The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sure sounded like a different organization this morning as a spokesman threw around phrases like "support a strong climate-change bill quickly" and "the Kerry-Boxer bill is a good start."
Could it be that the U.S. Chamber had made a sudden and unexpected U-turn? Was the voice of business -- the same organization that spent a record $34.7 million lobbying Congress last quarter, in part to fight climate change legislation circulating in the Senate -- changing its tune in the wake of recent defections from its membership base and board of directors?
If it sounds unlikely, that's because it is.
Turns out the press conference held in Washington and headed by chamber "spokesman" Hingo Sembra was a hoax staged by activist groups the Yes Men and BeyondTalk.net. The joint venture received "tactical support" from the DC Climate Action Factory, an activist group sponsored by Avaaz. The Yes Men are famous for their hoaxes, usually through their impersonations of corporate executives, and BeyondTalk calls for nonviolent resistance to the drivers of climate change.
If the name Hingo Sembra -- in Italian, sembra is the conjugated form of the verb "seems" or "appears" -- wasn't a hint at the crazy hijinks that were about to unfold, then the statement itself must have tipped off a few reporters. When a conservative business group starts using metaphors about lamb and wool - two different times -- within a press release, the bullpucky meter should rise a few notches.
A few news agencies, which received the bogus press statement, were duped and ran stories about the Chamber's new position on climate change, before issuing corrections. Here's a video of a Fox News anchor retracting the story mid-sentence.
The reporters attending the press conference at the National Press Club were treated to quite a show as real chamber spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel burst into the room and dubbed the event a "fraudulent press activity" and a "stunt."
The U.S. Chamber later issued a statement calling the hoax a "foolish distraction from the serious effort by our nation to reduce greenhouse gases."
And it looks like they're looking to involve law enforcement. The chamber said it has asked law enforcement authorities to investigate the event.
For additional BNET Energy coverage on climate change and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: