Trustee who funds climate change skeptics leaves Natural History Board

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Trustee who funds climate change skeptics leaves Natural History Board
The American Museum of Natural History. Benjamin Norman/The New York Times.

by Robin Pogrebin

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Rebekah Mercer, an influential donor to conservative causes — including groups that deny climate science — has quietly stepped down from the American Museum of Natural History, one of the country’s most prominent science museums.

The museum, where Mercer served two three-year terms, said Thursday through a spokeswoman: “Ms. Mercer’s term expired in December 2019 and her position on the board came to an end at that time.”

Members may serve up to three consecutive terms; the museum did not say if Mercer had sought election to a third term. Mercer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Her presence on the board prompted protests after The New York Times reported in 2017 that the Mercer Family Foundation — which Mercer operates with her father, New York investor Robert Mercer — had given nearly $8 million to organizations including those that reject the scientific consensus on climate change. Among these beneficiaries are the Heartland Institute in Illinois and Breitbart News, the influential right-wing website that was run by Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist.

As one of Trump’s biggest donors, Mercer joined his transition team. Her family foundation has also been a generous supporter of the museum, giving a total of $1.4 million to the institution according to its three most recent tax returns.

In 2018, more than 200 scientists and other academics who have advocated policy action on climate change called on the museum to remove Mercer from its board and “end ties to anti-science propagandists and funders of climate science misinformation.”

Last week, the advocacy group Revolting Lesbians trumpeted Mercer’s departure on its Facebook page: “WE DID IT!” the post said. “This is a big deal because we are in a climate emergency, and a scientific institution has no place accepting money from and giving power and legitimacy to a mega-funder of climate science denial.”

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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