Einstein were "personal observations" and never were reflected in the material that was posted online.
"We are both Christians, and I was sharing with him my personal opinions on the Big Bang theory versus intelligent design," Mr. Deutsch wrote to The Times. "What I said about intelligent design did not affect the presentation of the Big Bang theory in the subsequent Einstein Web story. This is a very important point, because I have
been accused of trying to insert religion into this story, which I was not trying to do."