CREDIT: 60 Minutes/screenshot
Washington political consultant Richard Berman had some candid advice for a group of energy company executives in June, with tips on how to “marginalize” opponents — such as labor or environmental groups — and brand their messages as not credible.
Unbeknownst to Berman, however, the speech was recorded by an oil executive who said Berman’s words “left a bad taste” in his mouth. The executive delivered the speech to the New York Times, which reported on it Thursday.
In the speech, Berman, who was dubbed “Dr. Evil” by 60 Minutes in 2007 and who has waged campaigns against environmentalists, animal rights activists, and labor unions, told a group of energy company executives at the Western Energy Alliance’s annual meeting how he’s able to combat interests that go against those of his clients. He called this battle an “endless war,” and said companies have to be able to change the public’s opinion on groups like the Humane Society and Sierra Club.
“If you think about it these groups, the Sierra Club, who is the natural enemy of the Sierra Club? Who is the enemy of Greenpeace?,” he said. “You know at the surface, you would love to be a group like that because everyone should be in favor of you, who could be against you? That’s very difficult to over come and they play on that, and they trade on that, and that’s our opportunity and also our challenge. So it is an endless war.”
Berman, accompanied by his colleague Jack Hubbard, also told the group that finding ways to embarrass their opponents or frame them as hypocritical is a successful approach. Hubbard referenced an ad campaign planned for Pennsylvania on Robert Redford, which frames the celebrity environmental activist as a hypocrite because he encouraged sustainable living while flying a private jet.
Berman told the audience that, if they chose to fund a campaign against an opponent, they wouldn’t be found out.
“We run all this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity,” Berman said. “People don’t know who supports us. We’ve been doing this for 20-something years in this regard.”
Berman also referenced a tactic that’s often used by climate deniers: framing a certain situation as a debate.
“You get in people’s mind a tie,” he said. “They don’t know who is right. And you get all ties because the tie basically insures the status quo.”
As the New York Times reports, Berman has run ads in Colorado that attempt to marginalize anti-fracking concerns. The Denver Post called one of the ads, which states that “anti-energy groups” are “spreading rumors about fracking with no evidence to back them up,” a “cheap shot at fracking foes.”
However, at least one of the companies that attended the speech said it doesn’t agree with Berman’s advice.
“Anadarko did not support Mr. Berman’s approach and did not to participate in his work because it does not align with our values,” John Christiansen, Anadarko spokesman, told the New York Times.