Thursday, September 19, 2019

Buzzfeed got NASA's internal emails complaining about misleading coverage of July's giant asteroid

On July 25, NASA officials were prompted to dig deeper for answers after a flurry of alarming news reports surfaced that characterized the asteroid as a “city killer” that “just missed the earth.” The city killer classification rankled NASA officials who traced it back to the Sydney Morning Herald, according to the emails.

The Herald report “quotes the two Australian astronomers - anybody know them? If so, it might be helpful to ask them to think before they speak” of things like “nuclear explosions,” says a July 27 email sent to Chodas and Johnson, the planetary defense officer (the sender’s name was redacted). “I don't know whether the Sydney reporter reached out to them or whether they reached out to him. All the rest - including WaPo -- is simply repetition … This story also says to me that we have to keep up our good work of calming down asteroid rhetoric - city-killers, nukes, etc. I will reach out as well.”

The email evoked a blunt reply from Lindley.

“What makes this especially galling is that the Australian are doing essentially nothing to support Planetary Defense,” he said.

More than half of the emails turned over to BuzzFeed News contain other detailed complaints from NASA officials about news coverage of the “near miss,” with particular scorn directed at Epoch Times, The Washington Post, and The Hill over their “lazy journalism.” The emails include two harshly critical letters to the Post and Hill about its coverage and the importance of reaching out directly to NASA experts for accurate information