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Understanding the #ExxonKnew "controversy"

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.

Understanding #ExxonKnew

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.

Selected reading

Read full text of U.S. District Court Order of March 29, 2017

Energy in Depth: Providing the facts on InsideClimate and LosAngeles Times stories 

ExxonMobil: Some Smoke, No Fire?
Ben Levisohn, Barron’s Blog, September 21, 2016

Schneiderman’s chance to save face on his failing Exxon probe
New York Post, September 21, 2016

Eric Schneiderman: Gone Fishin' On ExxonMobil
David Blackmon, Forbes, September 19, 2016

NY Enforcer Clutches at Straws with ExxonMobil
Sara Silver, Thomson Reuters BreakingViews, September 19, 2016

Schneiderman tried to contact eco-tycoon amid Exxon probe
New York Post, September 11, 2016

Dangerous Double Standards on Climate Change And Free Speech
Ronald Rotunda, Daily Caller, September 2, 2016

How the Exxon Case Unraveled
Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2016

Schneiderman v. Madison
Myron Magnet, City Journal, August 30, 2016

Opinion Journal: Attacking Big Oil
Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal Video, August 26, 2016

Exxon’s Forecast Becomes a Legal Target
Michael Lynch, Forbes, August 26, 2016

Rockefeller-Funded Prize Given to Rockefeller-Funded Writers for Advancing Rockefeller-Directed Narrative
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, August 24, 2016

Eric Schneiderman’s new pretext for probing ExxonMobil
New York Post Editorial Board, August 22, 2016

The Climate Prosecutors Can’t Dodge Congress Forever
Elizabeth Price Foley, Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2016

Healthy, Honest Dialogue Needed to Make Real Progress
Suzanne McCarron, Houston Chronicle, August 17, 2016

Emails Show Schneiderman Allies Were Concerned About Exxon Probe
Morning Consult, August 17, 2016

Emails Show Dem AGs Are Wary Of Launching RICO Case Against Exxon
Daily Caller, August 17, 2016

Consumer Protection: Not a Bully’s Weapon on Free Speech
Patrick Morrisey, The Hill, August 16, 2016

The 'Green 20' Attorneys General Try End-Run Around Congress
C. Boyden Gray, Investor's Business Daily, August 15, 2016

A Winning Message for the Democratic Party
Harold Ford, Jr. The Hill, July 27, 2016

ExxonMobil letter to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse
July 21, 2016

Creating a Climate of Intimidation
Misha Tseytlin, Morning Consult, July 29, 2016

As Always, It All Goes Back to La Jolla
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, July 21, 2016

Here They Go Again: #ExxonKnew Activists to Re-Release Old Documents in Desperate Bid for Relevance
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, July 19, 2016

As an Attorney General, I Sued the Tobacco Companies. ExxonMobil is Nothing Like Them.
Dennis Vacco, Washington Post, July 15, 2016

The Climate Police Crack-Up: Those ExxonMobil Subpoenas? Never Mind
Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2016

New Emails Reveal Attorneys General Signed Agreement to Keep #ExxonKnew Strategy Documents Secret
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, July 6, 2016

The #ExxonKnew Climate Campaign Keeps Unraveling
Steve Everley, Energy in Depth, June 30, 2016

US Virgin Islands to withdraw subpoena in climate probe into Exxon
Reuters, June 29, 2016

Healey’s Exxon Jihad
Boston Herald editorial, June 27, 2016

Two Can Play at Climate ‘Fraud’: If Exxon can be sued, why can’t Al Gore for exaggerations that help his investments?
Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2016

The Climate Police Blink: AGs prosecuting dissent run up against First Amendment
Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2016

Exxon Inquisitors Feel the Heat
Kimberly Strassel, Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2016

Key Figure in RICO Climate Campaign Admits Those “Secret” Documents Were “Widely Peer-Reviewed” and Publicly Available
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, June 13, 2016

InsideClimate: NY AG Started RICO Planning Before Any InsideClimate Stories Were Released
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, June 7, 2016

With Each New Batch of FOIA’d Emails, More Insight into Collusion behind RICO Climate Effort
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, June 2, 2016

What I Learned At ExxonMobil's Annual Meeting
Christopher Helman, Forbes, May 25, 2016

Ten Things Activists Tried to Keep Hidden as Part of Coordinated Exxon Attacks
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, May 24, 2016

Exxon proud of its role in climate change dialogue
Suzanne McCarron, Dallas Morning News, May 24, 2016

New FOIA’d Emails Tell a Very Different Story About How NY AG’s RICO Campaign Started Off
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, May 17, 2016

Exxon is Big Tobacco? Tell Me Another
Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2016

Needed: GICO (Government influenced and Corrupt Practices Act)
James V. DeLong, Forbes, May 17, 2016

Exxon climate change dissent subpoena sweeps up more than 100 U.S. institutions
The Washington Times, May 3, 2016

The Climate Police Escalate: A subpoena hits a think tank that resists progressive orthodoxy
Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2016

Eco-Activists Admit to Quietly Plotting Anti-Exxon Investigation for Years
Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, April 27, 2016

InsideClimate News Finally Admits #ExxonKnew Collusion Between AGs and Activists
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, April 27, 2016

Scientific Silencers on the Left Trying to Shut Down Climate Skepticism
George Will, Washington Post, April 22, 2016

Are AGs Colluding in Illicit War Against Exxon?
New York Post editorial board, April 20, 2016

Attorneys General Drafted ‘Agreement’ to Keep #ExxonKnew Strategy Secret, Emails Show
Steve Everley, Energy in Depth, April 18, 2016

New York AG Tried To Cover Up Activist Involvement In Exxon Probe
Daily Caller, April 18, 2016

Wait Till You See These Secret Memos Laying Out Activists’ Plans to Target Exxon
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, April 15, 2016

Memo Shows Secret Coordination Effort Against ExxonMobil by Climate Activists, Rockefeller Fund
Washington Free Beacon, April 14, 2016

CEI Fights Subpoena to Silence Debate on Climate Change
Competitive Enterprise Institute, April 7, 2016

Rockefellers Admit Paying For #ExxonKnew Media Coverage
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, March 24, 2016

InsideClimate Fools Some Journalism-Award Judges – But Not All
Katie Brown, Energy in Depth, March 10, 2016

How the Columbia Journalism School Smeared ExxonMobil 
New York Post, March 1, 2016

The Misguided ExxonMobil Climate Change Inquisition
Boyden Gray, Forbes, February 11, 2016

ExxonMobil Has a Right to Its Opinion
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, USA Today, November 22, 2015

Exxon deserves criticism, but it didn’t commit a crime
Washington Post editorial board, November 14, 2015

Eric Schneiderman vs. ExxonMobil
Bloomberg View editorial board, November 10, 2015

Prosecuting Climate Dissent: Progressives target Exxon for punishment over its research
Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2015

The War Against ExxonMobil
Robert Samuelson, Washington Post, November 8, 2015

In Exxon War, Bamboozled by Greenies
Holman, Jenkins, Jr., Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2015

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