NASA public affairs official George C. Deutsch, who has been accused of exerting political pressure on agency scientists, resigned his position late Tuesday, the space agency said.
NASA Press Secretary Dean Acosta declined to say Wednesday why Deutsch left his job. But he said Deutsch, 24, claimed to be a journalism graduate from Texas A&M; University, something the university denied.
University spokesman Lane Stephenson said: “Our registrar’s office tells us he attended Texas A&M;, but he did not receive a degree.”
Acosta denied that Deutsch’s resignation was prompted by recent allegations that Bush administration appointees in NASA headquarters were trying to censor agency scientists, in one case by threatening “dire consequences” against an outspoken climate scientist.
Acosta said NASA was in the process of “revising our public affairs policies across the agency.”
“NASA ensures and supports full and open communication,” he said.
On Friday, NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin issued a memo stating that NASA must not hinder the free flow of scientific information to the public.
One NASA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, said that Deutsch had worked on Bush’s reelection campaign before being appointed to NASA headquarters in Washington.
Deutsch became a controversial figure in recent days after the New York Times reported that one of NASA’s top climate scientists, James E. Hansen, said that administration appointees had tried to get him to tone down his statements about the dangers of global warming.
Deutsch had tried to prevent Hansen from giving an interview to National Public Radio, calling it “the most liberal” media outlet in the country, the newspaper reported.
Deutsch also was linked to a headquarters advisory issued in October ordering that the word “theory” be added after every mention of the big bang, which proposes that the universe began with a gigantic explosion.
The newspaper said it had obtained a memo in which Deutsch wrote that the big bang was “not proven fact; it is opinion.”
“It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be, to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator,” Deutsch is quoted as saying in the memo. “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue.”