With New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman completely abandoning the #ExxonKnew narrative – leaving the attempt to link Exxon to Big Tobacco for dead – activists have resorted to their usual stunts.
The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) has just given its annual Award for Outstanding In-depth Reporting to InsideClimate News for its #ExxonKnew series, published last fall.
It should come as no surprise that SEJ and InsideClimate News are funded by the same organizations, including the Rockefellers. SEJ has received funding from the Rockefeller Family Fund, which also funds InsideClimate News. The both also receive funding from the Grantham Foundation, which recently gave InsideClimate News a gift of $1.5 million. Also of note, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund donated $1 million to Lost Light Projects, specifically earmarking the funds “For its InsideClimate News project.”
This comes just a few weeks after Columbia School of Journalism awarded its John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism to InsideClimate News, also for its #ExxonKnew series. That panel of judges included completely objective folks like 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, who has called the Rockefellers a “great ally.” The Columbia School of Journalism’s Energy and Environment Reporting Fellowship – also funded by the Rockefellers – produced the #ExxonKnew pieces that appeared in the LA Times, which were notably similar to InsideClimate’s series and hit around the same time last year.
So again, we have another Rockefeller-funded organization awarding a fellow Rockefeller-funded organization for its work on pushing the Rockefeller’s desired #ExxonKnew narrative.
But giving out awards when there’s a clear conflict of interest is nothing new for SEJ. The organization previously awarded the Denton Record-Chronicle for its anti-fracking series on the Barnett Shale in Texas written by Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe. What the Denton Record-Chronicle and SEJ failed to disclose, however, was that Ms. Heinkel-Wolfe was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the natural gas industry.
In light of all the criticism surrounding that lack of transparency, SEJ ended up updating its post about the awards ceremony, acknowledging “the appearance of a conflict of interest” at the Record-Chronicle. The update also noted that the outlet had declined the award, which we can only guess was due to it not having properly disclosed this glaring conflict of interest in the first place.
SEJ was also the organization that un-ironically penned a letter in 2012 to Rep. Andy Harris, Chairman of the Energy & Environment Subcommittee, defending Gasland director Josh Fox as a fellow “journalist.” SEJ writes: “Journalists come in all stripes, and documentary filmmakers have a long and storied history of informing the public about important policy matters, especially the sorts of environmental protection issues Mr. Fox covered in his film, ‘Gasland.’” SEJ is also funded by the anti-fracking Park Foundation, the same outfit that funded Josh Fox’s anti-oil and gas films. So that might explain why SEJ was so eager to defend Fox as a “journalist,” which he clearly is not.
These Rockefeller-funded groups seem to be the only ones impressed with themselves, considering that legal experts and editorial boards across the country have said this #ExxonKnew legal argument doesn’t pass muster. Even staunch proponents of the #ExxonKnew campaign, such as Columbia Professor Michael Gerrard, are admitting that the effort to tie Exxon to Big Tobacco went nowhere fast. As Bloomberg reports,
“Schneiderman doesn’t have a slam-dunk case. ‘The New York attorney general has a plausible theory, but he’ll need more than the results of the journalistic investigations,’ says Michael Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia who directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. ‘It’s not enough to show that Exxon had internal knowledge of climate change when external knowledge was widespread. The government would have to show that there were things that only Exxon knew and that were material to investors and that Exxon kept from investors. Such evidence might be there, but we don’t know yet.” (emphasis added)
Is it any wonder that Schneiderman had to abandon #ExxonKnew? The bottom line is that these Rockefeller-funded groups have to resort to giving each other awards because no one else will.