You can’t win for losing – well, not if you’re Exxon.
The San Jose Mercury News reported on March 11 that Steve Bing has revoked donations to Stanford University because of a partnership between ExxonMobil and Stanford, but the paper left out background information on Bing.
The $22.5-million donor was enraged to see ads promoting ExxonMobil’s sponsorship of Stanford’s energy research. He told the university he would revoke a $2.5 million donation and has called on other donors to stop giving money to Stanford.
The Mercury News stacked its March 11 article against the energy corporation, quoting Bing’s spokesman Yusef Robb: “ExxonMobil is trying to greenwash itself, and it’s using Stanford as its brush.”
Bing was identified by the newspaper as a movie producer, former Stanford student, the son of prominent Stanford donors and someone who “has attached himself to many environmental causes.”
But Bing is more than all of that. He’s a liberal deep-pockets donor to the Democratic Party and to different “green” initiatives. The Washington Post wrote in 2002 that Bing was contributing millions to the Democratic National Committee.
Bing also helped pay for and produce Arianna Huffington’s TV ads that attack SUVs as supporting terrorism, according to The New York Times in 2003. The Hollywood producer is also listed first in Grist.org’s 2007 “How Green is Your Cash?” report on the growing eco-philanthropy movement.
In addition to Bing, the Mercury News cited author Jennifer Washburn, who “tracks the increasingly cozy relationship between universities and corporations.” Washburn is the author of “University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education.”
Reporter Julie Sevrens Lyons went on to say that Washburn “points to an early ad in which Exxon Mobil began touting the partnership. The ad, which ran on the New York Times op-ed page, suggested that scientists were debating the cause of global warming, even though there was a clear scientific consensus by that time that humans were responsible.”
The partnership began in 2002, and scientists did not all agree that manking was causing warming then – nor do they now. The Business & Media Institute recently published a list of more than 70 scientists who have not signed on to what Lyons called a “clear scientific consensus” about mankind’s role in global warming.
The only support for the partnership in Lyons’ story came from university spokeswoman Elaine Ray and ExxonMobil spokesman Gantt Walton in five of the article’s 21 paragraphs.
Ray said Stanford collaborates with “a variety of private and non-profit organizations” to solve energy and environmental problems. Ray also said the research at Stanford will be driven by faculty and will not require the approval or review of ExxonMobil.
"The claim that Stanford has lost any academic autonomy as a result of sponsored research is preposterous on its face," Ray said.