Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson refused to answer a question Wednesday about Exxon Mobil’s alleged efforts to obscure the science of climate change.
Tillerson, who was chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobile for 10 years before stepping down on December 31, 2016, sat before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer questions about his views and his record.
On larger questions about climate change, a policy area where the state department can have considerable influence, Tillerson occasionally broke with the president-elect.
He stated that science is “very limited” in its ability to predict the future of climate, a claim scientists would strongly dispute, but acknowledged that “consequences could be serious enough that action should be taken.”
The question Tillerson refused to answer concerned the role his former company allegedly played in spreading misinformation on the science of climate change. You can watch the entire exchange in the video above.
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia identified a series of reports from The New York Review of Books, The Los Angeles Times, and InsideClimate News which suggest that Exxon’s scientists had worked out the science of climate change decades ago but covered it up and spread misinformation so as not to harm their financial interests.
These reports collectively make up the substance of a scandal dubbed “Exxon knew.”
Kaine asked Tillerson, who spent his entire 41-year career at Exxon, to confirm or deny those claims.
Tillerson twice said that because he’s no longer with ExxonMobil, Kaine would have to ask the company.
Then Kaine said, “Let me ask you, do you lack the knowledge to answer my question or are you refusing to answer my question?”
“A little bit of both,” Tillerson replied.