ExxonMobil, Columbia spar over reports

o2 December 2015, News Wires – ExxonMobil is trading blows with a top US university over reports the company knowingly suppressed information on climate change for decades.

The US supermajor has accused journalists affiliated with Columbia University of multiple ethics breaches in compiling the reports, which were published earlier this year in the Los Angeles Times.

The reports claimed ExxonMobil’s own research confirmed the role of fossil fuels in climate change decades ago, but the company later participated in an industry-funded public relations campaign that raised doubts about the link between climate change and the use of petroleum products.

In a recent letter to Columbia University, ExxonMobil vice president of government and public affairs Ken Cohen accused the journalists of writing “inaccurate and deliberately misleading reports” about the company’s climate change research.

Click here to read Cohen’s letter.

He also accused reporters of misconduct, saying one identified herself as an Arctic researcher and did not disclose her ties to the journalism school. In addition, he said the team misled readers by not disclosing the fact that their work was underwritten by various organisations “which have a stated position and bias against the oil and gas industry”.

On Tuesday, Steve Coll, dean of the university’s journalism school, fired back at Cohen, saying the accusations were “unsupported by evidence,” and that email records showed the allegations to be false.

Click here to read Coll’s letter.

Coll also called Cohen’s suggestion that the Times reports and similar work by InsideClimate News were linked because both were underwritten by the same philanthropic organisation – “entirely an invention on your part”, Coll said.

“What your letter advocates really is that the factual information accurately reported in the article, and unchallenged by you, be interpreted differently,” he said.

The reports, along with the InsideClimate News reports, have added fuel to the growing call from the political left for a federal investigation into ExxonMobil. The company iscurrently being investigated by the state of New York. Reuters reported Tuesday the company has hired star attorney Theodore Wells of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rikfind, Wharton & Garrison to head up its defence.

Wells’ resume includes representing former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and former George W. Bush administration official Scooter Libby. Earlier this year, Wells investigated the New England Patriots football team in the “Deflategate” scandal for the National Football League.

  • Upstream
About the Author