Heeding Public Outrage, Pfizer Drops Climate Denial And Tobacco Front Group Heartland Institute

by Brad Johnson

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE) has confirmed that it will no longer support the Heartland Institute, a political advocacy group that questions the science of climate change and tobacco smoking. Forecast the Facts, which is leading the campaign calling on corporations to drop Heartland, was informed of the decision by Pfizer’s Corporate Secretary Matthew Lepore. Pfizer was a major donor to Heartland, giving $45,000 in 2012 alone.

Pfizer’s decision means that there are no longer any pharmaceutical companies known to support the Heartland Institute.

Pfizer’s last contribution to Heartland was in 2012. Pfizer’s decision follows a groundswell of public outrage over the corporate support for the Heartland Institute’s toxic behavior, including a billboard campaign that equated believers in climate change with serial killers such as the Unabomber. Over 150,000 people have signed petitions to corporate leaders to drop Heartland. Pfizer is the 21st company to end its support for Joseph Bast’s organization, joining its competitors Amgen (AMGN), Eli Lilly (LLY), Bayer (BAYRY), and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), as well as major companies like General Motors (GM), State Farm, and PepsiCo (PEP).

Records from tobacco industry lawsuits show that Pfizer had joined tobacco companies in supporting the Heartland Institute since at least 1994. Cigarette makers Altria (MO) and R.J. Reynolds (RAI) continue to fund the group.

Since Pfizer’s previously undisclosed funding of the Heartland Institute became public at the beginning of the year, Forecast the Facts has led increased public pressure on the pharmaceutical maker. At first, Pfizer defended its support for Heartland by claiming the company gets “significant benefits” from its association with the toxic front group.

In May, Forecast the Facts members flooded Pfizer’s phones and social media sites with calls for the company to pull their support. During Heartland’s climate change denial conference in Chicago, Forecast the Facts, and organized their members to “crowd-fund” bicycle-driven billboards featuring Pfizer that parodied the Heartland Institute’s Unabomber ads. Forecast the Facts also mobilized a rally and protest outside the conference against Pfizer’s support for the climate denial group.

In July, more than 2,000 health professionals demanded that Pfizer immediately end its support for the Heartland Institute. Citing Heartland’s longstanding relationship with major tobacco companies, as well as its fierce denial of climate science, the doctors, nurses, and other members of the public health community co-signed a letter to Pfizer CEO Ian Read, whose company has defended its financial support of the anti-science organization. The concerned members of the medical community were mobilized by Forecast the Facts and

In August, Forecast the Facts distributed flyers at Pfizer’s New York City headquarters and at biomedical conferences in Boston, San Francisco, and Kansas City notifying Pfizer employees and customers of its support for the anti-science Heartland Institute. That month, additional pressure was placed on Pfizer by the Union of Concerned Scientists and a coalition of shareholder activists to abandon the front group.

For more information on the status of the Heartland’s corporate funding, go to

Brad Johnson is the campaign manager of Forecast the Facts.

14 Responses to Heeding Public Outrage, Pfizer Drops Climate Denial And Tobacco Front Group Heartland Institute

  1. John McCormick says:

    Folks, we are on the edge, finally. The news is beginning to be frightening to lucid people slowly declaring they understand the physics, some of whom have a lot of skin in the game.

    They mus be seeing the reality of a crashed capitalist system in their lifetime and are getting nervous….maybe a few are very nervous.

    Ground is shifting..not dramatically…but people are thinking different now about the future. We know our precious children are not safe in this greatest nation on earth and our grandchildren might know worse chaos than we will witness.

    Its not going to happen quickly but there will come a time soon when the heavy players realize their lifestyle is on the line.

    They will eventually compromise to save what they can. We can own the rich and vulnerable to steer them towards action as we lesser mortals do everyday.

    Them with the gold can call the tune and we are requesting they call for survival of the planet’s life forms.

  2. John McCormick says:

    Folks, these posts come around for about 24 hours and then lost to the either.

    Anybody who can build on Pfizer’s decision and keep a conversation and issue task assignments for more than 24 hours has my deep admiration.

    What we have created on CP is a bitching blog and that has to change.

  3. Rick says:

    “this greatest nation on earth”

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is not even remotely true.

  4. Zimzone says:

    Next up…remove the ban on negotiating lower prescription prices with big pharma under medicare.

  5. Lisa Purdy says:

    I disagree that this is the sort of thing that will be lost in 24 hours. Maybe in a vacuum, or in the political climate that’s existed for the past thirty years.

    But as a student who’s been really involved in this stuff for the past three years (yep, freshman year was a big personal shift into activism) I REALLY feel like things are changing. The divestment movement on the student level is garnering a lot of attention and we are more than excited to be able to pivot that energy elsewhere when the time comes for it.

    I think this article really shows that the climate around monetarily supporting industries and institutes that support the status quo is becoming less and less popular. YESSSS.

  6. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    We the People can be heard

  7. John McCormick says:

    Rick, is that tour best shot.

    Tell me something besides either your mind or your fingers got tired.

    Another claptrap comment, I see. Too many of them on CP.

    We are becoming a blog of the weary, despondent and cynical. Easy to bitch.

    So punch at a comment with your nihilism.

    Of course I know the weaknesses and sicknesses of our nation. Still some people think it is the greatest. Call them a**holes but they vote. So, how do you think we can win them over Mr. Rick.

    Not easy to follow a train of thought on a 24 hour blog.. I am growing weary of this, if you care to know the truth.

  8. John McCormick says:

    Rabid… rhetoric unless you have a plan and can back it with whatever it takes?

    I’m on a mission. Stop takling **** and get us lined up with people who deliver!!

  9. John McCormick says:

    Typo: “Rick, Is that your best shot?”

  10. prokaryotes says:

    What do you expect? Sure there is a high influx on news / information and probably most people sort what they read or don’t.

    Or, what do you suggest CP should “deliver”?

    Ofc, there is always room for improvements. I thought recently about a dedicated page for information on the Carbon Tax.

  11. Mulga mumblebrain says:

    This blog is informative, encouraging and, for myself, therapeutic. Ventilating here is preferable to screeching in public, although with the advent of mobile ‘phones and the culture of letting it all hang out telephonically in public, Tourette like outbursts are nowadays mostly ignored. No-one wants to get entangled with a screecher (or a mumbler). I have a big garden and do a bit of yelling at the plants and startle the birds a bit, for which I need to make recompense by playing them some Bach or Mozart.

  12. dam spahn says:

    This not only deprives Heartland of cash, it is a big PR defeat for this evil entity. Let’s rock, people! There’s far more of us than there is of them!

  13. “Skeptic” tanks can’t survive without funding from the tobacco lobby and fellow travellers. Pfizer dropped Heartland like a hot potato because people shone a bright light on the money trail and shamed the company into doing the right thing.
    Climate denialism and other forms of science denialism are dangerous and must be confronted on all fronts.
    Promote the science. Get informed by the NASA website on climate change and mention it at every opportunity. There’s no real argument that people went to the moon and there should be no argument that climate change is real.
    Isolate, expose and shame the kooks.

  14. Peter Shepherd says:

    This is great news! Will have to tell my brother, a doctor in Victoria BC who supported the call to ask Pfizer drug reps for details, and later sent letter up through Pfizer’s corporate offices about this issue.