This morning, the Chamber of Commerce made an announcement of support for climate change legislation, an extreme shift from their prior stance of opposition. In fact, in prepared remarks, a spokesman for Chamber President Tom Donohue went further than the current Congressional bills, calling for a stiff carbon tax and major investments in alternative energy industries.

The entire thing was a hoax.

The press contact doesn’t work at the Chamber of Commerce. The event scheduled for the National Press Club in Washington wasn’t affiliated with the Chamber. The statement released is at odds with everything the Chamber has been doing on climate change this year.

Nevertheless, Reuters and several other news agencies were caught by this fake press release today. And the event at the Press Club was a fiasco:

Environmental activists held a hoax press conference Monday morning, pretending to be the business group — and pretending to announce that the chamber was dropping its opposition to climate-change legislation now in Congress.

The event, complete with fake handouts on chamber letterhead, at least a couple of fake reporters, and a podium adorned with the chamber logo, broke up when a spokesman from the real chamber burst in.

What followed was a spectacle not usually seen in the John Peter Zenger Room at the National Press Club: two men in business suits shouting at one another, each calling the other an impostor and demanding to see business cards.

TPM Muckraker has surmised that the Yes Men, political activists with a history of spoofing corporate organizations, were behind the hoax. This is almost certainly true.

An email address attached to the domain name registration for the website hosting the fake press release has also been identified in online postings as being tied to a November 2008 hoax which the Yes Men played a role in, involving handing out fake copies of the New York Times announcing falsely that the Iraq War had ended.

More recently, the Yes Men released a fake New York Post that specifically tackled the issue of climate change, blaring the headline “We’re Screwed” to highlight the dangers of a warming planet. They frequently engage in “identity correction,” impersonating corporate bad actors for the purpose of humiliating them. And the Washington Post article on the Press Club event suggested that the fake Chamber of Commerce spokesman, “Hingo Sembra,” bore a resemblance to one of the Yes Men.

This comes as the White House has begun to turn on the Chamber of Commerce because of their resistance to many Administration policies.

UPDATE: The Yes Men have confirmed to me that they performed this hoax. I’ll be speaking with them later today… more from Kate Sheppard on the National Press Club event here.

LATE UPDATE: The video of this is priceless:

David Dayen

David Dayen

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