The White House released a statement on March 6 congratulating Exxon Mobil Corp. for a new program that it says will create jobs. But the text contains several sentences that are identical to a press release the oil company published earlier that day, causing many internet users to question whether the Trump team plagiarized the material.
In a statement issued half an hour before the White House's, Exxon Mobil described its Growing the Gulf program, which is "strategically investing" in chemical manufacturing and oil refining plants on the Gulf Coast with 11 main programs that began in 2013 and are scheduled to continue through 2022 or later.
The White House statement included paragraph that had been copied verbatim from the Exxon Mobil release, as Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham first noticed and highlighted in a Twitter post.
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The Exxon Mobil release also quoted Darren Woods, the company's chairman and CEO:
Importantly, Growing the Gulf also creates jobs and lasting economic benefits for the communities where they’re located. All told, we expect these 11 projects to create over 45,000 jobs. Many of these are high-skilled, high-paying jobs averaging about $100,000 a year. And these jobs will have a multiplier effect, creating many more jobs in the communities that service these new investments.
The White House version included similarly worded information but did not attribute the source, making it appear as though the figures came from the Trump administration.
Many people questioned whether the press release itself constitutes a conflict of interest, since it is against the law for federal employees to use their status to promote products, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon Mobil's chairman and CEO immediately before his nomination to lead the State Department, notes The Huffington Post.
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"The question is "why is the [White House] so interested in the projects lead by Exxon?" wrote one Twitter user.
Exxon Mobil spokesperson Alan Jeffers stated that the controversy was overblown and was simply a matter of Exxon Mobil providing Trump's team "with information about an announcement we were making and they decided to issue a statement congratulating us."
The White House statement praised the oil company for helping Trump keep his promise to provide Americans with more jobs.
"This is exactly the kind of investment, economic development and job creation that will help put Americans back to work," said Trump in the statement. "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. In addition, the jobs created are paying on average $100,000 per year."