LA Times Valdez Story Illustrates Inaccuracy of #ExxonKnew Campaign
April 6, 2017 — A story in the LA Times by journalists from Columbia University is a feeble attempt to blame the tragic Valdez spill on climate change. The story illustrates what we’ve been saying all along – that the #ExxonKnew campaign is a complete fabrication that was conceived, paid for, and executed by anti-oil and gas activists.
It’s a sad reflection on journalism when activists acknowledged they “paid for” reporters from the once-proud Columbia school of journalism to smear ExxonMobil as part of a campaign that has resulted in politically based investigations by attorneys general from New York and Massachusetts.
Columbia’s conflict of interest is apparent in a March 29, 2017 order from U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade, in which he noted that Columbia’s series published in the LA Times arguably pushed the same policy goals as the attorneys general, and that these goals appear to have originated with the same anti-oil and gas activists that funded the series.
The Valdez spill was a tragedy that affected many Alaskans, which the company has always deeply regretted. To exploit it as a vehicle, nearly 30 years later, to further a political agenda is reprehensible.
ExxonMobil will continue to fight this sustained campaign, which organizers have acknowledged is really about underpinning law suits to extract billions of dollars from the company.
ExxonMobil believes the risk of climate change is real and warrants action. The company is taking action by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its operations, helping consumers reduce their emissions, supporting research and participating in constructive dialogue on policy options.
A series of articles misrepresenting ExxonMobil’s history of climate change research began to appear in September 2015 in two outlets. The first was InsideClimate News, an online publication funded by a number of anti-oil and gas organizations, most notably the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, and the Park Foundation.
Other articles appeared during the same period in the Los Angeles Times. These stories were written by students and faculty from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism who received funding from some of the same organizations as InsideClimate News, notably the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Rockefeller Family Fund, among others.
These publications cherry-picked statements from company officials and misrepresented the context of other events and statements, giving an incorrect impression about our corporation's approach to climate change.
To support the stories and their false allegations, activist social media commentators created the hashtag #ExxonKnew as part of a public relations campaign replete with graphics, website, and paid social media support.
ExxonMobil completely rejects the allegations made in these reports. In responses to a number of these articles, we laid out our history and commitment to open research into climate science. We also detailed the actions ExxonMobil is taking that aim at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Moreover, we noted that many of the documents, reports, and memos cited in the Los Angeles Times and InsideClimate News reports were procured from ExxonMobil's own archives at the University of Texas or from other public sources, such as peer-reviewed academic journals. This fact undercuts the allegation those stories made that ExxonMobil sought to hide our research.
In the interest of transparency, soon after the stories appeared, ExxonMobil established on online repository of these documents so that readers could more easily access and examine them in their entirety. We also published a list of over 50 peer-reviewed articles on climate research and related policy analysis from ExxonMobil scientists from 1983 to the present.
Read full text of U.S. District Court Order of March 29, 2017
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