ORLANDO, Fla. – Working in TV news, it’s normal for stations to receive complaints from viewers who dislike certain stories — or when their favorite network program is disrupted by breaking news (”Big Brother” fans, we hear you!)
But complaints cross a line when specific threats are leveled at a staff member.
That’s what happened to Chris Gloninger, the former chief meteorologist for CBS affiliate KCCI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa.
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“This email, one of many that was sent by the same individual, said ‘us conservative Iowans would like to give you a welcome that you’ll never forget’” Gloninger told News 6 Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells on the Talk To Tom podcast.
While covering severe weather and natural disaster stories, such as the western wildfires and Atlantic hurricanes, Gloninger would occasionally explain the weather’s connection to climate change.
That prompted scathing responses from some Iowans who viewed climate change as a political issue.
“I thought I would talk about it for farmers since they’re at the mercy of mother nature and renewable energy was a cost-saving measure there,” Gloninger said.
Instead, he received pushback and last summer, an angry viewer took it a step further.
His messages threatened to do something to Gloninger “kinda like the [expletive] gave JUDGE KAVANAUGH!!!!!!!,” the email said.
In June 2022, a 63-year-old man accused of showing up armed outside the home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was charged with attempts to kidnap or murder, or threatens to assault, kidnap or murder.
My #climate coverage has garnered negative feedback. But last month I received the first threat, followed by a flow of harassing emails. Police are investigating. It’s mentally exhausting & at times I have NOT been ok. If you’re facing this & need someone to talk to, I’m here. 1/ pic.twitter.com/SGbZfEr1uT— Chris Gloninger, CCM, CBM (@ChrisGloninger) July 16, 2022
“It was asking for my address and it had a plan that was essentially laid out and that’s why they pursued the suspect,” Gloninger said.
Authorities in Iowa eventually arrested the viewer who pleaded guilty to harassment and was fined $105.
The constant barrage of hateful emails and threats left Gloninger feeling exhausted and experiencing “PTSD in addition to family health issues.”
After 18 years as a TV meteorologist, Gloninger quit the industry for a fresh start.
Using his communication skills and science background, he took a job at Woods Hole Group to help communities adapt to climate change and become more resilient.
“If you’re a conservative-minded person, there’s nothing more fiscally conservative than finding ways to lower costs — lower energy costs, finding a way to power the grid more economically.”
He attends public meetings to share climate data in a way that’s helpful for people in environmentally sensitive areas.
He also answers questions from people who doubt the reasons behind climate change.
“Climate scientists have tried to look at ever possible explanation for this warming. Blaming it on humans is not the easiest way out — it’s the most difficult reason for this warming,” Gloninger said.
“They have tried to explore every other option any possible way from solar cycles to other natural cycles and nothing adds up, just that connection between CO2 and our atmospheric warming.”
To watch more Talk to Tom and learn more about the science behind why Central Florida is heating up faster than many other parts of the world, check out this interview Dr. Daniel Gifford with Climate Central.
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