FIRST ON FOX: Democratic leadership on the House Oversight and Reform Committee abruptly canceled an upcoming hearing to investigate the spread of “climate disinformation” on social media platforms.
On Nov. 18, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on Environment, wrote letters to four social media executives asking them to attend the hearing that had been slated for Dec. 14, according to documents obtained by Fox News Digital. Khanna invited new Twitter CEO Elon Musk, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and executives of TikTok and YouTube to testify.
Committee Democrats blamed the hearing cancellation Thursday on a miscommunication. They said leadership opted to hold a full committee hearing on Dec. 14 instead of the environment subcommittee hearing.
“In November, initial Subcommittee hearing invites were sent out prematurely that did not align with the Committee’s hearing calendar,” a Democratic committee spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement. “In order to accommodate a December 14th full Committee hearing, the Committee made the decision to push the Subcommittee hearing shortly after the invites were sent.”
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The subcommittee hearing was part of an investigation into oil companies’ alleged decades-long climate change disinformation campaign that Khanna and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the full committee’s chairwoman, first announced more than a year ago. Khanna has likened the probe to the 1994 House investigation into tobacco companies that revealed a concerted campaign to cover up evidence of the harm posed by cigarette smoking.
Khanna said he would call tech company executives to testify as part of the investigation and would issue subpoenas if they refused to cooperate.
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“We have made it very clear that we reserve the right to subpoena if those executives aren’t showing up,” Khanna told E&E News last year. “We’re going to be asking the CEO of Exxon, the CEO of Chevron, a number of these fossil fuel companies to come and a number the social media companies to come.”
He vowed in the same interview to probe the alleged role social media companies have “played in the dissemination of disinformation.”
The investigation was kick-started by an Oct. 28, 2021, hearing in which oil executives gave testimony and answered committee members’ questions. A subsequent hearing in which oil company board members were scheduled to testify was quietly canceled in March following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which sparked an increase in energy prices.
The probe then continued with a hearing in September in which a series of experts and stakeholders testified about the impacts of climate change.
The now-canceled hearing with social media executives scheduled for next week, though, would have given committee Republicans the opportunity to publicly ask Musk questions about the recent “Twitter files” release.
Last week, journalist Matt Taibbi published internal Twitter communications that gave insight into how the company suppressed stories related to President Biden’s son Hunter Biden’s laptop shortly before the 2020 presidential election. Oversight Committee ranking member James Comer, R-Ky., wrote to Twitter officials on Tuesday requesting they attend a hearing related to the release of the files when Republicans take control of the panel early next year.
It is unclear whether Comer — who previously told Fox News Digital that the Big Oil probe was a “sham investigation” — will terminate Khanna’s investigation once he replaces Maloney as the committee’s chair.