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article imageU.S. Chamber of Commerce punk'd by Yes Men

By Kay Mathews     Oct 21, 2009 in Business
A "press conference" held at the National Press Club was a hoax. A man purporting to be a spokesperson for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was interrupted by a real representative of the organization, but not before he announced a dramatic policy reversal.
Embedded video from CNN Video
A "spokesperson" for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce held a press conference at the National Press Club where he announced that the organization had reversed its position on a climate change bill. "Hingo Sembra" told those assembled that "We [the U.S. Chamber of Commerce] believe that climate legislation currently being considered by the U.S. Senate is a great start towards a bill that will spur American innovation, create jobs, and give us all a good chance of survival."
Shortly thereafter an actual representative of the Chamber, Eric Wohlschlegel, entered the room and declared that the event was a fraud. As can be seen in the video, a "show me your business card" exchange erupted, and Wohlschlegel offered his to any takers.
Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men pulled off the stunt. According to the Yes Men website, the activists are "best known for posing as corporate executives in order to reveal how corporate greed negatively influences public policy. Recently, the Yes Men have focused their attention on the urgent need for action on climate change."
Concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stunt, Bichlbaum states on the Yes Men website:
The Chamber's position against climate legislation is completely troglodytic. The rest of the world sees the need for urgent action on the climate. The rest of the world's rich countries have pledged large emissions reductions. With scientists saying if we don't reduce carbon emissions, then sooner or later we're doomed, the Chamber represents corporate America at its most backwards. An entity claiming to represent the public good, but that opposes action on the climate, is obviously illegitimate.
The fake press conference was covered by a number of news outlets that reported the announcement as true before having to retract their statements mid-sentence. The Yes Men site has videos of coverage by Fox Business Network and CNBC in which their anchors retracted their statements in the middle of the coverage of the press conference.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a press release in response to the hoax. Thomas J. Collamore, Senior Vice President for Communications and Strategy for the Chamber, said in part:
These irresponsible tactics are a foolish distraction from the serious effort by our nation to reduce greenhouse gases. The U.S. Chamber believes that strong climate legislation is compatible with the goals of improving our economy and creating jobs. We continuously seek opportunities to engage in a constructive dialogue to achieve these goals.
The Yes Men point out, however, that the Chamber "has recently come under fire for launching multi-million dollar advertising campaigns designed to derail climate negotiations." Moreover, Yes Men indicate that a number of businesses have left the U.S. Chamber because of its position on climate negotiations including PG&E, PSEG, Levi Strauss & Co., Apple, and Exelon.
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