Rex Tillerson dodges hot questions on climate change, Russian lobbying

Rex Tillerson has been dodging some very tough questions and made serious misstatements

By Matthew Rozsa

Published January 11, 2017 7:22PM (EST)


Rex Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil CEO tapped to be secretary of state by President-elect Donald Trump, was evasive in his replies to questions about climate change and Russian lobbying during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When asked about how much Exxon Mobil knew about climate change, Tillerson replied, "Since I’m no longer with Exxon Mobil, I can’t speak on their behalf. The question would have to be put to Exxon Mobil."

His response ignores evidence that, in addition to funding a public campaign to cast doubt on the science behind man-made climate change, Exxon Mobil knew about the problem for decades. The company continued to invest millions of dollars into global warming denial campaigns after Tillerson took over as CEO in 2007.

Later when Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia asked whether Tillerson was ignorant about Exxon Mobil's role or covering it up, he replied, "A little of both."

Tillerson also denied lobbying against the economic sanctions the United States imposed against Russia in 2014 due to its invasion of Ukraine.

"I have never lobbied against sanctions," Tillerson said. "To my knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions." After Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee pointed out, "I think you called me at the time" to oppose the sanctions, Tillerson clarified that "Exxon Mobil participated in understanding how the sanctions are going to be constructed."

Said Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut: "In your mind, calling a United States senator to express your belief that sanctions are not effective is not lobbying." Murphy added, "In my view, that is a distinction without a difference."

Indeed, OpenSecrets has previously reported that Exxon Mobil lobbied on multiple occasions against the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014. Tillerson himself even bragged to reporters in 2014 that "our views are being heard at the highest level."

These weren't the only problematic comments Tillerson made during his confirmation hearing, according to a Twitter observer.

It remains to be seen how Tillerson's evasiveness and misstatements will affect the confirmation process.


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Climate Change Donald Trump Rex Tillerson Russia Russian Sanctions