News of Chamber’s Climate Change Shift a Hoax

by | Oct 19, 2009

chamber of commerce logoA press release purporting to be from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 19 said that the chamber was “throwing its weight behind strong climate legislation.” Numerous mainstream news outlets ran stories about the release, but later had to retract or correct the stories after the chamber confirmed that the press release was a hoax.

The false press release, with quotes attributed to “spokesman Hingo Sembra,” came on a template that mimics the Chamber’s Web site. The false press release said the chamber desired for climate legislation to “include a stiff carbon tax.”

Mainstream news outlets including Reuters, the New York Times and the Washington Post, initially were caught up in the hoax. But since the Web sites have posted corrections and/or removed the original stories.

CNBC ran a TV segment about the story, including reaction from analysts, but then had a second report acknowledging the hoax, reports Politico.

Here’s a look at CNBC’s original segment.

Reportedly, a group called AVAAZ Action Factory is responsible for sending out the false press release, according to Politico. The group has not confirmed or denied its involvement, but a post at the group’s site post on the group’s Web site says has plans to “make this the worst Monday ever for the anti-climate PR machine at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

The release also contained a false prepared statement to Congress from the chamber’s president, Thomas Donahue.

In the false statements, Donahue was purported to state the following:

  • “We must learn from the past, so that we can manage the future.”
  • “We at the Chamber have tried to keep climate science from interfering with business. But without a stable climate, there will be no business. We need business more than we need relentlessly high returns.”
  • “What we need is a carbon tax. Only thus will be able to compete against Physics and create an environment where the best company wins and the best solution dominates.”
  • “The Chamber expects to welcome back companies that have recently defected over our climate stance. But we also expect to reevaluate our relationship with other members – who continue opposing climate legislation, or who stymie progress through greenwashing and other stalling tactics.”
  • “… Mother Nature means business, and we do too.”

In the past, other groups have fallen victim to hoaxes perpetrated by environmental activist groups.

For instance, in 2007, Rising Tide North America, a loose-knit group of students and workers for nonprofit organizations, posed as phony public relations officials and targeted energy reporters around with e-mails and telephone calls claiming that a legitimate group of 33 businesses and environmental groups, the United States Climate Action Partnership, had agreed to slash emissions.

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