Monday, November 21, 2011

Chevron Blogger Dumped by San Francisco Chronicle for Ethics Lapse

Zennie Among Several Paid By Chevron To Fake Positive News Coverage

The San Francisco Chronicle has finally thrown blogger Zennie Abraham off of its website City Brights after his ties to a Chevron operative were disclosed.

Recently, The Chevron Pit, exposed Zennie and his connections to Sam Singer, a Chevron media consultant based in San Francisco. Singer clearly pays Zennie to write positively about many of his clients, including Chevron. See this post here. Yet, Zennie never disclosed that he was paid to shill for Singer's clients.

The Chronicle’s decision to take a more ethical look and ultimately terminate Zennie should be applauded. Considering that Chevron often uses underhanded methods to buy positive media, the hometown newspaper of the San Ramon-based company is no longer being used as an unwitting instrument of the oil giant.

Chevron has a long and sordid history with writers like Zennie who pretend to be something they are not, so Chevron can circulate its deceptions about the company’s intentional contamination of the Ecuadorian rainforest.

Given the oil giant’s horrific record of contamination in both Ecuador and the U.S, paying for good news is about the only way for Chevron to get any. This year an Ecuador court awarded a group of indigenous tribes $18 billion for damages related to oil contamination left by Chevron in the rainforest. Several months later, a U.S. court denied efforts by Chevron to avoid paying the judgment.

Chevron, though, sees itself above the law of the land and doesn’t hesitate to resort to such tactics as:

Allowing the spouse of a Chevron employee to fake being an independent journalist so he could attack the legal case of the Ecuadorians.

Pro-Chevron blogger, Alex Thorne, tried to pass himself off as a legitimate journalist by emailing questions to environmental groups about their funding of the San Francisco-based Amazon Watch, a supporter of the Ecuadorians. Thorne claimed to be working on an “article” for a publication that he refused to specify. He also did not use his last name in the email, signing it only as “Alex.” The e-mails then asked the funders “if it is time” to “reevaluate” their support for Amazon Watch in light of Chevron’s phony charges of fraud in the lawsuit.

But Thorne failed to acknowledge two major points in his emails to the environmental groups. First, he is married to Kristen Thorne, Chevron’s senior policy advisor on environment and energy issues. Second, he has operated a pro-Chevron website critical of the leaders of the Ecuador lawsuit against Chevron.

After these facts came to light, Thorne closed down his blog.

Trying to pay a journalist to spy on the Ecuadorians.

In 2010, Chevron tried to pay a real journalist $20,000 to spy on sick Ecuadorians to determine if they really had illnesses. Chevron wanted the reporter, Mary Cuddehe, to lie to the Ecuadorians saying she wanted an “interview” about their medical condition when really she would be reporting back to Chevron. Recruited by Kroll – a private investigative firm hired by Chevron – Cuddehe considered the offer. Her conscious got the best of her, though. She turned Chevron down and then wrote about the whole thing, exposing Chevron’s deception.

Faking a television newscast sympathetic to the company.

In 2009 when Chevron learned that a potentially damaging report about the company’s oil contamination in the Amazon rain forest was being prepared by 60 Minutes Chevron executives hired former CNN correspondent, Gene Randall, to produce a misleading report espousing solely Chevron’s point of view but appearing to be objective.

In the video produced by Chevron, Randall, interviewed Chevron’s managers and consultants but completely ignored the arguments of the plaintiffs. The fake news report ends with the deceptive voiceover “Gene Randall reporting.”

The “news cast” remains on Chevron’s web site and appears in Google searches.

As for Zennie, we can only hope that one day he’ll get a real job.