The New York Times reports a veteran lobbyist instructed the oil and gas industry to fight dirty against environmentalists who oppose expanding drilling operations.
According to the Times, the advice came from Richard Berman, who heads a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm that has solicited up to $3 million from the oil and gas industry for a PR campaign called Big Green Radicals.
The campaign includes billboards along the Pennsylvania Turnpike showcasing photos of celebrities who oppose the fossil fuel industry. One sign depicts anti-fracking activist Yoko Ono and reads, “Would you take energy advice from the woman who broke up the Beatles?”
The Times reports Berman gave a speech in June in Colorado Springs, urging industry officials to view the fight as an “endless war.” His comments offended one of the executives who recorded Berman and anonymously disclosed the contents of the speech to the Times:
Mr. Berman offered several pointers from his playbook.
“If you want a video to go viral, have kids or animals,” he said, and then he showed a spot his company had prepared using schoolchildren as participants in a mock union election — to suggest that union bosses do not have real elections.
“Use humor to minimize or marginalize the people on the other side,” he added.
“There is nothing the public likes more than tearing down celebrities and playing up the hypocrisy angle,” his colleague Mr. Hubbard said, citing billboard advertisements planned for Pennsylvania that featured Robert Redford. “Demands green living,” they read. “Flies on private jets.”
Mr. Hubbard also discussed how he had done detailed research on the personal histories of members of the boards of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to try to find information that could be used to embarrass them.
A spokeswoman for Berman confirmed to the Times that he gave the speech but would not comment on its contents.