In the days after 20 professors fired off a letter urging President Obama to investigate climate skeptics for suspected federal racketeering charges, the climate change movement went into full damage-control mode.
Philip Newell, creative media manager of the public relations firm Climate Nexus, described the Sept. 1 letter as “a big mistake,” advising activists and scientists to downplay the prosecution angle and spin the story away from individuals and toward fossil fuel companies, according to emails obtained Wednesday by The Washington Times.
He cited reports on the skeptics’ website, Climate Audit, saying that although it “isn’t a site to be worried about, it’s definitely looking like this issue isn’t going to go away, even if you remove the letter, which I hear has been done and I would say is a big mistake.”
The letter was first posted on the Institute for Global Environment and Security website and then reportedly removed, but was then posted on other websites.
“I’d recommend you keep it up and point to it as a call for investigating (not prosecuting) organizations and companies (not specific scientists) in an oped or simply a statement on the IGES website that clarifies that distinction,” Mr. Newell said in a Sept. 29 email.
Not everyone has taken that advice. Months later, Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker issued subpoenas to ExxonMobil calling for its communications with more than 100 universities, scientists and think tanks, as well as the free market nonprofit Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The latest emails, released in the aftermath of a Virginia open records request filed by the CEI and senior fellow Chris Horner, shed more light on a behind-the-scenes network of academics — some on the government payroll — activists, bloggers and public relations professionals focused on fighting climate change dissent.
The Sept. 1 letter called on Mr. Obama and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to launch a “RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.”
Mr. Horner said Wednesday the email shows Mr. Newell and Jagadish Shukla, a George Mason University meteorology professor and co-lead author on the so-called RICO-20 letter, engaged in “spin and deception” to head off criticism over the letter’s implications for free speech.