A fake press release claimed Oregon’s Reed College announced that it was going to divest its holdings of fossil fuel stocks. Both the Portland Tribune and KBOO were duped by the hoax, which was orchestrated by the pranking group The Yes Men’s Igor Vamos and the Fossil Free Reed Campaign.
Vamos was the guest commencement speaker at Reed College this week. During his speech, from Reed College, Vamos announced the fake news that Reed decided to divest fossil fuel stocks.
After Vamos’s prank announcement at the commencement speech, he then “sent a fake press release to publicize his faux news, and created a fake website,” according to the Tribune.
The press release was titled, “News Celebrated at Commencement Ceremony” and made the following claims:
“Reed College’s Board of Trustees approved with a majority vote a plan to divest its endowment of direct coal and oil industry investments and redirect funds to environmentally conscious investment managers and community owned renewable energy projects during a special meeting convened near the end of the academic term.”
A dream come true for campus environmentalists, but it wasn’t true, as Reed College Director of Strategic Communications’ Kevin Myers told the press by e-mail. “The Reed Board of Trustees has made no decision on fossil fuel stocks–to date,” Myers wrote. “They are, however, currently deliberating the matter.”
In response to the fake press release, and a second phony press release from Vamos about the news, Reed College issued its own press release debunking the fossil fuel claims and distancing the college from them. “The college had no advance knowledge of either prank release,” the press release from Reed said.
Reed College was asked if they were cautious about inviting a member of a known hoaxing group who might perpetrate a hoax on the school.
“I think we were all expecting that he would pull some kind of prank, but I think most of us thought it would be isolated to the stage–or the confines of Reed’s campus,” Myers said. “I don’t think anyone (and by anyone I mean the administration) considered that he might pull something as far reaching as he did.”