The confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees are off to a rough start. Jeff Sessions is facing inquiries related to racism and Rex Tillerson’s hearings aren’t going much better.
Ever since Trump made the announcement that he was tapping the Exxon Mobile CEO to lead the State Department, there have been some concerns regarding his history with Exxon.
One of the biggest concerns has been Tillerson’s stance on the environment. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) asked the former executive to explain the company’s understanding of climate change. The senator asked Tillerson to address the fact that, during his tenure there, Exxon gave money to organizations that deny the reality of climate change. In response, Tillerson said, “Senator, since I’m no longer with Exxon Mobil, I’m in no position to speak on their behalf.”
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 11, 2017
The senator was apparently unimpressed with Tillerson’s evasion and pointedly asked whether Tillerson was refusing to answer his question or simply too ignorant to do so. Tillerson’s response, which drew a few laughs, was “A little of both.”
Tillerson’s response might have drawn some laughter, but the implications were anything but funny. Tillerson had worked at Exxon for 40 years and served as their CEO. He must have known about their stance on climate change. No CEO could be that ignorant of their own company.
Kaine also asked Tillerson what he knew of Trump’s business holdings in Russia. Once again, Tillerson pleaded ignorance. However, Kaine did not let the issue drop and proceeded to ask Tillerson about the risks of conducting diplomacy with foreign officials who, “who know more about the president’s financial interest and exposure than you do.”
Tillerson said that would not affect his ability to perform his duties as Secretary of State and said, “as long as the objective of a negotiation is clear, that’s all that matters.”
Even Republicans had problems with some of Tillerson’s stances. Sen. Marco Rubio(R-FL) asked Tillerson whether or not he believed Vladimir Putin was a war criminal. When Tillerson declined to comment due to a supposed lack of evidence, Rubio pointed out that there was plenty of evidence of what the Russian military did in the Allepo.
Tillerson refused to call Putin a war criminal; Rubio said he found Tillerson’s refusal “discouraging.”
Tillerson’s confirmation hearing is far from over, but it’s off to a rough start. Though to be fair, it was widely believed that Tillerson would be the most difficult of Trump’s picks to make it through confirmation.
Featured image via Getty Images.