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Newsweek Hosts Policy Forum with Top Oil Lobbyist: The Fallout

I told you the other day about Tuesday’s policy forum hosted by Newsweek magazine and the American Petroleum Institute. At the time, Howard Fineman defended his magazine’s role in providing a forum for communication between powerful special interests and members of Congress:

Rep. Ed Markey, the chief sponsor of the House cap-and-trade bill and a leading environmental advocate, is a full participant in the open, on-the-record discussion with no control by API over the questions or flow. Dem Sen Byron Dorgan is also participating and will reflect various views in Dem caucus. Rep Fred Upton, who opposed the House bill, will also participate. I see nothing wrong with an open, on-the-record balanced discussion like this. Newsweek has a long tradition of enviro reporting, including our annual green issue.

It looks like I wasn’t the only one who took issue with Fineman’s take. TPM Muckracker ran the headline: Fineman: "I See Nothing Wrong" With Newsweek/Oil Lobby Panel. Jamison Foser of Media Matters wrote:

Seriously? The "discussion" featured the president of the American Petroleum Institute — which just happens to fund Newsweek — but no representatives of environmental organizations … and Howard Fineman calls that a "balanced discussion"?

Apparently to Newsweek, "balance" means "Industry representatives who fund us and–Hey! Look over there!"

Despite basically nonexistent media coverage, the event went forward as planned on Tuesday evening. We’ve begun to hear from some folks who were in attendance.

Greenpeace, which has been leading the charge on this, provided me with this dispatch via email:

Greenpeace staff got into the event (on the 3rd attempt) to confront Gerard and Fineman with the questions of Newsweek’s rental price and the pay-to-play nature of the panel. Gerard was able to sit side-by-side with the members of Congress who showed up: Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).

Greenpeace staffers approached Gerard with cameras rolling to get answers to the question of Newsweek’s rental price. At first, Gerard unwittingly shook the staffer’s hand before realizing what was happening. He then quickly walked away with Greenpeace on his tail – all the way out of the building and out onto the street.

Fineman quickly left the scene without comment.

Here is a short video clip of the incident Greenpeace describes:

Additionally, I got ahold of a short audio clip from the event. After Representative Markey talks up the future of natural gas, Newsweek’s Fineman tells an industry-friendly joke:

As a native of Pittsburgh, I’m really excited about the Marcellus Shale. I’m hoping maybe there’s some under my relative’s land. (laughter)

Listen to the audio here:

No word yet on whether Fineman joked about the recent string of carcinogenic chemical spills in Pennsylvania as a result of hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus Shale.

UpdateMark Floegel has more on this:

The first question from the audience was for Mr. Gerard: “How are you, the head of the oil lobby, qualified to speak about climate change?”

His answer? Money. (Well, what did you expect?) Mr. Gerard claimed that 9.2 million Americans rely on the oil industry for their jobs. He claims the oil industry has spent $58 billion dollars “addressing climate change,” which he says is “more than the federal government has spent.” Then he spoke about how we need to burn coal.

Floegal also notes that the American Petroleum Institute distributed ‘literature’ at the event:

Here are the headings:

This is about jobs.
This is about new taxes threatening your job.
This is about new taxes hurting our economy.
This is about higher energy taxes hurting your wallet.
This is about protecting and growing jobs.
This is about a better way forward.

A careful read of the API document reveals not one word about global warming. “Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?” Yes, in the wrong direction.

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Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is a blogger, activist, and avid news junkie. He is currently the Manager of New Media at a Washington, DC area PR/Communications firm. In his spare time he enjoys arguing on the Internet, spending time with good people and talking politics. He can be reached at

Josh blogs about sustainability and politics at EnviroKnow.