President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state nominee refused to answer questions during confirmation hearings regarding what the former Exxon CEO knew about the oil company’s supposed history of hiding climate research.
Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Ed Markey of Massachusetts grilled the former oil company executive on claims made by various attorneys general and media outlets insisting that Exxon hid internal research about climate change from investors and the public. Tillerson sidestepped most climate-related questions, telling senators that he lacked the knowledge necessary to answer.
Journalists blasted Exxon after a series of investigations conducted by InsideClimate News in 2015 found the company was allegedly playing fast and loose with information concerning global warming. The probes prompted various attorneys general to engage in their own investigations to determine if claims of possible fraud by Exxon were valid.
Kaine started his questions with a cursory rundown of Exxon’s history with climate change.
The investigations, Kaine said, concluded that pollution was affecting the world in destructive ways and that Exxon Mobil was downplaying research about climate change. ICN’s reporting also found that the company continued to fund so-called climate “deniers,” the former vice presidential nominee added.
The Virginia Democrat went on to ask Tillerson whether the allegations dredged up by ICN were true or false, to which the former Exxon CEO responded: “The question would have to be put to Exxon Mobil.”
Kaine then asked Trump’s nominee if he was refusing to answer or if he simply lacked the knowledge necessary to answer the question. Tillerson said “a little bit of both,” and reminded Kaine that he no longer holds an executive position with the oil company.
“It’s shameful Tillerson refused to answer my questions on his company’s role in funding phony climate science. Bottom line: #ExxonKnew,” Kaine tweeted shortly after Tillerson shot down his questions.
Markey, for his part, raked the former oil executive over the coals for Exxon’s alleged funding of “climate deniers.” The Massachusetts Democrat asked Tillerson to reassure Americans that climate change is an important issue despite his company’s historical positions on climate change.
Tillerson, who has previously made public his belief in man-made global warming and his support for the Paris climate agreement, said he would continue to engage Trump on the importance of confronting climate change. He added, though, that Trump is his own person and would make the ultimate decision concerning which climate policies to pursue.