By Kevin Bogardus and Michael O’Brien - 10/19/09 11:46 PM EDT
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Monday it would ask law enforcement officials to investigate a false press release sent out in the group’s name.
business group condemned the hoax, which claimed that the Chamber had
shifted its stance on climate change legislation and now viewed its
former position as “irresponsible and foolish.”
“Public-relations hoaxes undermine the genuine effort to find solutions on the challenge of climate change,” he added.
The release was apparently fabricated by the activist group Yes Men, and had been reported initially by Reuters this morning.
irresponsible tactics are a foolish distraction from the serious effort
by our nation to reduce greenhouse gases,” Collamore said. “The U.S.
Chamber believes that strong climate legislation is compatible with the
goals of improving our economy and creating jobs.”
comes after the Chamber had lost membership from some high-profile
businesses in the wake of its opposition to climate change bills before
The business lobby appeared to shift its stance
on Monday when a press release was sent out to several reporters
claiming it had had an “about-face” on its position and would support
legislation co-sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara
But the release turned out to be part of a
hoax that also included a fake press conference held to explain the
Chamber’s apparent change of heart, held at the National Press Club on
The group responsible for the hoax
identified itself as the Yes Men, activists who often use pranks
against corporations and business groups to get their own message out
through the press, according to the president of the National Press
About 20 reporters attended the fake briefing, which
included signs with the Chamber insignia. According to a report in
Greenwire, Chamber spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel entered the Press Club
room about 30 minutes into the briefing and said, “This is a fraudulent
press conference and a stunt! If you have any questions, direct them to
Donna Leinwand, president of the National Press Club,
said two people who said they were representatives of the Council on
Climate came into the club on Friday to book an event on Monday.
then called Press Club staff on Monday morning to change their contact
information and gave the real name and number of a Chamber spokesman,
who later denied the business association was behind the press
“That is when we discovered that things weren’t right,” Leinwand said.
said one of the organizers told Press Club staff that she was a member
of the Yes Men after being asked for a Chamber business card. The Press
Club president also said the Yes Men have asked for a refund, saying
the event did not go forward as planned. The club will not refund the
money, Leinwand said.
There were clues throughout the press release and conference that both were fakes.
For example, the last name of the Chamber’s president and CEO, Tom Donohue, is spelled with an A in the press release.
news release also identifies two Chamber aides, Erica Avidus and Hingo
Sembro. “Avidus” is Latin for “greedy.” The release also links to a
different website from the normal Web domain for the association.
National Press Club’s schedule for Monday included an 11 a.m. news
conference to be hosted by the U.S. Council on Climate, not the
Nonetheless, several news organizations duly
reported the press release and the Chamber’s apparent but untrue
reversal. Reuters, the wire service, took down its original story.
fake press release, “Donahue” notes the members’ defections and says
the association is “finally taking their cue” by changing their
position to help President Barack Obama in international climate change
talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, this coming December.
Men have often targeted businesses and media outlets for their lack of
support for government action to reduce greenhouse gases. In September,
the group published a fake 32-page edition of the New York Post saying
climate change was the greatest threat to civilization and handed it
out to city residents.