IRVING, TX: ExxonMobil moved to quickly “correct the record” after President Donald Trump specifically called out the energy giant as an example of a company he could call and ask for campaign donations in exchange for government favors at a Monday rally.
At a campaign stop in Prescott, Arizona, Trump gave a rundown of how a conversation would go if he called ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods.
“'Hi, how you doing, how's energy coming, when are you doing the exploration? Oh you need a couple of permits, huh? Okay,'” said Trump. “But I call the head of Exxon, I say, 'You know, I'd love [for you] to send me $25 million for the campaign.' 'Absolutely sir, why didn't you ask, would you like some more?' If I made the call, I will hit a home run, every single call. I would raise a billion dollars in one day, if I wanted to. I don't want to do that, I don't want to do it.”
The speech prompted speculation from journalists about whether such a conversation had actually happened, and whether it would violate anti-corruption laws if it did.
Deleted this because the quote reads too much like something Trump actually said to Exxon when he was talking about a hypothetical. I thought the “I’ll use a company” line nodded to that context, but it’s apparent folks are interpreting in a more literal way. That’s on me. pic.twitter.com/75AVU5veQW— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 20, 2020
ExxonMobil started getting calls from outlets such as Politico about Trump’s comment and issued a statement saying definitively that Trump never had such a conversation with its chief executive.
The company then amended its statement into a tweet that fit the tone of the conversation on social media. Exxon decided to respond on Twitter because that is where the largest volume of conversation was taking place, said a person familiar with the discussions.
We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO…and just so we’re all clear, it never happened.— ExxonMobil (@exxonmobil) October 19, 2020
“The strategy was just to correct the record so everyone understood that the president was speaking in hypotheticals and that conversation never happened,” said a person familiar with the discussions. “Essentially what he was saying was ExxonMobil wasn’t complying with campaign finance laws. So the company needed to correct the record and clarify he was speaking in hypotheticals.”
The company’s response was handled entirely by its in-house comms team.