Trump vs. Exxon: President's Claims About Oil Company Stoke Controversy

Trump claimed Exxon would donate millions to him at the drop of a hat — and the oil company quickly responded.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Oct. 20 2020, Updated 12:23 p.m. ET

trump exxon
Source: Getty Images

The latest celebrity feud is an unlikely one — it's between Trump and Exxon, two parties who one would assume are on the same team, at least when it comes to supporting the oil and gas industry. So, whether you care about environmental protection, or if you're a climate denier, good luck choosing a party to root for in this fight.

Wondering about the drama surrounding Trump's comments about Exxon? Keep reading for the full story.

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Trump said he could easily call Exxon for donations in a rally speech.

trump exxon
Source: Getty Images

On Monday, Oct. 19, Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Arizona, where he bragged about how easily he could score donations from oil companies like ExxonMobil, commonly referred to as Exxon.

“All I have to do is call up the head of every Wall Street firm, head of every major company, the head of every major energy company, ‘Do me a favor, send me $10 million for my campaign.’ ‘Yes, sir,’" Trump said, as reported by The Hill.

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Trump then reenacted a hypothetical call with the head of Exxon.

“So I call some guy, the head of Exxon. I call the head of Exxon. I don't know,” Trump told the crowd. 

“How are you doing? How’s energy coming? When are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits?” he continued, acting as if he were speaking to an Exxon official.

"When I call the head of Exxon I say, ‘You know, I'd love [for you] to send me $25 million for the campaign.’ ‘Absolutely sir,'" he continued. "I will hit a home run every single call. I would raise a billion dollars in one day if I wanted to. I don't want to do that."

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However, Trump qualified that tangent by saying: "I don't want to do that. Because if I do that I'm totally compromised.”

Basically, Trump is implying that if he offered to grant Exxon permits (such as oil drilling permits), in exchange, Exxon would happily donate millions to his campaign.

Exxon has donated to Trump's campaign in the past. In 2017, for example, Exxon donated $500,000 to the presidential inaugural committee for Trump's inauguration, as per Inside Climate News.

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Exxon tweeted that the call with Trump never happened.

Exxon responded to Trump's statements on Twitter, just a few hours after the president's speech made headlines, claiming that a call like that never happened.

"We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO…and just so we’re all clear, it never happened," the oil company tweeted.

Who's right: Trump or Exxon?

While it's impossible to know for sure whether or not phone calls of that sort have happened between Trump and Exxon, the dynamic Trump's describing is not that far-fetched.

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Exxon is consistently at the center of lawsuits for polluting the planet, for lying about the climate crisis, and for misleading consumers about the ways the oil and gas industry causes climate change. Many reports that Exxon hid for decades have also been revealed in recent years, which allegedly provide evidence that Exxon was aware of just how environmentally destructive their products are. In fact, there's an entire movement dedicated to this injustice called Exxon Knew.

"Exxon knew about climate change half a century ago. They deceived the public, misled their shareholders, and robbed humanity of a generation’s worth of time to reverse climate change," Exxon Knew claims on its website. "Just as Big Tobacco lied about the risks of addiction and cancer, Exxon orchestrated a campaign of doubt and deception, making hundreds of billions at the cost of people's lives — now it's time for them to face the consequences."

Both Trump and Exxon have built their names on misleading the public to various degrees, and — as with any powerful entity — everything they say should be taken with a grain of salt.

Election Day is Nov. 3. Register to vote at and head to your state’s board of elections for details on requesting a mail-in or absentee ballot. 

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