Exxon Mobil Screwed Up Its Attack On Columbia For Climate Reports

Oil giant Exxon Mobil accused journalists from Columbia University of inaccurate reporting on its approach to climate change — and crisis management experts say the oil giant made a serious fumble when it suggested its financial partnerships with the school might be at stake because of it.

In a letter sent to Columbia President Lee Bollinger and university trustees, dated Nov. 20 and obtained by Politico on Monday, Exxon Mobil’s vice president for public and government affairs Kenneth Cohen accused journalists doing a fellowship with the university of ethics violations, including cherry-picking anecdotes and documents to show that the company deliberately misled the public on climate change risks.

The journalists’ findings were published in the Los Angeles Times in October and precipitated an investigation by the New York attorney general and calls by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for a Justice Department probe.

Exxon Mobil has the right to point out what it believes are editorial failures and to request the reporting be reviewed, crisis management expert Jonathan Bernstein told The Huffington Post, but Cohen took a serious misstep in his letter when he mentioned the oil company’s business ties to the school. The letter’s penultimate paragraph reads:

ExxonMobil has had numerous and productive relationships with Columbia University for many years, whether through research programs, interactions with the business school or recruiting of graduates for employment with our company. The interactions [between Exxon and the Columbia journalists] detailed above are not typical of the high standards and ethical behavior we have come to expect from your institution.

“I’ve counseled more clients than I can count that they should never try to tie their financial relationship with a publication to their request for change,” said Bernstein, who runs Bernstein Crisis Management —> Read More