Bill McKibben Manhandles the Truth

Want to see 350.org founder Bill McKibben contort himself like a Russian gymnast to avoid a reporter’s question about this organization’s funding sources? Check out this 2011 TV interview here. It’s worth the one minute and six seconds.

For those of you who can’t access the video right now, here is an annotated play-by-play of McKibben’s valiant—but ultimately unsuccessful—attempt to dodge the very straightforward question from a TV host who is fully on his side.

Climate Challenge: How is 350.org funded?

First, McKibben tries humor to deflect the question.

McKibben: Well, not very well.

The host offers a polite laugh but she’s undeterred.

Climate Challenge: Who are your funders?

So McKibben tries a generic non-answer.

McKibben: To the degree that we have any money at all it’s come from a few foundations …

But that, too, falls flat. The host wants an answer.

Climate Challenge: Which ones?

And this is where McKibben literally feigns amnesia.

McKibben: Uhhh let’s see. The uhhh I’m trying to think who the biggest uhhh funders are … uhhh lalalalaaaa … There’s a foundation in uhhhh … based in Sweden called, I think it’s called the Rasmussen foundation that I think has been the biggest funder.

But he was utterly unconvincing. So the host gets very specific.

Climate Challenge: So you don’t get money from Pew or Rockefeller or any of those big foundations?

McKibben counters with the truth … but not the whole truth. And the ruse blows up in his face spectacularly.

McKibben: No, we did. Rockefellers Brothers Fund gave us some money right when we were starting out that’s been useful.

Climate Challenge: But they no longer fund you?

McKibben: Uhh I don’t know. I don’t have that sort of…

Climate Challenge: Really?

McKibben: … funders sitting in front of me.

Climate Challenge: Really? That’s usually something that people know.

McKibben: Rockefellers is one of our… is a great ally in this fight.

The fact is 350.org has received millions of dollars from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Family Fund. But back then McKibben didn’t want you to know that. Instead, he wanted you to think of 350.org as a “scruffy little outfit” instead of a “multi-million dollar campaign run by staff earning six-digit salaries.”

But if you really want to see McKibben sputter, ask him about the hypocrisy of persecuting the oil and natural gas industries while relying upon them to make this weekend’s Climate March happen. Because everything from activists’ transportation to their parachute banners wouldn’t be possible without the fuels and the petrochemicals made from oil and gas.