Rockefeller Family Fund Director Admits Foundation ‘Paid’ to Target Exxon
By Aly Nielsen
Funders of the #ExxonKnew smear campaign claimed they did not single out ExxonMobil to be investigated. But now one foundation director has confessed to targeting the company even as he tried to deflect criticism for its actions.
Investigative journalistic exposes against the oil company claimed to be objective, but were funded by liberal non-profits including money from two Rockefeller foundations.
Director of the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) Lee Wasserman claimed back in March that when it gave $25,000 to InsideClimate News to look into fossil fuel industry research on climate change “no specific company was targeted.” RFF also gave money to Columbia’s journalism school for the same type of project.
Wasserman contradicted himself in an article in The New York Review of Books Dec. 8, 2016, issue. RFF President David Kaiser was a co-author for the article.
As Wasserman attempted to defend the efforts against criticism and bash ExxonMobil, he made a liar out of himself saying, “What we had funded was an investigative journalism project. With help from other public charities and foundations, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), we paid for a team of independent reporters from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism to try to determine what Exxon and other US oil companies had really known about climate science, and when.”
He added that “an investigation seemed promising because Exxon, in particular, has been a leader of the movement to deny the facts of climate change.”
ExxonMobil was targeted by two separate attacks by crusading journalists, one from Columbia Journalism School fellows working with the Los Angeles Times, and another from InsideClimate News in 2015. Both projects were funded by the Rockefeller Family Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and helped fuel the #ExxonKnew movement as well as legal challenges to the company.
Columbia’s energy and environmental reporting fellows and InsideClimate News both sought to prove ExxonMobil suppressed science about climate change (even though the company’s currently stated position is that “the risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action …”).
“The Rockefeller Family Fund has exercised its freedom of speech in expressing our repugnance at Exxon Mobil’s behavior,” Kaiser told The New York Times on Nov. 21, 2016.
The Columbia School of Journalism’s Energy and Environmental Reporting fellows partnered with the Los Angeles Times to publish “What Exxon knew” in the fall of 2015. The paper and journalism school dean Steve Coll claimed, “The project’s funders had a hands-off relationships with its journalism,” “the funders have had no involvement in or influence over the stories,” and “this reporting was not subject to any influence or control by the funders.”
The joint Columbia/LA Times project was funded by several foundations including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, and Open Society Foundations (run by George Soros).
Oddly, Wasserman and Kaiser claimed “we didn’t know they [InsideClimate News] were engaged in this project,” despite having funded the organization. Wasserman and Kaiser also admitted that the Rockefeller Brothers Fund is one of InsideClimate News’ “most significant funders.”
In August 2016, Columbia Journalism School announced the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism and its $5,000 prize would go to InsideClimate News for its Exxon hit piece. In other words, a Rockefeller-funded organization which targeted Exxon gave an award to another Rockefeller-funded organization for attacking Exxon.
The targeted 2015 attacks against Exxon also gave ammunition to attempts by state attorneys general to launch separate investigations into ExxonMobil.