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By Kyla Mandel, This article was first published on Desmog UK.
The principled crusaders for free speech at the Heartland Institute today took the pragmatic step of banning credentialed journalists from its event fearing negative publicity.
Jim Lakely, the communications director for the oil and tobacco funded think tank, withdrew media credentials made and handed to Brendan Montague, editor of DeSmog UK, and asked hotel security to remove the reporter from the ICCC-10 event at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington DC.
Gene Koprowski, director of marketing, said he “refused to be drawn into a philosophical debate” when asked whether a think tank claiming to champion personal liberty and press freedom should begin blacklisting members of the media.
Gene protested that he had been a journalist for 25 years but was simply following orders when implementing the ban.
Senator James Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment, was the morning’s keynote speaker as a handfull of guests assembled in the hotel basement. Members of the press however were penned into a separate room to watch the speech on a livestream.
Inhofe, who enjoys considerable political sponsorship from fossil fuel polluters, became something of a national laughing stock when he produced a snowball as evidence that climate change was not happening this winter. ”People take things too seriously around here,” he said shortly after.
Lord Monckton, who has garnered international media after slipping past security and attempting to accost Ban Ki Moon after the meeting with the Pope in the Vatican, said he would not be able to negotiate entry for the reporter.
READ OUR LETTER TO JIM LAKELY, HEARTLAND‘S COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
Montague presented the Heartland team with his press pass issued by the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom which shows he is recognised by police as a “bona fide newsgatherer”. He was told that he would not be admitted because of negative reporting of the Heartland press conference in Rome.
He said: “Uncle Joe Bast and his Heartland Institute claim that personal liberty and the free market are absolute principles, but here we see them resorting to bully tactics, hiding behind hotel security and press censorship as a result of the mildest of criticism.
“I thought this was the ICCC event, not the CCCP. Whatever happened to the market in ideas? Thankfully the hotel security have been very gratious.”
The event sponsors include Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Science and Environmental Policy Project and Texas Public Policy Foundation – all beneficiaries of ExxonMobil largess. Joe Bast, president and CEO of the Heartland Institute did not attend the event due to illness.
The editor of DeSmog UK has written a series of articles criticising Heartland for its attack on climate science pointing to the fact the think tank has in its history been funded by Charles Koch, the billionaire oil refinery baron, oil behemoth ExxonMobil and also tobacco interests.
He attended the Heartland conference in Vegas last year resulting in a hugely popular Hunter S Thompson inspired report about the free market libertarians gambling with the future of the planet. He also earlier attended the conference in the think tank’s home town of Chicago.