The WSJ has written eight editorials about the #ExxonKnew investigations, published five columns on it, and run another three op-eds. At sixteen pieces, they’ve covered this more heavily than they did the Paris Agreement (14), Keystone XL (12), or the manufactured controversy of Climategate, the biggest pseudo-win deniers have scored (13).
The Journal's focus, by and large, has been the freedom-of-speech question. They’ve been hesitant, to put it kindly, to address the issue at the heart of it: Did ExxonMobil commit fraud for funding groups to tell the public that climate change poses no threat, when they knew, according to their own researchers, that to be false?
In the first four editorials on the Exxon investigations, the word “fraud” was nowhere to be found, the message instead being outrage at this supposed suppression of First Amendment rights. In April and on June 16, it was mentioned in the context of New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman’s comments. The focus of both these pieces was the supposed attempt to shut down free speech, not the core issue of whether or not ExxonMobil’s potential fraud should be investigated.
But that blindness has now been lifted in the most recent editorial, courtesy of letters sent from thirteen GOP attorneys general to the 20 AGs considering or pursuing ExxxonMobil investigations. These letters allege that turnabout is fair play, and if ExxonMobil’s minimizing climate risk is cause for investigation, then perhaps clean energy companies (like Al Gore’s venture-capital firm) could be investigated for exaggerating climate risk as well.
[Continued after the jump!]
The GOP AGs make it clear that’s not the plan, they are merely making a point. But for their case to have merit, they would need to demonstrate that their targets have deliberately over-sold climate risk. Which, given the steady drumbeat of ‘climate change is worse than expected,’ would be pretty hard to do.
Now, if some investigative reporters were to turn up documents showing that Gore and company knew climate change wouldn’t be a problem, we would have no need for low carbon energy (like how we know Exxon's scientists told them limiting climate change would require reducing fossil fuel use), and then if others showed how Gore and those he funded made statements to the contrary (like how Exxon spent at least $30 million on climate-denying organizations), then the analogy might just work. But pending those scoops, this is exactly what the investigation’s critics decry: a retaliatory attempt to stifle free speech of those calling for investigations into what #ExxonKnew.
What this shows, particularly when combined with a similar “oversight” effort from “oil industry-backed" GOP members of the House, is that the unofficial ExxonMobil defense team doesn’t believe in the First Amendment defense at all, or they wouldn’t threaten their opponents with the exact behavior they denounce.
As for the Journal itself, any pretense it might’ve held about an editorial position prizing free speech over fraud investigations went right out the window with its March and June editorials siding with Resolute Forestry in its RICO accusations leveled at Greenpeace. Its June editorial even included a line remarkably similar to AG Schniederman’s quote about fraud not being protected as free speech: "The First Amendment was not created to protect the fabrication of evidence.”
Even though it took them a while to admit it, sounds like the board has been listening to AG Schniederman all along.
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