Actually, Kamala Harris didn’t even get close to the truth in this answer at CNN’s climate-change forum last night. And unlike Joe Biden’s bleeding eyeball, CNN actually noticed it in a fact check. When challenged by a voter about how she would “rein in these disinformation campaigns of big business,” Harris said she already had a track record of suing companies over climate change — especially ExxonMobil, the giant oil company:
HARRIS: … What do we do? Well, this is what we did with the tobacco companies. We sued them. We took them to court. Because you know what happens, people who profit off of harmful behaviors, when you take away that money because you take them to court and you sue them as I have done, it’s extraordinary how they will change behaviors.
They have to be held accountable. And maybe this is the prosecutor in me. They have to be held accountable. These are bad behaviors. They are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability; certainly not by this administration nor, and I hate to say it so generally, by the republicans in Congress.
BURNETT: So Senator Harris, what would you do? Would you sue them?
BURNETT: Sue Exxon Mobil.
HARRIS: I have sued Exxon Mobil.
Speaking of disinformation and accountability, Harris has to answer for some herself. CNN put this statement at the top of its post-forum fact check and found that Harris flat-out lied about suing ExxonMobil. As attorney general in California, Harris opened a probe into the so-called #ExxonKnew scandal, but it went absolutely nowhere:
When CNN asked what Harris was referring to, campaign press secretary Ian Sams emailed us a 2016 article about her decision as attorney general to begin an investigation into whether ExxonMobil lied to the public and shareholders about its knowledge of the risks posed by climate change.
But she did not file a lawsuit before she left the post to become a senator in 2017, and her successor as attorney general has also not done so.
As Sams noted, Harris did take legal action against oil companies on multiple occasions as attorney general. For example, after filing lawsuits, she secured a $14 million settlement from BP and Atlantic Richfield Company and a $11.5 million settlement with Phillips 66 and ConocoPhillips over allegations that they had violated laws governing underground fuel tanks.
Still, her claim at the town hall was that she sued ExxonMobil in particular, and it is false.
Harris’ other lawsuits had nothing to do with climate change or “rein[ing] in these disinformation campaigns of big business,” either. Those had to do with operational violations, not public relations claims. One leading California environmentalist activist immediately called shenanigans on Harris, even while other Twitter users were clipping out the answer as their favorite moment:
Fact check: as Cal AG, Harris opened a file shortly after the #ExxonKnew news broke in fall 2015. She never did anything with it.
I asked her about it in early 2016. She said "I'm suing Exxon." I said "investigate or prosecute?" She said "Investigate now, sue later."
— RL Miller (@RL_Miller) September 4, 2019
Her successor Xavier Becerra didn’t do anything with the case, either. It’s a bogus claim anyway, which likely explains why neither progressive Democrat wanted to take ExxonMobil to court, but it’s apparently easier to lie about this than to explain that non-action away. Especially on national television.
Harris also got caught in another fact-check. She took credit for cleaning the skies of Los Angeles, and CNN wagged its finger at that claim too:
“Have any of you gone out to Los Angeles, California, about 20 years ago and remember what that sky looked like? It was brown. Babies had asthma. There were warnings that seniors should not go outside because breathing that … would cause incredible damage to their lungs. And then leaders lead; the public said enough. You look up at the sky in Los Angeles today it’s blue.”Facts First: The claim about Los Angeles’s present-day skies is an exaggeration. Harris was correct that LA’s skies are less polluted than they were 20 years ago, but it remains one of the most polluted cities in the country.Air quality has improved in LA and in many cities around the country since the 1990s. This is largely due to better air quality-control policies at the federal, state and local levels. The improvement in air quality has had a positive health impact on LA residents. Studies show better lung function in children who live in the region.
Most of that improvement took place long before Harris held any kind of office in California anyway. When I was growing up there in the 1960s and 1970s, Stage 2 smog alerts were not uncommon, when parents were warned against allowing their children to play outside. I remember the ache in my lungs from being active outside on particularly smoggy days, especially the closer one got to the foothills. That situation began improving in the 1980s; Harris didn’t hold statewide office until 2010. And as is apparent to anyone flying into LA to this day, the skies are still not blue in the Southland most days, not unless the Santa Ana winds are pushing the marine layer and the smog back into the ocean.
Harris ended up taking credit for work she didn’t do, and then claiming she did work that no one has done. Where’s the accountability and responsibility for that kind of deceit and “disinformation campaign”? Just asking.