The head of Alberta’s energy war room has apologized after tweet attacks on The New York Times, in a Feb. 12, 2020 story. Premier Jason Kenney has said the centre would promote the energy industry and address misinformation. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Alberta energy ‘war room’ chief apologizes for tweets attacking New York Times

CALGARY — The head of Alberta’s $30-million-a-year energy war room apologized after the organization attacked The New York Times in a series of tweets over an article about how large financial institutions have stopped funding Alberta oil production.

“I apologize from some of the tweets” in The Canadian Energy Centre’s Twitter thread Wednesday morning, posted Tom Olsen, the CEC’s chief executive, to his personal Twitter account.

“The tone did not meet CEC’s standard for public discourse,” he said, adding it has been dealt with internally.

A 20-tweet thread posted by the CEC earlier in the day responded to an article by The Times on how these companies “have stopped putting their money behind oil production in the Canadian province of Alberta, home to one of the world’s most extensive, and also dirtiest, oil reserves.”

The CEC tweets said The Times has been “called out for anti-Semitism countless times,” has a “very dodgy” track record, is “routinely accused of bias” and is “not the most dependable source.”

Four of the tweets were later deleted.

The remaining tweets take issue with the news agency’s interpretation of the data, and defend the environmental record of Canada and the oil and gas sector, but don’t directly attack the newspaper’s credibility.

“It doesn’t surprise us the reporting isn’t great, but at least there is some context for folks to consider,” the thread ends.

The New York Times is “confident in the accuracy of our reporting,” wrote spokeswoman Ari Isaacman Bevacqua.

Olsen said that “there will be a substantive response” to the article within the centre’s “mandate of challenging inaccuracies.”

Premier Jason Kenney promised in last year’s provincial election that the centre would have a mandate to promote the energy industry and fire back in real time against what the United Conservative government deems to be misinformation.

The centre has been criticized previously for using another organization’s trademarked logo and for having its staff members refer to themselves as reporters instead of government employees.

Olsen has been mocked by critics for a slip of the tongue in a TV interview in which he said the purpose of the centre is about “disproving true facts.”

The Calgary-based centre has been set up as a provincial government corporation, but is overseen by three cabinet ministers on its board of directors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2020.

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