In 2013— halfway through Barack Obama’s presidency—energy giant ExxonMobil began to significantly expand its refinery and chemical manufacturing operations in Louisiana and Texas.
Yesterday, in a press release, the White House attempted to credit President Donald Trump for the project and the 45,000 jobs ExxonMobil claims it has created.
“President Trump made a promise to bring back jobs to America,” the press release stated. “The spirit of optimism sweeping the country is already boosting job growth, and it is only the beginning. ‘This is exactly the kind of investment, economic development and job creation that will help put Americans back to work,’ the President said. ‘Many of the products that will be manufactured here in the United States by American workers will be exported to other countries, improving our balance of trade. This is a true American success story. Also, the jobs created are paying on average $100,000 per year.’”
The creation of 45,000 jobs averaging $100,000 a year would be news indeed, regardless of under whose presidency they began. But not only has the White House falsely implied that it was Trump’s leadership that led to the creation of those jobs, but it has also exaggerated the number of those jobs that pay six figures. ExxonMobil’s press release about the project says “Many of these [jobs] are high-skilled, high-paying jobs averaging about $100,000 a year.”
There’s obviously a big difference between the vague claim that “many” of the new jobs pay six figures and the specific claim that the 45,000 new jobs paid an average of $100,000 a year.
That difference might be shrugged off as run-of-the-mill political grandstanding. But take a closer look at the two press releases. ExxonMobil’s original release reads:
“ExxonMobil is strategically investing in new refining and chemical manufacturing projects in the U.S. Gulf Coast region to expand its manufacturing and export capacity. The company’s Growing the Gulf expansion program consists of 11 major chemical, refining, lubricant and liquefied natural gas projects at proposed new and existing facilities along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Investments began in 2013 and are expected to continue through at least 2022.”
The White House press release reads:
“Exxon Mobil is strategically investing in new refining and chemical manufacturing projects in the United States Gulf Coast region to expand its manufacturing and export capacity. The company’s Growing the Gulf program consists of 11 major chemical, refining, lubricant and liquefied natural gas projects at proposed new and existing facilities along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Investments began in 2013 and are expected to continue through at least 2022.”
With a few minor stylistic changes, the paragraphs are identical. And since ExxonMobil’s press release was issued first, it’s fair to conclude that the White House plagiarized from ExxonMobil, not the other way around.
Using the White House press office as a bullhorn for corporate press releases is disturbing, although totally in keeping with the plagiarism practices of First Lady Melania Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, National Security Agency spokeswoman Monica Crowley, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and the Trump campaign itself.
But it’s worse than that. Until a couple of weeks ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil. And now the White House is repeating, word for word, ExxonMobil’s corporate communications. These facts suggest that this is not just (another) Trump administration plagiarism scandal or a mundane act of political puffery. It’s not just (another) instance of Trump attempting to claim credit for something he played no role in.
It’s more serious than that. It’s further evidence that the Trump administration cannot or will not separate its financial interests from those of the country.