Rockefellers Admit Paying For #ExxonKnew Media Coverage

In a stunning admission, Lee Wasserman, Director of the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF), today openly admitted that the Rockefellers are pouring millions of dollars into “media” organizations like InsideClimate News (ICN) and projects at Columbia University School of Journalism with a specific mission and outcome in mind.

In an interview with Reuters responding to questions about the RFF climate agenda and mission, Wasserman flatly states:

“No specific company was targeted in our push to drive better public understanding and better climate policy…..We supported public interest journalism to better understand how the fossil fuel industry was dealing with the reality of climate science internally and publicly,” Wasserman said. (emphasis added)

Since the Columbia School of Journalism began partnering with RFF, the school has insisted that the Rockefeller foundations – both RFF and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation (RBF) – had nothing to do with the content of the series making erroneous claims about ExxonMobil. Here’s what the Columbia School of Journalism and ICN have been saying over the past few months:

  • Dean of the Graduate School at Columbia School of Journalism Steve Coll: “The fact is that this reporting was not subject to any influence or control by the funders.”
  • ICN: “Donors who support our award-winning environmental journalism do not have access to our editorial process or decision-making.”
  • Columbia School of Journalism Review: “Both the Times and Coll have reiterated that the project’s funders had a hands-off relationship with its journalism.”
  • Columbia Energy and Environment Fellowship Project website: “The Energy & Environment Fellowship Project is an intensive, full-time investigative reporting opportunity for four recent graduates of Columbia Journalism School. The fellows work independently and in teams to rigorously examine issues related to the environment and energy resources on an international level.”

Energy In Depth has worked to expose exactly this kind of shady “journalism” for many years, uncovering clear conflicts of interest when the mainstream media would not. In fact, EID was one of the first to expose the fact that RBF and RFF had funded the Columbia School of Journalism hit pieces, as that information initially wasn’t disclosed.

EID also called attention to the fact that these very same foundations also funded anti-ExxonMobil series published by ICN, which came out within days of the LA Times piece – and as the National Review pointed out after all this came to light, “The little that is known about InsideClimate News raises questions about conflicts of interest as well as about the publication’s ability, and proclivity, to report fairly and without bias.”

Only about a month later the RBF funded a study at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies  suggesting that “corporate funding” to more than 160 so-called “climate counter movement” institutions was largely responsible for skepticism about climate science.

When the Columbia series originally appeared in the LA Times, it noted that the reporters were from the Columbia School of Journalism, but the disclosure of RBF and RFF funding was nowhere to be found.

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But after Energy In Depth and other news outlets called the LA Times out on that point, the outlet quietly released a correction noting the funding source, albeit several months later:

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That’s not all: when the first report from the Columbia researchers was published by the Los Angeles Times on October 9, the website of the Columbia Energy and Environment Reporting Fellowship did not disclose any of the funding sources for the report as of October 10, according to an archived copy of the page obtained by the Daily Caller. The Fellowship did, however, tout its “first exclusive reporting piece in the Los Angeles Times,” linking directly to the story. EID was able to obtain the same archived page through the Internet Archive.

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Since then, the fellowship’s website has been updated to include the financial connections to the RBF and other organizations.

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Yet, even after all that, in the numerous articles today reporting on the RFF’s “divestment” from fossil fuels, not one of them mentioned that RFF and RBF were the money behind the Exxon hit pieces.

Shady funding

First these groups attempted not to disclose the funding altogether.  Then, when pressed by EID and others, they claim the funding has nothing to do with the result – only the funders themselves let the cat out of the bag on that one, revealing that they’re paying for what they’re getting.

So which is it? Were these blind, arms-length charitable donations or earmarks for a predetermined narrative?


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