Update (at bottom): Video of 'fraudulent press action' surfaces on Internet


Group that punked George Bush, New York Times likely culprit in scam on US Chamber of Commerce

Update: Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard reveals that this was another Yes Man hoax.

The Washington media establishment was momentarily duped Monday by a team of pranksters pretending to be the US Chamber of Commerce.

A group passing itself off as the Chamber announced a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, where the US's largest business advocacy group would announce a seismic shift in policy: They would drop their opposition to President Barack Obama's climate change legislation and support it wholeheartedly, provided the plan included a carbon tax, as opposed to cap-and-trade legislation.

The group handed out a press release, and posted a speech claiming to be by Chamber President Tom Donohue, in which "Donohue" declares: "We at the Chamber have tried to keep climate science from interfering with business. But without a stable climate, there will be no business. We need business more than we need relentlessly higher returns."

The speech was posted to a Web page that perfectly mimics the Chamber's own site.

Of course, the whole thing was a hoax -- dashing the hopes of environmental activists who have been frustrated by the Chamber's opposition to a climate change bill, and its questioning of climate change science.

But before the Washington press corps figured out it was a hoax, several major news sources bought into the story. Reuters news service posted a story, which it quickly retracted and replaced with a one-paragraph piece entitled "Chamber says climate change statement a hoax'."

Before it was corrected, the story was picked up by the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Times is now running a correction, and the Post has pulled the story altogether.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the real US Chamber of Commerce suspects the Yes Men as the likely culprits. The group is most famous for its 2008 spoof of the New York Times, when Yes Men members handed out a phony version of the Times declaring "Iraq War Ends."

The Yes Men were also behind a fake 2004 campaign site for the Bush-Cheney re-election ticket, BushCheney.com, which is no longer online.

A RAW STORY investigation finds that the BushCheney.com Web site and the fake Chamber of Commerce web page were both registered at the same address, a group entitled Support and Commitment.

The Chamber of Commerce has been under relentless pressure recently over its stance against climate change legislation. Numerous high-profile members of the group have worked to distance themselves from the Chamber, in an effort to maintain a "green" public image. Shoe maker Nike resigned from the Chamber's board, and recently Apple Computer left the group altogether, saying it was "frustrated" with the Chamber's opposition to action on climate change.

This video was published to YouTube on Oct. 19, 2009.

This video was published to YouTube by ThinkProgress on Oct. 19, 2009.

-- Ron Brynaert and Stephen C. Webster contributed to this report