Oil giant ExxonMobil is pressuring Arkansas television stations to pull satirical advertisements critical of its business practices following the March 29 rupture of the company's Pegasus pipeline in Mayflower, Ark., which spilled an estimated 84,000 gallons of heavy crude oil into residential streets.
Ads set to run on Little Rock ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliates this week were nixed shortly before airing when Exxon threatened legal action. (The full cease and desist letter is available here.)
The five-figure ad buy was to be part of an ongoing campaign -- ExxonHatesYourChildren.com -- to highlight the more than $10 billion per year U.S. taxpayers spend to subsidize fossil fuel companies like Exxon.
Exxon says the ads are "based entirely on factual inaccuracy" and are also "defamatory." The sponsoring organizations don't deny that exactly, but argue that the ads are meant as parody.
“Exxon is and will always be a bully,” said David Turnbull, Campaigns Director of Oil Change International, one of the progressive organizations involved in the campaign. “Instead of engaging their critics appropriately, Exxon uses its billions to hire high-priced lawyers to make scary-sounding but unsupported legal claims to suppress criticism. It’s a window into how they have preserved billions in taxpayer handouts for their industry for so many years.”
The news comes amidst reports journalists covering the Pegasus pipeline spill have been denied access to the site and threatened with arrest. On Monday, a parody Twitter account mocking Exxon's response to the spill clean-up was briefly suspended without explanation.
Watch the yanked parody advertisement above.