The Yes Men and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Some of us are going to the Yes Men’s new movie, The Yes Men Change the World, tomorrow night. The Yes Men themselves will be there, as will our pal Marilyn Frankenstein, radical math professor, who wrote a study guide for the movie. You can watch the official trailer for the movie here.

If you haven’t heard of the Yes Men, they are anti-corporate pranksters who have been described as “Borat meets Michael Moore.” One of their more recent pranks involved a press release claiming to be from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announcing that the business-friendly group had reversed its position on tough climate-change legislation. In his column in Sunday’s New York Times, Frank Rich compared the prank favorably to the “balloon boy” prank that got so much media attention.

Find the fake Chamber of Commerce press release here; here’s Politico’s report on the hoax:

In a dramatic shift, the Chamber of Commerce announced Monday that it is throwing its support behind climate change legislation making its way through the U.S. Senate.

Only it didn’t.

An email press release announcing the change is a hoax, say Chamber officials.

Several media organizations fell for it.

A CNBC anchor interrupted herself mid-sentence Monday morning to announce that the network had “breaking news,” then cut away to reporter Hampton Pearson, who read from the fake press release.

Pearson quickly followed up with a second report saying the “so-called bulletin” was an “absolute hoax.” Smelling a rat, CNBC’s Larry Kudlow demanded to know whether the White House had been involved.

In a story posted Monday morning, Reuters declared: “The Chamber of Commerce said on Monday it will no longer opposes climate change legislation, but wants the bill to include a carbon tax.”

Reuters updated the story to acknowledge the hoax, but it was too late: The Washington Post and the New York Times had already posted the fake story on their Web sites.

“Reuters has an obligation to its clients to publish news and information that could move financial markets, and this story had the potential to do that,” said a Thomson Reuters spokesperson. “Once we had confirmed the release was a hoax, we immediately issued a correction, and in keeping with Reuters policy, the story was subsequently withdrawn and an advisory sent to readers.”

The Yes Men, a left-leaning activist group that often impersonates officials from organizations they oppose, took responsibility for the hoax.

Andy Bichlbaum–an alias the activist uses for Yes Men demonstrations–told POLITICO that his group is targeting the Chamber for what he considers “retrograde” positions on climate change.

“Clearly, there is a question of who is hoaxing who,” Bichlbaum said. “I think the Chamber is hoaxing the American public at this point.”

Bichlbaum said that activists will continue targeting the organization. Bichlbaum said the Yes Men got help with their prank from members of the AVAAZ Action Factory, an activist group, and BeyondTalk.net, an environmental website.

AVAAZ has not returned calls for comment. But a post on the group’s Web site said it had plans to “make this the worst Monday ever for the anti-climate PR machine at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “

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