Pat Sajak sparks Twitter backlash with unpatriotic racists comment on climate change

By: CBS
By: CBS

Los Angeles, CA (CBS) - Are you concerned about climate change? Well then, "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak thinks you're an "unpatriotic racist." At least, that's what he said on Twitter:

"I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night."

More than 1,800 people "favorited" the tweet, and more than 2,000 have retweeted it, a small fraction of his more than 54,000 followers. While his supporters loved it, the tweet also sparked an immediate backlash.

Salon.com posted an article blasting Sajak for "throwing wild allegations of racism against the overwhelming majority of scientists." The post noted that Sajak has written a series of blog posts for a conservative website called Human Events. One of the articles was titled, "Opposed to Obamacare? Then You Must be a Racist."

In another of the posts, he said he is a "Conservative Republican delighted with the disarray on the Democratic side." Many conservatives have depicted climate change as a ruse created by liberals and alarmists.

In a Human Events post from 2007, Sajak offered the clearest indication of his thoughts on climate change and the debate that surrounds it.

"The subject of man-made global warming is almost impossible to discuss without a descent into virulent name-calling (especially on the Internet, where anonymity breeds a special kind of vicious reaction to almost any social or political question), but I'll try anyway."

The post went on to list his 10 questions surrounding climate change. He admitted to being "on the skeptical side" on the matter, but did not say he overtly denies it.

Since the time of that post in 2007, scientists have provided more evidence that climate change is man-made and that its impact is already being felt around the globe. Of course, there is still a cadre of deniers.

So should Sajak's tweet be taken as an indication that he has continued studying the matter, finally made up his mind, and decided to join the name-calling?

Looking at other tweets in his Twitter feed, it's obvious that Sajak doesn't always take it too seriously. In the past week, he's posted humorous comments on issues ranging from the Tooth Fairy to the debate between paper or plastic, and presidential birth certificates.

"Even though I told him it was settled folklore, my young nephew remains a Tooth Fairy denier. (Those kids today!)"

"Grocery checkout agony: Do I destroy forests, strangle helpless sea creatures or use my own bacteria-laden containers?"

"Walking along beach in HI & found presidential birth certificate that had washed up. Had no idea Bush was born here."

In April, he also announced his heterosexuality in a tweet that caught the attention of the sites Queerty.com and NewNowNext.com.

"Damn the career consequences! I'm hereby proclaiming my heterosexuality!"

And then there's this...

"The world would be such a wonderful place without human beings. Just animals breathing clean air & eating each other."

The Twitter controversy calls to mind the recent turmoil surrounding Stephen Colbert. On March 27, one of the social media managers for his Comedy Central show, "The Colbert Report," quoted a line from an on-air segment. Taken out of context, some interpreted it as racist.

Within minutes, the hashtag "#CancelColbert" started trending. It continued trending for nearly 36 hours. Colbert addressed the critics during his next show on March 31.

"Folks, I'm still here," he said, pointing directly at the camera. "The dark forces trying to silence my message of core conservative principles mixed with youth friendly product placement have been thwarted," he said, before airing an entire segment titled "Who's Attacking Me Now?"

The Colbert controversy blew over after he addressed it, mainly because Colbert reminded the audience that he said it in comedic character, as part of a segment criticizing the owner of the Washington Redskins NFL franchise over insensitivity to Native Americans.

Sajak has not yet addressed those calling for an explanation of his "unpatriotic racists" tweet. But he posted a clue that implies he is enjoying the backlash. CBS News has not been able to reach him to verify.

"Sometimes it's fun to poke a stick in a hornets' nest just to hear the buzzing."

What will Sajak give us next? If this is any indication, it's sure to keep the debate going.

"Later today I'll be tweeting my views on the subjects of nuclear proliferation and free-range chicken."

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