LA Times Clings to Debunked #ExxonKnew Campaign
The Los Angeles Times is at it again, publishing an editorial praising the investigations of Exxon while failing to disclose their ties to the Rockefellers and the discredited #ExxonKnew campaign. This latest editorial calls on California’s likely next attorney general, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), to continue the investigation initiated by current CA AG Kamala Harris. The only problem is that Harris never said she was investigating.
To be clear, the #ExxonKnew campaign has been thoroughly debunked by us, by legal scholars, and by editorial boards across the country. The LA Times once again stands alone in clinging to an argument that has already been abandoned by the two attorneys general still involved in the campaign. To understand why The Times thinks an investigation is still viable for California, we have to turn the clocks back one year.
Shortly after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his investigation of Exxon last fall, green groups began petitioning Harris to do the same. The leaders of those groups even succeeded in pushing the Los Angeles Democratic Party to pass a resolution calling on Harris to investigate the company, laying bare the political nature of the #ExxonKnew campaign.
Despite the sustained pressure from her base, Harris remained silent. Eventually the LA Times got tired of waiting and announced that an anonymous source “close to the investigation” told them Harris was looking at Exxon. Harris’s office, however, “declined to confirm the investigation.” To this day, the California AG’s office has never mentioned any investigation into Exxon.
The LA Times isn’t the only outlet buying in to this false narrative – InsideClimate News (ICN) used Harris’s (non-)investigation as a key reason for why it deserved to win a Pulitzer Prize (Spoiler Alert: It didn’t win). In his cover letter, ICN publisher David Sassoon writes:
“Within weeks of publication, the attorney general of New York issued Exxon a subpoena seeking extensive disclosure of its records to see if its actions constituted fraud under the state’s consumer and securities laws. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and many others have called for a federal investigation under the Racketeering-Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute, the law underpinning tobacco litigation of the 1990s. Most recently, news reports confirm the California attorney general is also investigating Exxon.” (emphasis added)
We’re still trying to figure out how Sassoon read “declined to confirm the investigation” and came to the exact opposite conclusion.
Every single attorney general that announced an investigation of Exxon has had no qualms about keeping their actions quiet. Schneiderman went on a media blitz after he announced his investigation last fall, speaking to the New York Times within hours of issuing his subpoena and sitting down for an in-depth interview on PBS NewsHour a week later. Massachusetts’ Maura Healey and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Claude Walker both announced their investigations at a highly publicized press conference featuring Al Gore as their keynote speaker.
The fact that Harris’s office has yet to confirm an investigation after nearly a year suggests that her involvement is nothing more than a political PR stunt.
The LA Times also missed yet another opportunity to disclose their ties to the #ExxonKnew campaign. As we reported when the LA Times published their last anti-Exxon editorial:
“What the LA Times doesn’t mention in the editorial, however, is that the series it published last year, written by the Columbia School of Journalism, was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) – the same group bankrolling every organization involved in the broader climate RICO campaign. The editorial specifically cites these Columbia stories, yet leaves out these important facts.
“Of course, when the Columbia stories were originally published, the LA Times also didn’t feel the need to disclose that they were funded by the Rockefellers. Only after EID and various news outlets called the them out did the outlet quietly add a correction noting the funding source – but that occurred several months after the stories were published. Clearly the LA Times hasn’t learned any lessons.”
Since then, the Rockefellers have come clean and publicly admitted that they paid the Columbia School of Journalism to write the Exxon stories that were published in the LA Times. They’ve also owned up to lobbying the state attorneys general to target Exxon.
Its seems odd as we close out 2016, a year in which the #ExxonKnew campaign failed miserably, that the LA Times would be the only one left supporting it. But perhaps the financial ties to the #ExxonKnew campaign provide a pretty explanation as to why.