German “Leftist” Journalists Go Undercover – Infiltrate, Set Up Heartland Institute’s James Taylor

[Correction: James Taylor is Director of Heartland’s Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, and not the President of The Heartland Institute]

Today I’m writing about a public relations disaster here in Germany by the Heartland Institute where its president, James Taylor, allowed himself to be fully duped by leftist journalists posing as industry lobbyists offering half a million dollars to his Chicago-based think tank.

Image: Correctiv

Just days ago, flagship ZDF German public television broadcast a segment here — created by “investigative” site Correctiv here — at its popular weekly Frontal 21 magazine. Frontal 21 describes how the two “investigative” journalists from the leftist Correctiv infiltrated Heartland Institute and exposed its “lobbying and climate disinformation campaign”.

The ZDF’s Frontal 21 magazine shows how Correctiv set up a phony PR agency, fake website and printed phony business cards so that two of its reporters could pose as lobbyists representing the German automotive and coal industry. Their Project Veritas-like mission: to infiltrate Heartland and uncover “what goes on in the climate denier scene, how it works, which strategies it’s pursuing in Europe and how influential it is.”

“That’s how we want to find out whether and how to question climate change in exchange for money and to buy influence,” reported Frontal 21.

Unfortunately, James Taylor fell for the entire ploy. The ZDF’s Frontal 21 (and Corectiv) took the material and later pieced together a major hit piece seen nationally on February 4th. A blow to the skeptic scene in Germany.

First meeting in Munich

The two undercover German journalists started by making their way from their base in Berlin to the Munich Climate Conference last November, where they had an easy time fooling James Taylor.

Equipped with hidden cameras, they sat down with Taylor for dinner and asked how he went about convincing people of his mission. ZDF’s Frontal 21 quotes Taylor: “The people cannot be motivated by logical things; you have to argue emotionally.”

$500,000 offer in Madrid

According to Frontal 21, after dinner Taylor then personally invited the two “German lobbyists” to Madrid for a later conference, where they met again with Taylor in the Marriott Hotel lobby.

ZDF Frontal 21 reported: “Taylor boasted about his good contacts to the Trump administration. ‘The Trump administration often asked for advice and about what we could do. We worked closely together.'” Taylor even told the undercover journalists that Heartland’s budget was $6 million.”

When asked how a $500,000 donation could be made, Frontal 21 says Taylor told them to donate it directly to Heartland. “And if you want to remain anonymous, then give it to an organization. One of them is Donors Trust.”

“To keep it hidden?” one undercover Correctiv journalist asked.”

“Yeah right, exactly,” replied Taylor, alleges Frontal 21.

Untypical for interviews, Taylor’s voice is completely filtered out by Correctiv editors, so it’s impossible to ascertain whether Frontal 21 translated Taylor’s words accurately.

In the Marriott lobby meeting, Taylor discloses Heartland’s future plans for Germany, where he also brings up young German influencer Naomi Seibt – the “anti-Greta”.

Duped by the mean and nasty media

Weeks later, Taylor sends the two undercover journalists his proposal dubbed “Funding Proposal: Germany Environmental Issues”, outlining Heartland’s strategy for Germany and that Heartland was interested in the funding in order to inform the public about the minimal effects of diesel exhaust and to produce videos on the negative impacts of excessive environmental regulation.

The set-up succeeded, and Correctiv got all the footage they needed, and much more, to allow German ZDF public television to weave a highly distorted, one-sided, yet believable hit piece. All in all, a major PR blow for climate skeptics in Germany.

A little research and precaution on Heartland’s part could have avoided being duped to the extent they were. They were sloppy. And we also have to feel bad that a young, promising German influencer got caught up in it and was so inaccurately portrayed on national television.

In her latest video, a visibly distraught Naomi tells of her experience of being observed by impostors under the table by hidden cameras, yet bravely pledges to keep up the fight for what she believes to be the truth. Now she understands just how mean and nasty the German media really are.

18 responses to “German “Leftist” Journalists Go Undercover – Infiltrate, Set Up Heartland Institute’s James Taylor”

  1. DocSiders

    PR projects always need money. What is at issue talking with prospective donors?

    They were the frauds.

  2. Al

    What should this prove?
    Many other companies including google etc. make donations to universities, even with ideas
    Other universities receive “donations” to research “climate change” from philanthropic organizations such as Soros.
    It is a story that has been going on for centuries.
    Those who pay more get influence.
    It doesn’t surprise me that he wanted to do it anonymously, as evidenced by the incursion and espionage of those two journalists bought, the aim was defamation.
    Indeed, the infiltration of those two, using fake names, only showed the public how their scoops are made with criminal tactics for defamatory purposes.
    A fact and a tactic reminiscent of something that happened recently … which ended up harming the journalists themselves …

  3. Jim Lakely


    You are being VERY unfair to James Taylor and Heartland, and Naomi Seibt — who is not “distraught,” but angry (as is Heartland) at how this has been able “to weave a highly distorted, one-sided, yet believable hit piece.” You had it right on “distorted,” and not so right with the rest.

    First: James is surely flattered by your battlefield promotion, but he is not the president of The Heartland Institute. He is the Director of Heartland’s Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy.

    Second: They “worked” James spottily over several days in two cities over two weeks before he sat down for a brief talk. That’s a lot of squeeze for no juice. Their big “get” was a big nothing. They tried to bait James into agreeing for a “pay to play” arrangement, and the reporters say … “he didn’t say no.” Really? After two weeks of work, they finally get around to asking their “money question” and that’s it?

    There’s a reason James didn’t say “yes”: Because “pay to play” is not what Heartland does, unlike many think tanks on the left. You’re seriously faulting James for steering a (fake) potential donor away from that “gotcha” dishonorable idea into discussing honorable like-minded work with a donor? By that standard, no one in the climate realist movement would ever be able to raise any funds to support our work.

    Ask yourself: If these “journalists” had a genuine “smoking gun,” wouldn’t they have presented that instead of that lame “gotcha”?

    Third: To compare this lame, days-long caper to the work of Project Veritas is a massive insult to the latter’s fantastic work.

    I hope, Pierre, that you will consider giving Heartland some space on your site to more fully rebut for your readers your unfair and uncharitable take on this. Considering all Heartland has done to promote climate realism over many years, I hope you don’t consider that an unreasonable request.

    Jim Lakely
    Director of Communications
    The Heartland Institute

  4. Mike

    I take a different view here.

    Non of us like the fake business world, the religious manipulation world, and many other “worlds” where the public face hides the criminality, abuse, and enslavement of people. We appreciate those who are brave enough and willing to get inside and expose these things.

    If Heartland was fake, I would applaud those who exposed it.

    Clearly though, this story looks like an exposé, and is intended to look that way. I suppose it will not be obvious to many people that this is just part of an information war, and is not a real exposé at all.

  5. Mike

    Hi Pierre.

    I didn’t think you implied anything bad about Heartland. I agree with all that you said, as usual.

    The media thing is a war and we can all be used and manipulated by those who wish to discredit us.

    Great that you brought this to our attention but I think we also need to be clean. If any funny business gets exposed, even by fake journalism, it is important to deal with it. From your article the only error seems to be that Heartland didn’t demonstrate enough caution in what they know is a war zone.

    Perhaps this is an opportunity to get some truth into the MSM?

  6. drumphish

    Claas Relotius tried to pull a fast one too.

    Nothing new under the sun.

    They’re always pulling that stuff.

  7. M E

    I just watched a video in English with Naomi Seibt

    It is available on sky news australia and can be seen on Youtube

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  14. Andrew Grod

    Let me see if I understand this properly:

    Many of us have known for years that the Heartland Institute is a fossil fuel industry-funded “think tank” that has been leading a campaign to discredit climate change science. Their goal is, of course, to muddy the waters concerning the science and lessen environmental regulations in favor of their industry donors.

    These reporters went undercover and got Mr. Taylor to not only admit to this, but to put it in writing and describe how they could launder their donations through false “charitable” fronts… and you’re mad at the reporters?!?

    What fascinating times we live in…

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